Creation and Strenghening of the management of Protected Area Systems
This section section describes the original purpose for the creation of protected areas and the inherent setbacks with the management of such protected areas
The rationale for the creation of forest and wildlife reservation under the British colonial administration in the early 1900s was undoubtedly not to ensure protection or conservation of these systems from anthropogenic threats, but was to ensure sustained timber yield, ready game hunting opportunities and protection of humans from wild animals classified as harmful and dangerous. The creation of institutions such as the Departments of Forestry and Wildlife and the empowerment of traditional authorities to set aside reservations were done with the aim of ensuring that they fully provided certain functions and services.
These laudable intentions of forest reservations for economic and ecological purposes were occasionally threatened as forest lands were forcibly put under reservation by the colonial authorities without offering the rightful owners adequate compensations.
Owners were alienated from the resource. They were denied access to their lands and required permits to enter and use the resources. Clearly, these arrangements were unsatisfactory to the land owning entities and disregard (i.e. non-compliance) of laid down legislation and regulations became the order of the day.
Permanent Protected Forests (Forest Reserves)
There exist about 280 forest reserves spread over all ecological zones of the country. These make up about 11 % of the total land surface area of Ghana. All identified vegetation types of the country are represented.
Reserves have been created in the forests of the wet evergreen, moist semi-deciduous and dry semi-deciduous forests, as well as in the northern and southern savannas, coastal and mangrove vegetation types. These reserves are designated mainly as productive and/or protective. Some 75% of forest reserves in Ghana are productive reserves for timber harvesting. Non-timber forest products e.g fuelwood, herbal medicines, cane and rattan are however harvested from all forest reserves with permit. Designated protective forest reserves provide protections for watersheds and catchments. Entry into forest reserves for commercial exploitation is entirely through a permitting system administered by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources or any of its departments.
Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs):
The Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission has re-designated 30 of the existing forest reserves, covering an area of about 117,322 ha, as Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs). The need to manage some of the existing forest reserves with emphasis on biodiversity conservation is an innovative step by the Forest Services Division that resulted in the establishment of GSBAs. The creation of the GSBAs was attributed to the fact that those reserves were found to harbor a high concentration of biological resources of global conservation importance. Logging and other commercial extractive activities are excluded, while new management plans are being developed to ensure community participation and effective conservation and sustainable management of the biological resources of these areas.
Important Bird Areas (IBAs):
The Important Bird Areas (IBAs) concept uses birds as indicators of habitat quality. The concept also provides a practical index of the diversity and condition of an ecosystem on a site-by-site basis. Therefore, it is believed that conserving such sites will result in the wise use of some of the most sensitive, fragile and ecologically rich habitats in the world. The concept was developed in Europe to advocate the conservation of sites that are nationally and globally important, and considered to be of critical importance for naturally occurring bird population, as well as biodiversity in general. There are 36 of such areas of global significance made up of protected areas and forest reserves covering an area of about 11,494 km2 (4.8% of the country's land surface area) identified by BirdLife International in Collaboration with the Ghana Wildlife Society. Of the total area covered by IBAs 42 % is forest, 48% is savanna and the 9.2% is wetland. With the exception of the Mount Afadjato and the Amansuri wetland, all the other IBAs, fall within the protected areas, forest reserves or Ramsar sites. The Ghana Wildlife Society has initiated Community-based site conservation actions in and around the two unprotected IBAs to manage them as community nature reserves.
Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA)
The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, under the Protected Areas Development Programme (PADP), has pilot a new concept of community participation in wildlife management. This concept dubbed the Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA) allow those communities fringing the protected areas, to manage and sustainably utilize the wildlife resources within a defined area. This concept is the first step of empowering the local communities to actively participate in the conservation of wildlife outside the forests and protected areas systems.
In December, 1999, Conservation International, together with other collaborators, organized a biodiversity priority setting workshop, to establish priority areas for biodiversity conservation within the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem. The outcome of this process was the identification of some which were designated as Biological Corridors. The south-western portion of Ghana and the south eastern portion of Cote d'Ivoire constitutes one such corridors. Conservation International is promoting the use of innovative biodiversity conservation tools, such as ecotourism and cocoa agro-forestry (forested farms), to support biodiversity conservation in the defined biodiversity corridor.
- expand protected area system by including inland and coastal wetlands, fringe and riverine forests, sensitive areas such as steep slopes, swamp forest, sacred groves, etc.;
- develop new or strengthen existing strategies, plans or programmes of action for the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources;
- intensify/strengthen human capacity in ecosystem management through long and short training courses, in-service training and review curriculum at the tertiary levels of training to take cognizance of ecosystem management approaches;
- promote proper forest management and avoid clear felling of forests, enhance fire prevention and control;
- take stock and review traditional skills in the management of protected area systems and incorporate these, where appropriate, into modern technologies;
- inventorize existing forest reserves and their resources using modern technologies, such as, remote sensing, Geographical Information Systems and prepare a Red Data List;
- enforce compliance of regulations, standards, guidelines on entry into forest reserves;
- pay full compensation to landowning stools and skins from whom forest lands were taken;
- ensure full and active participation of landowners, communities and other stakeholders in protected area management;
- strengthen education and awareness creation at all levels of society especially among those whose life depend on the forests;
- review and update forestry legislation, and harmonize these with non-forestry legislation;
- strengthen and ensure networking between and among various institutions in the forestry sector;
- rehabilitate degraded forest reserves and wildlife protected areas by introductions and enrichments using preferably indigenous species;
- promote gene flow through the creation of biological corridors to provide connectivity between forest fragments including the Important Bird Areas and other protected areas;
- seek collaboration with both local and external institutions in information exchange as well as technology transfer e.g., Bionet International.