As we mark and celebrate World Environment Day 2024, themed “Restoring Land, Combatting Desertification, and Building Drought Resilience,” the Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS) urges Ghanaians to address one of the nation’s most pressing challenges: illegal mining, which leads to land degradation and contributes to desertification through unauthorized tree felling.

CCCFS places paramount importance of the issues highlighted in this year’s World Environment Day for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. The interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution all intersect with the central themes of this year’s celebration.

Studies reveal the significant ecological impact of illegal small-scale gold mining in Ghana, with its effects estimated to be seven times greater than those of large-scale mining operations. Ghana is experiencing alarming rates of deforestation and land degradation, particularly in the Northern regions, exacerbating desertification.

Recent data indicates that Ghana lost 110,000 hectares of natural forest by 2023, emitting 76.3 million tonnes of CO₂, and has seen a staggering 90% reduction in primary rainforest over the past five decades.

Additionally, the emergence of desertification, previously distant from our concerns, has become a pressing issue. Approximately 35% of Ghana’s land area is now deemed at risk, with the Northern and Savannah regions particularly susceptible. This environmental crisis carries significant economic ramifications, with land degradation costing Ghana an estimated $1.4 billion annually, equivalent to around 6% of GDP.

While we acknowledge commitment to restoring 2 million hectares of degraded land in Northern Ghana through initiatives like the African Forest Land Restoration (AFR 100) and the Modified Taungya System (MTS), challenges such as corruption, nepotism, and delays in benefit-sharing agreements have impeded the success of the MTS.

We advocate for the full implementation of initiatives like the ‘One Student, One-Tree’ project launched under the Green Ghana Project by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. With the planting and nurturing of 1 million trees, an estimated 900,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ could be captured over the next four decades.

As we celebrate World Environment Day this year, we emphasize the critical importance of the issues raised for the sustainability of life on Earth. To effectively combat desertification and restore degraded lands in alignment with this year’s theme, CCCFS urges the government to prioritize the following actions:

  • Strengthening environmental regulations and enforcing sustainable land management practices, particularly in sectors like mining, logging, and agriculture.
  • Investing in reforestation and afforestation programs, utilizing indigenous and drought-resistant species.
  • Promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable grazing practices to mitigate overgrazing and soil erosion.
  • Addressing issues of transparency, corruption, and inefficiencies in land restoration initiatives such as the Modified Taungya System.
  • Enhancing public awareness and education campaigns on the importance of land restoration and preventing desertification.

To every Ghanaian, let us remember that every harm we inflict on our environment will eventually affect us, possibly at the cost of our lives. We urge all Ghanaians to unite in the collective effort to restore our degraded lands and bolster resilience against desertification and drought. Only through unified action can we safeguard our nation’s invaluable natural resources and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Today’s celebration of World Environment Day, themed “Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience,” holds significant meaning for our nation.

Thank you.

Dr Alexander Nti Kani

Climate & Environmental Economist


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