- Philip Tengzu
The irony of combating climate change with haphazard felling of trees
The threat of climate change in Ghana is eminent as the adverse weather conditions being experienced in the country in recent time points to that fact. The situation is not different in other African countries and the world at large.
Farmers in Ghana were faced with the challenge of unreliable rainfall pattern, and the invasion of strange crop pest and diseases which had posed a serious threat to agricultural production.
The UN SDGs
The United Nations, in 2015, introduced the “ambitious” Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards achieving inclusive development.
As signatories of those goals, member states were obliged to achieve a set of targets of the SDGs by 2030. These targets include combating climate change.
Goal 13 of the UN SDGs required member states that were signatories to the goals to “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
It was, however, uncertain whether those ambitious goals would be achieved considering the actions and inactions of the people, with particular reference to Ghana.
The fear of uncertainty in attaining those goals had been corroborated by Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, a former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa.
He said at a recent event in Accra that with current growth trajectory, the world is unlikely to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets by 2030.
According to Dr. Ibn Chambas, the SDGs agenda, although a laudable objective, this was now unlikely to be attained as the world was lagging behind in most, if not all, of the 17 objectives.
In Ghana, as part of measures to achieve the SDG targets on combating climate change, the government had initiated and implementing policies in that regard.
That introduced the “Green Ghana” project in 2021 to revamp national efforts in foresting the country through three planting.
The government, in the second year of the “Green Ghana” programme, targeted to plant at least 20 million trees on 10 June, 2022.
It said at the end the programme that it exceeded the target by planting over 22 million tree seedlings across the country.
Similarly, there were International and Local Non-governmental Organisations (NGOS) that had embarked on vigorous tree planting exercise to complement the government’s efforts in that regard.
One of such organisations is the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). It was supporting communities and institutions to plant trees through the European Union (EU) funded Resilient Against Climate Change (REACH) project.
In spite of those laudable initiatives by the government and her development partners, the threat of climate change was glaring following the illicit activities of the people. Those interventions could be a nine day wonder.
Contributors to climate change
It rather sounds ironical as the actions taken by the government of Ghana and her development associates were being negated by the indifferent attitude of some people in society.
It looks as if a section of the Ghanaian populace were waging a war against the government’s efforts in tree planting. While the government and her development partners were busy planting trees, some people were also busily cutting down trees for different purposes.
While some people in the rural communities, particularly, were cutting trees mostly economic trees, for charcoal burning as a source of livelihoods, others were logging the trees on commercial bases for export in the full glare of the government agencies and institutions that were mandated by law to protect those trees.
In the Upper West Region, charcoal burning had become a major occupation of some people, with cartels in other parts of the country that patronised those charcoal produced in the region.
Similarly, logging of rosewood trees with impunity had become the order of the day. The authorities who were supposed to safeguard those trees seemed to be complicit in the act.
On daily basis, trucks of charcoal were transported from the Upper West Region to the southern sector. What had happened to the police, forestry and customs checkpoints along the route to, let’s say, Accra or Kumasi?
The rosewood trees that were logged in the region and exported on daily basis were not flown or transported underground to Accra and other areas where they were eventually exported to, perhaps China to be proceed into furniture and imported back into the country to sell to the very people whose livelihood had been threatened by the felling of those tress.
Traditional authorities in whose hands those trees were entrusted sat aloof while the logging of rosewood and other economic trees were going on in their jurisdictions with utmost impunity.
If care was not taken the efforts of the government in improving the vegetative cover would be in vein and achieving the SDG on combating climate change would be a mirage.
It was worth noting that combatting the eminent impact of climate change was a collective responsibility of all. However, the younger generation ought to lead the fight against the canker as they would face the brunt of climate change in the near future.
It was also imperative for the traditional authorities to not be influenced by the immediate monetary and other resource benefit they would gain from the illicit activities of the cartel of a few unscrupulous people in society at the expense of the larger majority.
They need to live up to expectation and to hold their customary mandate in high esteem by protecting the environment at all times irrespective of the enticements inherent in the illicit activities of destroying the environment.
Also, the government of Ghana needed to beef up its efforts in combating climate change with the strict implementation of policies and laws on climate change.
No one was oblivious to the fact that there existed laws and regulations against negative environmental practices including illegal felling of tress for any purpose.
However, implantation of such laws had become a serious challenge to the implementing agencies partly due to undue interferences, either by politicians or prominent community leaders.
Finally, the need to adapt to climate friendly farming practices was non-negotiable of the country was to mitigate the threat and impact of climate change.
With this, farmers ought to adopt agroforestry and conservation agriculture in their farming activities including natural regeneration of trees in order to help conserve the environment.