Mole National Park in northern Ghana, with its swathes of savannah, is home to elephants, buffalos and antelopes, while rare butterflies, birds and the near-extinct white-naped mangabey monkey inhabit the tropical rainforest in the southwest of the country. Non-protected natural areas are degraded as a result of agriculture, overgrazing and illegal logging – trends that are exacerbated by the rapidly growing population.
Cacao farming in Ghana, which accounts for 20% of all cacao production worldwide, is another major driver of deforestation. The tropical rainforest has been all but decimated. Some cacao plants thrive when surrounded by trees, but many of the varieties being grown do better without shade. The introduction of sustainable practices in the sector has been slow, not least because of the unfavourable position in which cacao farmers find themselves.
The mining industry constitutes another threat to biodiversity. Illegal gold prospectors bulldoze riverbeds to find gold to export to China, contaminating the water in the process. Although the government intervened in 2017 after negative media coverage and put a stop to the illegal activities, that same year it also entered into a deal with several Chinese companies for bauxite extraction in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve.
There is little fertile land left on the savannahs. The shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), which is native to the area, is vital to women, as the nuts produced by this tree contain shea oil, which is a popular ingredient in personal care products both in Ghana and internationally.
IUCN NL has been active in Ghana since 1998. We currently support four partner organisations which promote compliance with laws governing mining and logging.
They are also working on sustainable area management with local communities in what are known as Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs), developing ways to exploit forests, waterways and grassland using sustainable practices. This encompasses domains such as water extraction, the use of emission allowances, as well as certification for sustainable cacao and shea butter.