Bolgatanga, Jan 1, GNA - Ghana’s biological diversity contains indigenous plants that constitute about 2,974 plant species upon which many livelihoods depend. While some of them protect the environment for human survival, others directly provide food and other sources of survival.
The human survival on those plans is however threatened by human activities and call for alternative interventions to address the situation.
For many street food vendors and fast food operators in Ghana who provide daily food to a cross-section of town dwellers and rural communities in Ghana, fuel wood use is a priority.
Some of the nation’s Senior High Schools confirmed to the Ghana News Agency that their schools heavily depended on it as they spent not less than GHȼ10,000.00 every term to pay for fuel wood contractors for supplies.
Apart from SHSs other, institutions depend on wood as source of fuel.
Ruth Awine, a JHS graduate at Pualugu in the Talensi District of Upper East Region acknowledged that she did a daily four-hour trip round the community to search for fuel wood. “I have to sell to make income to cater for my household needs”. She said in an interview with the GNA.
Many rural women and girls like Awine spend on daily basis quality time to search for wood to cook for their families, a method, which worsens the environmental degradation and expose users to many health hazards.
World Bank reports indicate that Ghana losses 16,000 human lives to indoor pollutions and globally 3 billion people die as a result of indoor air pollution.
In the light of these challenges, government and all stakeholders have provided interventions and strategies such as the Ghana Environmental Management Programme (GEMP) to work towards reversing the loss of soil fertility, land degradation and erosion vegetative cover, implementation of the National Forest Plantation Development Programme (NFPDP) and currently government’s “Youth in Afforestation” programme.
Whilst these and other interventions are on-going, dependence on the tree cover for wood to serve the purposes mentioned above has not stopped, and users have also not embraced interventions in relations to alternative cooking systems.
SNV, a Dutch Non- Governmental Organisation, together with its stakeholders continue to play important advocacy roles in climate change and mitigation through promoting access to renewable energy and technology aimed at reducing green- house gas emissions, specifically emphasising on access to clean cooking and heating technologies.
Mr Julius Awaregya, Director of Organisation for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS) whose outfit is partnering SNV is advocating clean cooking and reduction of environmental hazard related to felling of trees and cooking with charcoal in the Kassena-Nankana With District (KNWD) Assemblies and to which effect a focal person allotted to the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council to push for plans to address clean cooking to reduce the impact on the high consumption of fuel wood, health implications from traditional method of open fire cooking on households, climate change and cost it bears on households by saving time, and reducing drudgery on the women.
Though this has trained more than 500 households in the Kassena Nankana West District embracing and purchasing improved cook stoves, the acceptance rate as a nation and commitment by government to promote clean cooking is still minimal despite the policies to centralise clean cooking.
“We are doing this in collaboration with the Navrongo Research Centre” he said although, the excitement is there for households to practise, sensitisation on the environment and need for communities to protect trees, and water resources is still ongoing”.
Mr Dramani Bukari, Policy Officer at SNV, noted in an interview with the GNA that discussions with government on improved cook stoves was ongoing and efforts were in place to push stakeholders to try and use market base approach rather than distribute free stoves that were not sustainable.
Government is positive in the process relative to drafting and gazetting of the standards and labels for cook stoves”. He indicated and added that all manufacturers and traders in improved cook stoves in 2019 were supposed to make their products compliant to the standards, for consumers to determine efficient cook stoves and those not.
The Worrying Records
Records from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources indicate that in every five years, Ghana loses three quarters of its forest cover. Between 1990 and 2000, an average of 135,400 hectares of forest constituting 25.9 per cent is lost each year. In 2005 alone, rate of forest change increased by 4.2 per cent.
Globally, forests and trees contribute to sustenance of people and the planet providing good air and water and conserve biodiversity. The loss of forests and remaining wild lands and areas once protected and considered safe from exploitation is increasing at alarming rates with demands for energy and other developmental activities taking a heavy toll on the environment creating an imbalance on the ecosystem.
Reports of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) in Ghana indicate that Agriculture and timber extraction are driving forces behind deforestation with commercial and subsistence activities accounting for 40 per cent and 33 percent respectively.
In 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency reported that desertification is creeping in at an estimated 20,000 hectare per year leaving Ghana with the highest rate of desertification after Togo and Nigeria (EPA 2017) with the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Central, Volta and Greater Accra Regions the most affected.
Aside the environmental loss in terms of natural assets depletion, Ghana losses five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product according the Environmental Protection Agency policy (EPA) advice series.
Bearing in mind the usefulness of forests resources as source of food for many populations and its role for improving soil fertility, the rate of degradation, annual bush fires create potential negative impact for communities whose livelihoods depend on them for their nutritional needs.
More so, about 80 per cent of households in Ghana also rely on wood for fuel for cooking and the potential risks according to experts is the result of shift in the seasonal calendar and changes in temperature and rainfall pattern, desertification, reduction in availability of fresh water, increased malnutrition in children and loss of livelihoods.
Mr Osei Yeboah, Municipal Director of the Forestry Commission in an Interview with the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga reiterated the importance of trees, especially in the requirement of herbal medicines for the treatment of various ailments and as sources of fruits and food and added that the rate of destruction of trees through felling and firewood should be stopped.
“Whilst climate change reared its head in all aspects of life, the need to enhance food production and increase nutritional status as well as ensure maintenance of the natural resource is important. The Director noted.
Response to using improved cooking methodologies by households should be now, considering the positive effects this will have on the environment.
All interventions should be taken seriously to ensure a logical conclusion and also behoves on all to know that the environment cannot be sacrificed for anything.
To this end, it is important for stakeholders to expedite action on government plans and implement the use of improved cook stoves.