The Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS) wants the government to take urgent steps and actions in combating the cascading effects of illegal mining in Ghana. 

The group observes a growing risk of desertification in various parts of the country.

“The emergence of desertification, previously distant from our concerns, has become a pressing issue,” a statement signed by Dr Alexander Nti Kani, a Climate and Environmental Economist of the group, emphasised.

Ghana continues to grapple with activities of illegal mining in most of its forest reserves as artisanal miners pursue their daily source of livelihood - “Galamsey”.

However, studies have shown that the significant ecological impact of illegal small-scale gold mining in Ghana with its effects is estimated to be seven times greater than that of large-scale mining operations.

Reports suggest that 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.

The country has seen a staggering 90% reduction in primary rainforests over the past five decades.

According to the association, 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,” the statement highlighted.

The government and in partnership with some agencies have commenced projects to reclaim Ghana’s lost forest cover.

But CCCFS believes the implementation and progress of initiative are marred by corruption and favoritism as beneficiaries lose out on the benefits.

“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,” the statement added.

Restoring degraded lands

To effectively combat desertification and restore degraded lands in alignment with this year's theme, CCCFS is urging the government to prioritize the following actions:

1. Strengthening environmental regulations and enforcing sustainable land management practices, particularly in sectors like mining, logging, and agriculture.

2. Investing in reforestation and afforestation programs, utilizing indigenous and drought- resistant species.

3. Promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable grazing practices to mitigate overgrazing and soil erosion.

4. Addressing issues of transparency, corruption, and inefficiencies in land restoration initiatives such as the Modified Taungya System.

5. Enhancing public awareness and education campaigns on the importance of land restoration and preventing desertification.

The group is also advocating the full implementation of government’s 'One Student, One-Tree' project launched under the Green Ghana Project.

They believe planting and nurturing of 1 million trees could help capture an estimated 900,000 metric tonnes of CO2 over the next four decades.

This year’s theme as the World marks and celebrates Environment Day is on "Restoring Land, Combatting Desertification, and Building Drought Resilience”.

“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,” the statement read. 

The group is urging a collective action to safeguard the country’s natural resources and bolster resilience against desertification and drought.

“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,” it added.

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