Country Profiles

Ghana - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Ghana is situated in West Africa and possesses tropical high forests and savannahs. There are a total of 3,600 species of flora in the country representing the three major taxonomic groups. There is only one known gymnosperm, the West African cycad (Encephalartos barteri), which is indigenous to Ghana. Current records reveal that there could be as many as 221 species of amphibians and reptiles, 728 species of birds (15 species of waterbirds occur in internationally-important numbers) and 225 mammalian species.

The country’s threatened species include 4 species of marine turtle (of which one is locally extinct) and 3 species of crocodile. There are 7 threatened bird species, including 4 endemic to the upper Guinea forest block. There are three species of frog: Baumann’s reed frog (Hyperolius baumanni), lime reed frog (Hyperolius fusciventris), Bobiri reed frog (Hyperolius sylvaticus), and one lizard species, the false agama (Agama sylvanus) which is endemic to Ghana.

There is a high degree of butterfly endemism in Ghana, where about 23 species are classified as endemic or near endemic. Work on diversity of organisms in marine and aquatic systems has concentrated mainly on those 81 species that are exploited for food. About 392 marine species of organisms comprising 347 fish species have been recorded. Ghana’s freshwater fish fauna includes 157 species, of which 9 are endemic and declining overall, especially those species sensitive to pollution.

The tropical forest in Ghana covers 10.2% of the total land area. This represents 2.46 million hectares of forest cover and is mainly confined to the southern-western and middle sectors of the country. There is a transition zone which was a forest and is now turning into a savannah. Most of the forests only exist in statutory forest reserves, with very little patches of traditionally protected forest occurring as sacred groves outside the reserves and representing less than two percent of the total forest area. The rest of the country is made up of savannah vegetation.

Declining trends are observed in forests, dry and sub-humid savannah, marine, coastal and inland water biodiversity, especially in some reserves and off-reserve areas. Although there is evidence of an increase in populations of some forest species, there is also evidence of a decline in populations of some other species, especially the ones which are over-utilized. Numbers of banana, cocoa and some yam species are declining. Three species of mangroves are prominent (Avicenia sp., Rhizophora sp., Laguncularia sp.) but are all in rapid decline.

For livestock, the West African short horn cattle constituted about 80% of the national cattle herd in the 1990s however was reduced to about 47% by 2000. The production of ecosystem goods and services is reduced due to loss of fishing grounds, grazing lands, farmlands, energy sources, watersheds and scarcity of water sources. Generally, there is a decline in biodiversity. However, there are some positive developments that have contributed to encouraging increases in the quality of biodiversity.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Major threats to biodiversity include land-use conversions, habitat degradation, over-exploitation, invasive alien species, climate change, predation, wild fires and poaching. Land use conversions involve large-scale farming and mono-cultural plantations (e.g. teak (Tectona grandis) which is an exotic tropical hardwood species planted in lieu of native species).

Habitat degradation is caused by pollution, misuse of fire (such as bush burning for traditional activities or farming), over-harvesting of genetic resources and misapplication of chemicals. Over-exploitation involves excessive cutting of trees in stressed environments for firewood as an energy source (charcoal burning), by-catch and the use of inappropriate harvesting techniques, such as pair trawling and beach seine (which are illegal in Ghana). Choromolaena odorata and water hyacinth are examples of seriously invasive alien species.

The main climate change effects affecting Ghana include sea level rise leading to sea water intrusion into fresh water habitats, intense drought and flooding and high temperatures. Predation is one of the main threats that turtles are exposed to, especially from dogs. Touristic activities and declining beach habitat also contribute to the decline of turtles. Rapid deforestation, wild fires and human emigration in the northern savannah increase poverty due to less livelihood options which lead to decline in soil fertility and productivity, and increase food insecurity in Ghana.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Some of the obstacles to NBSAP implementation include: inappropriate methods of mainstreaming biodiversity issues into sectoral and sub-sectoral programs due to lack of coordination among the biodiversity-related MEAs, lack of information, indiscriminate use of agrochemicals, unsustainable eating habits and lack of ability to use cost-benefit analysis for biodiversity, lack of resource mobilization strategies to ensure sustainability. Targets and indicators are not yet adopted and incorporated into the NBSAP.

Some progress has been made in implanting priority activities (e.g. some expansion has taken place in regard to protected areas; management plans have been developed; efficient fire management is in place). Over 80% of up-to-date information on Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) has been generated. A number of actions were mentioned for further development in an action plan but Ghana has not adopted an action plan in its strategy document. Policies are in place but a lot of them are not felt at the level where they are most needed.

The current NBSAP has been found to be inadequate to address the threats to biodiversity in Ghana.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The rate of degradation and loss of habitat are not decreasing due to increasing social and economic pressures. Approximately 16% (more than 38,000 km2) of the total land area of Ghana is under some form of protection; another 20-30% or more is under plantation of predominantly cash and food crops. The protected areas in the forests, dry and sub-humid lands (savannah) as well as inland water and marine and coastal areas have been the most effective areas for national implementation of the Convention. Protected areas have expanded and the status of reserves has been upgraded.

Developmental projects can only take place in Ghana with an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Consequently, some information on biodiversity is included in the environment impact assessments however the information captured is inadequate. The EIA application forms that are used do not elaborate extensively on the kind of information on biodiversity that indicates status and trends.

Sustainability has not been achieved, with a lot of unsustainably harvested products putting severe pressure on wild species of plants and animals, leading to scarcity and, in some cases, evidence of threat of extinction. There is a major programme to deal with all aspects of invasive alien species indicating that invasions are under control.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Ghana has developed a Shared Growth Development Agenda (GSGDA) (2010-2013) which has strategies for the promotion of science, technology, maintenance of the quality of the environment and integration of environmental concerns into development policies. There are three main policies for forestry (Forest and Wildlife Policy (1994), Wildfire Policy, National Bio-safety in biotechnology guidelines). The Fisheries Act (2002) is about the management of aquatic ecosystems (no importation of exotic species is allowed and by-laws have been developed for small-scale fishing). Ghana also has a community-based program, called Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA), to improve the natural resource management capacity of fringe communities in off-reserve wildlife conservation.

Linkage of the GSGDA (2010-2013) to biodiversity conservation

The GSGDA attributes the challenges faced by biodiversity conservation in the country to the following:

• Weak integration of biodiversity issues especially at the local level, including the implementation of activities established for in-situ, invasive alien species, agricultural biodiversity and traditional knowledge.

• Lack of a complete biodiversity assessment of Ghana.

• Encroachment on biodiversity hot spots in the country.

• Lack of financial resources for all biodiversity-related activities including climate-related Conventions.

The GSGDA notes that the loss of biodiversity is proceeding at an alarming rate. A major area of concern is the lack of integration of biodiversity issues into development planning. The document mentions that a Steering Committee will be established to mainstream biodiversity issues into sector programmes to facilitate the development of relevant sector biodiversity policies. Again the document identifies the lack of research, public education and awareness on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The development agenda states that the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation will facilitate the collaboration and harmonization of the biodiversity-related agreements. The Ministry will also establish monitoring mechanisms for biodiversity activities.

Various strategic actions have been identified to reverse natural resource degradation. Appropriate agriculture intensification techniques (including biotechnology) that promote correct soil conservation techniques will be applied, while forestation of degraded forests and off-reserve areas would be encouraged, including the adoption of a medium- to long-term plan for public and private programmes. Investments would be encouraged in industrial scale tree farming in specific depleted Forest Reserves and on degraded land, and in commercial forestry outside forest reserves and along dried up and flowing streams and rivers. This could involve the use of Living Modified Organism (LMO) trees. Other strategies include the promotion of plantation/woodlot development to meet the needs of society; human-centred biodiversity conservation initiatives; the use of Lesser Used Species (LUS), particularly for the construction industry on the domestic market; and the utilization of non-traditional tree species, such as rubber-wood, coconut and bamboo to supplement raw material supply from natural forests. Modern Biotechnology and Biosafety could be applied to obtain the best in these areas.

The strategies outlined in the GSGDA to eradicate the biodiversity problems include the following:

• Facilitate the development of relevant sector biodiversity policies.

• Promote research, public education and awareness on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Facilitate the collaboration and harmonization of the biodiversity-related agreements.

• Establish monitoring mechanism for biodiversity activities.

About 80% of funds to undertake comprehensive management of protected areas have been provided from international sources and these funds have been applied accordingly. External sources of funding continue to pour into the country to support different implementation schedules of sectoral activities, some of which have bearing on biodiversity but are not deemed sufficient. National implementation is impeded by the decision-making process not being decentralized, the lack of logistics at the local level and the fact that biodiversity conservation is not thought to support economies of scale.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Pair trawling was recognized as a threat and is banned on the coast of Ghana. The ban is enforced by the Navy that is involved with arresting offenders and imposing punitive measures. However, in general, there is a lack of compliance with and monitoring of the policies of fisheries and agriculture, amongst others. The current number of forest reserves (291) and wildlife protected areas (15) constitute the permanent forest estate of Ghana which is under the control and monitoring of the Forestry Commission.