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Small steps towards a greener Ghana

Over the last 200 years, around 90 per cent of Ghana's forests have been felled. (WRENmedia)
Over the last 200 years, around 90 per cent of Ghana's forests have been felled.
WRENmedia

Ghana's efforts to compensate for the over-exploitation of its forests are being given a boost by involving children in tree planting. About 3000 school children are involved in a pilot project spanning 15 primary schools in the Ejisu Juabeng Municipality of the Ashanti Region, aiming to increase children's awareness of the importance of trees and to stimulate their interest in planting and conserving them.

Over the last two centuries, Ghana has lost about 90 percent of its original forest to excessive logging, clearing of land for agriculture and cutting down trees for fuelwood and charcoal. But previous tree planting exercises involving adults have largely failed to achieve the desired rate of success in the country, because most forest trees require up to 40 years to reach maturity; as a result, many have been discouraged from taking up tree planting, believing they would not live long enough to reap any benefits.

Investing in children's future

Involving children in tree planting exercises, however, is expected to address this issue, with the young more likely to perceive tree planting as an investment in their future, which they can reap as adults when the trees mature. Children and adults are also being encouraged to view trees as a legacy they can bequeath to their families, their country and the world at large.

Under the project, school children will learn about planting and tending tree seedlings (Paul Bosu)
Under the project, school children will learn about planting and tending tree seedlings
Paul Bosu

The project for school children is part of an international effort currently underway to promote environmental awareness, tree planting activities and cross-cultural linkages among children around the world under the Children's Rainbow Forest Network (CRFN). Support for the project is currently provided by the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana.

Dr. Paul Bosu, an entomologist with the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), is pioneering the project, which includes classroom work on the functions and importance of trees - ecologically and economically - as well as practical tree planting exercises. He is assisted by William Karikari, a national service person attached to FORIG. Each school is expected to plant at least 30 trees on their compound, with planting to take place in June or July 2010 when the rains begin. "The notion amongst Ghanaians that trees and forests can only exist naturally is a big hindrance when convincing people to plant trees. We need to create a future generation who believe in the concept of tree planting and the need to protect forests. For that, we have to give children the right education on trees," Bosu says.

Greening a new generation

FORIG welcomes visitors to the Bobiri Forest Reserve near Kumasi, to learn about the many values of trees (WRENmedia)
FORIG welcomes visitors to the Bobiri Forest Reserve near Kumasi, to learn about the many values of trees
WRENmedia

The educational programme will focus on issues such as the role of trees in reducing greenhouse gases and global warming. Teaching aids will include samples of indigenous seedlings and tree products like chew sticks, medicines and herbal preparations, and leaves for wrapping food. The aim is to help children understand that forests fulfill many ecological and economic services, and provide a wide range of products other than timber and firewood.

Bosu is encouraged that in the initial planning stages of the project, in 2009, FORIG was approached by the local District Education Office and asked to provide 1000 forest tree seedlings for its own planting campaign. He is also optimistic that the interest in tree planting awakened in children by the project is sustainable. "For any venture, the baseline is money. If people know that they can go into tree planting and be financially sound, they will do it. Children can balance environmental benefits with economic incentives to make a choice for tree planting," he believes.

In a separate but similar venture, students from the Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA) are also promoting tree planting in their communities. One example is Michael Ahala, an agroforestry student, who is undertaking tree planting activities with school children in the Upper East Region during his one year of National Service. Mr. Ahala, who has always had an interest in trees, says he promotes agroforestry to both children and adults in his community as the permanent solution to the problem of land degradation, as well as a source of wind-breaks, fodder for livestock and fuel wood.

Written by: Bernice Agyekwena

Date published: May 2010

 

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