Protection of Ghanaian forest is most economically beneficial outcome
Changing the protection status of the Atewa forest range in Ghana to a national park with surrounding buffer zone is the most economically beneficial outcome. This is indicated by an ecosystem valuation study presented at the Dutch Embassy in Ghana today.
The study was commissioned by IUCN NL and A Rocha Ghana and prepared by the Institute for Environmental Studies at the VU University Amsterdam and Wolfs Company in collaboration with local Ghanaian organizations. The study shows the societal costs and benefits of economic development in the Atewa range. Not only is this forest range north of capital Accra an internationally recognized unique piece of nature, it also provides water to more than a million people in Ghana and supports the livelihoods of local communities living on the forest fringes. However, the forest is steadily degrading due to timber and non-timber harvesting, hunting and the encroachment of farms and gold mines.
The study demonstrates the costs and benefits in economics terms of current developments in the Atewa Range compared to potential alternatives. Beside the direct economic benefits from things like goldmining or timber harvesting, the study also takes into account the value of ecosystem services provided by the forest such as clean water and carbon storage. The study shows how values increase or decrease under different development scenarios and which stakeholders benefit or suffer from this changes.
Below infographic shows the main results of the study.
The creation of a national park with supporting buffer zone requires an initial investment, but results in the highest cumulative value, and annual value after 30 years, especially because of water quality and quantity. This is the only scenario in which the value continues to increase year after year and in which benefits go to both local communities at the forest fringes and downstream water users, such as farmers, companies and over 1 million households in Accra.
“A Rocha Ghana has been pleading for years to increase the protection status of the Atewa Range,” says Jan Kamstra, Senior Expert Nature Conservation at IUCN NL. “With this study, they can back their plea with economic arguments. We hope this results in a quick transition of Atewa Forest Reserve to a National Park with buffer zone.” Also Gabriel Opoku-Asare, Director Corporate Relations at Guiness Ghana Breweries Ltd would be happy to see the protection status of the Atewa range increased. “The quality and quantity of the water we use depends on the protection of the watersheds from the upstream though the downstream. Hence we have a role to play in turning the Atewa forest into a National Park. This will ensure less cost on improving quality and availability at all times. We will recommend the swift change of the status of Atewa forest into a National Park for the benefit of government, communities and businesses like ours."
The study includes concrete policy recommendations for the most optimal land use option for the Atewa Range. These recommendations, together with the main conclusions of the study, are presented at the Dutch Embassy in Accra today. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is strongly committed to securing safe drinking water in Ghana and provided financial assistance for the study as part of the Ghana-Netherlands WASH program.
The recommendations are included in a policy brief for Ghanaian policy makers, which will be delivered during the meeting. The Ghanaian Minister of Land and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, already expressed his intentions: “Clearly, we simply cannot continue doing business as usual and to this I reiterate the commitment of the Government of Ghana to designate Atewa Range Forest Reserve as a National Park.”