Two years ago, media practitioners in the Ashanti Region launched a campaign to plant trees to protect wetlands in Kumasi and environs.
The first project saw 65 coconut trees planted along the banks of the Subin River at Denyame, an area prone to flooding anytime it rains heavily.
Unfortunately, all the trees planted were uprooted by a private developer to make way for a construction project.
Serious concerns were raised about the unrestrained cutting of trees that once served as windbreak in the once beautiful garden city of the country.
The journalists, most of whom are environmental activists were only vigilant about the environmental devastation.
They just wanted to make a difference and help in greening the city of Kumasi.
In total, 75 coconut trees were planted in a one-day exercise, with plans to extend the project to other areas.
The Ghana Journalists Association, led by its regional chair, Kingsley Hope, and other senior members chose coconut trees because of its diverse benefits.
Coconut trees provide shade, fruits, and income.
“Discussing with KMA, they made us to understand that side (where the trees were planted) was buffer zone and with my later understanding of buffer zone, we agreed, because we know that it will be protected from negative human impact,” GJA chairman in the Ashanti region, Kingsley Hope, told JoyNews’ Mahmud Mohammed-Nurudeen.
According to him, the association wholeheartedly accepted to do the plantation project. Mr. Hope said the journalists had no power to walk to the site and start planting trees.
“We wanted the place to be a coconut grove in the name of Ghana Journalists Association as our contribution to efforts against climate change and then greening Kumasi project,” he added.
Two years on, the journalists would have expected their trees to grow beautifully. But that’s not the case. Structures are being constructed on the land known as wetland because of its high level of saturation.
Assuming that these coconut trees were alive, they would have provided what only nature can give – oxygen and fruits.
But it is just what it is. TV3 Journalist, Beatrice Spio-Garbrah lamented over the destruction and called on authorities to show much interest in supporting what is needed most.
For her, planting tree is everything, so if somebody can just go and cut it off, it must be looked at well.
“We have a Regional Security Council and even if where the trees were planted is right within the security zone, because it is a buffer zone, nobody seems to know who did it. Nobody seems to have called the person who did it to order or brought him or her to order. So it means we aren’t a serious country,” she said.
The Health Journalist, who also pays much attention to the environment, considers her time and energy wasted.
“I wouldn’t waste my time honestly or spend time to join the Ghana Journalists Association to plant trees. Maybe a different project, I will join but to plant trees, I will not join because I know that tree will be cut off one day by a rich person.”
Even when citizens are willing to plant trees, many are concerned about how these trees would survive. So, it was not just tree planting, it was also protecting them from human pressure and private development.
Kingsley Hope and his team held a meeting with KMA environmental authorities under the leadership of Isaac Bassanyin after the tress had been destroyed.
The destruction of the trees came as a shock to the journalists. They felt the association has been betrayed in its effort to green Asanteman and mitigate the effects of climate change.
News editor for the Multimedia Group in Kumasi, Kofi Adu Domfeh, is also not happy man. He was also part of those who encouraged young Journalists to join the exercise.
“Surprisingly the KMA also said they were not aware that such an activity has taken place. It was very sad indeed, of course, because we pride ourselves to be the garden city of West Africa,” he said.
Sadly, the ten coconut trees planted at the press centre did not survive the weather.
Mr Hope stated that “It is not just mere plantation or planting the material, be it economic or non-economic. It needs to be sustained and sustainability here involves your time, commitment to ensure they grow and so I am a working person, a full time working journalist with Ghana Newtimes Corporation.”
“I am the regional correspondent, so I could not always get the time to be coming here to do the watering. That was why the major project was done at where the water was available for us. Here we needed to do some hiring for watering and others but funds were not coming from anywhere.”
About 50% of journalists in the Ashanti Region are environmental activists. Things that bother nature disturb them too.
As a climate activist, Mr. Domfeh has always maintained that, it is a call for action for everybody when it comes to the protection of the environment.
He expected that, even if they wanted to develop any construction projects, it was ideal that they thought green.
“It is ideal to think green, how do you manage the environment in a way that you can still plan you initiatives without adversely affecting the green?” He quizzed.
Also, the KMA environmental officer who, according to Mr Hope, gave the go-ahead to have the trees planted around the river bank spoke to JoyNews.
The team’s efforts were not successful because the officer said he was busy planning ahead of the green Ghana project.
Mr. Domfeh added “how do we restore this enviable position of Kumasi? But for you to take this initiative, invest your time and some resources at the plantation and then within a twinkle of an eye, everything is cut down. It was really something that everybody wasn’t excited about.”
When the last tree dies, they say the last man also dies. So how can Ghanaians ensure there will be 1000s of trees so that many people will survive?
Hope, Beatrice and Domfeh said it is not just a matter of tree planting anymore. The bigger chunk of the work comes after each tree gets into the soil.
In the last decade, there have been concerted efforts to green Kumasi. In 2014, the Kumasi Urban Forestry Project dubbed “Me and My Tree” marked the beginning of a green revolution.
The project focused on greening Kumasi by way of planting more trees to replace the lost green vegetation.
At least one million trees were expected to be planted by 2017. Seven years later, some residents, including media practitioners, said the exercise was fruitless.
One such is Business and Financial Times Journalist, Kizito Cudjoe.
“It’s important that when they embark on such initiatives, the initiative is owned by the people.”
TV3’s Ibrahim Abubakar has the same notion and Kumasi losing its green spaces to infrastructure development is worrying.
“For me, the planting of trees over the years has not been successful because the aim of improving urban forestry has not been achieved. Kumasi is fast losing its green spaces to infrastructure development, the city has literally become concrete.”
The targets of tree planting that were supposed to be achieved by 2017 seem to be back on the starting line.
When interviewed, the KMA boss, Osei Assibey Antwi, indicated the Assembly is encouraging residents to plant as many trees as they can.
But the question remains will tree planting projects be efficiently managed to achieve a green city for sustainable living?
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