Ghana has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and this sustained tree loss has resulted in severe desertification. This loss of fertile land has worrying implications for the livelihoods of people living in these districts but there is also hope that the trend can be reversed after women in northwest Ghana have successfully regenerated about 1,000 acres of barren land for agriculture and other purposes.
The dangers of desertification
Desertification is a gradual process of the loss of soil productivity and the thinning of the vegetative cover. It most commonly occurs in arid, semi-arid and dry, sub-humid areas and is usually caused by human activities such as deforestation, bushfires, poor farming practices, pollution and over grazing.
Statistics released in 2007 by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in Ghana showed that 49 out of the 138 districts in Ghana were currently in the desert belt, a situation which posed a threat to national development.
Furthermore, desertification was increasing at an estimated 20,000 hectares per year, with the corresponding degradation of farmlands and livelihoods.
The response in Ghana
In response to the threat to livelihoods posed by increasing desertification, members of the Kanpour Women Association (KWA) resolved to take responsibility for the regeneration barren land in Kanpour in the Lawra district and its adjoining communities in the Upper West Region.
After inviting a retired agricultural technical officer to provide advice on the problem facing them, the KWA were encouraged to consult with EPA officers in Wa, capital of the Upper West Region. This consultation lead to an ongoing collaboration with the EPA which saw large areas of land restored to a usable state.
The members of the group (who were mainly farmers) were equipped with knowledge on various species of trees and the methods to grow them to replace the lost ones. Burning of trees to clear land was also heavily discouraged with fines and in areas where burning was unavoidable, community protected areas were established where activities like cutting of trees, burning and farming was not permitted.
These measures have had notable benefits for the wider community. Farmers in the area presently cultivate crops including yam, millet, groundnut, guinea corn, okro, cocoayam, maize, plantain, cassava due to the improved nature of the soil. The communities adopting these measures have also become become attractive to other people in the area due to its abundant natural fruit and herbal plants. This has helped to curb the high migration rate of young people to the south and has in fact attracted other people to settle the community.
How you can help…
The achievements of the KWA in Ghana are most encouraging and demonstrate the potential efficacy of local and regional projects. However, deforestation and desertification are still major problems in dryland Africa and initiatives such as those in North West Ghana are needed now more than ever. ITF support a large number of projects in dryland Africa and we also promote schemes that encourage women to take an active role in reforestation. These projects help to provide long-term sustainable income and livelihoods for affected communities, helping to break the cycle between poverty and deforestation. You can help by making a donation or getting involved with our work.