Forest cover restoration improves the income of women in Ghana
Communities in the Mole savanna landscape in Northern Ghana are suffering the consequences of natural resource degradation caused by unsustainable agricultural practices, tree felling for firewood and charcoal production, illegal logging for commercial timber and unregulated pastoralism. They face increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, lower agricultural yields and a sharp decline in the natural regeneration of shea trees, which form an important source of income to about 40.000 women in the Mole landscape. With support from IUCN NL partner A Rocha Ghana, communities on the fringes of Mole National Park have started a tree nursery to restore the forest cover while improving the shea production chain.
Communities in the Mole savanna landscape in Northern Ghana recur to tree felling for firewood, charcoal and construction timber. Over the last two decades, increasing pressure on these natural resources, as well as unsustainable farming practices, have fueled an alarming disappearance of trees. Communities suffer the consequences of this degradation of natural resources: soils are losing their fertility and get more prone to erosion, resulting in lower agricultural yields.
While trees previously got the chance to regenerate on fallow lands, increasing pressure on land for farming, grazing and deforestation drove farmers on the fringes of Mole National Park to resort to short fallow farming, largely employing unsustainable farming and resource extraction practices, such as slash and burn agriculture and illegal logging. This caused a significant decline in natural regeneration of trees.
The declining number of trees also affects the food needs and income of people from fruits, nuts and wood. This mainly affects women, as they often are responsible for collection of these goods. Nuts from the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) contain shea oil, which is a popular ingredient in personal care products both in Ghana and internationally and provides an important source of income to about 40.000 women in the Mole landscape. As the number of shea nuts available per woman has become too low to make a proper income, women are forced to walk ever longer distances on the dry rangelands to collect nuts. If instead they chose to collect unripe nuts as well, this results in lesser quality butter, lower yield per nut and damage to shea trees.
To restore and sustainably manage natural resources in the Mole landscape, we work with a range of stakeholders including communities, civil society organizations, the local government administration and the private sector, in promoting a landscape approach that serves local communities, particularly women, but also the shea industry and other stakeholders active across the landscape.
A Rocha Ghana engaged private sector parties to improve the shea production chain and created awareness within communities on the importance of trees. They trained around 170 people in seven communities on the fringes of Mole National Park in tree planting and landscape restoration, as well as tenure and usufruct rights for planted trees.
A tree nursery with an annual production capacity of 30.000 seedlings (shea and selected native species) was established for the four Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) around Mole National Park and other interested communities.
This reforestation initiative is part of a strategic partnership between IUCN NL, WWF Netherlands and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It contributes to improved climate resilience and offers almost 2000 women in the CREMAs a sustainable source of income, while at the same time contributing to reducing pressure on natural resources by shifting to more sustainable practices.