Editorial by John Haughton

First of all congratulations to the Ghana branch of Forest Friends/Cáirde na Coille for the production of this fine newsletter which we are using to launch our joint ‘NEART’ initiative which seeks to protect the remaining rainforest of Ghana and at the same time implores the Irish Government to stop the importation of tropical wood from West Africa and other areas, and to reverse its destructive forestry policy by planting native hardwoods. 

Although Ghana has one of the stronger economies in sub-Sahara Africa because of its natural resources, the lack of environmental awareness and the willingness to have these resources exploited in an unsustainable manner, has resulted, by reliable estimates, in the loss of between 90% and 95% of primary rainforest.

Economic development has come at the cost of Ghana’s life supporting rainforest and environmental degradation. Logging, legal and illegal, gold mining, saw milling, cabinet making, the building industry, the demands of the Cocoa industry, road construction, the use of wood for cooking and fire wood, has led to a serious deterioration of soil quality and is now threatening Ghana with a famine similar to those suffered by Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The soils when deprived of their natural protection, increase in salt content and are worn away by air and water erosion. The consequence of this loss of primary rainforest has led to a serious intensification of droughts and bushfires. It has led to desert encroachment. In changing the habitats of disease-carrying insects, deforestation is creating conditions that may help to spread malaria, river blindness and other serious illnesses.

The herbal medicine tradition, which is central to the health system, is under threat. More than 250 trees and plants are used in traditional medicine and are threatened due to deforestation. The American Forest and Paper Association estimates that in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana and Liberia, 30% of timber production is ‘suspicious’; other estimates put it as high as 50% in Ghana and Cameroon and up to 100% in Liberia.

Ireland is now the largest per capita importer of tropical wood in the European Union. Most of our tropical wood, especially iroko (teak), comes from West Africa, especially the Ivory Coast. That is why Forest Friends urges the Irish Government to reverse its present policy of planting non-native exotic species of softwoods and instead plant our native hardwoods, which have a varied lifespan from planting to maturity, thus allowing for selective felling as opposed to clear fell and the fostering of continuous canopy forestry.

This would also prevent soil erosion and obviate the necessity to use pesticides, as trees would be planted on principles based on good Sylva culture practices. 

Some Positive Factors: 

1. Kakum National Park, one of the last isolated fragments of rainforest that once extended across West Africa is protected as well as about 15% of the land area, which has some form of protection. 2. Forest protection could earn tens of millions for Ghana under carbon-trading initiatives.

John Haughton Chairman Forest Friends Ireland/Cáirde na Coille
Forest Friends Ghana Press Launch
ENFO, Dublin
Irish National Biodiversity Week
Wednesday 23rd. May 2007

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