Bringing nature and people back to life

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A forest landscape restoration initiative in Ayum has brought unique benefits to people and nature.

The importance of forests cannot be underestimated as we depend on them for our survival. Yet the world’s forests continue to decline at an alarming rate and Ghana is no exception. Global Forest Observatory valued that, from 2001 to 2021, Ghana lost 1.41 Mha of tree cover. Restoring lost forests requires action at all levels.

Adwoa Adomaa is one of the oldest farmers in Anwianwia, a village located in Asunafo North District in the Ahafo Region of Ghana. It is a beneficiary of a forest restoration project supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with COCOBOD, the Forestry Commission and Mondel?z International’s cocoa sustainability programme: Cocoa Life. The project restores degraded parts of the Ayum Forest Reserve. The aim is to help combat climate change and prevent biodiversity loss in Ghana.

Empowering farmers towards sustainable livelihoods

Adwoa recounts his enthusiasm to be part of the forest restoration project.

“I have been farming for 35 years now and I was only depending on my cocoa plantation and earning money after the harvest. So when the cocoa is out of season, I find it difficult to earn money to run the house. But thanks to this initiative, I now have an additional source of income to support my family.y,” she said.

Adwoa is one of more than 200 farmers growing food crops with economic trees to restore Ayum’s degraded landscape. For farmers like Adwoa, the initiative to restore the degraded forest reserve is very rewarding.

The forest restoration initiative is implemented using the Modified Tungya System (MTS) – where farmers have access to degraded forest reserve land for planting economic trees. They are allowed to integrate tree planting with selected food crops until the canopy closes. The MTS became a legally binding land lease agreement in which farmers are considered co-owners of plantations with the Forestry Commission and are entitled to MTS plots until the tree reaches canopy height. Besides its environmental benefits, the MTS also serves as an additional income-generating activity for participating farmers.

Nearly one million seedlings have been planted in the landscape since the project began in 2020, and the tree survival rate is high. Previously, communities believed that native trees grow slowly. Today, they see the value in it and are happy about it.

I decided to quit my job as a trader which was not profitable and then join the farmers of the Akwaduro community to help restore the degraded forest of Ayum. I do not regret having made this decision. I now have two large lands for my farm, and I also earn money with my productssays Stephen Agyeman, one of the beneficiaries of the forest restoration project.

Regeneration and protection

Communities are happy to set aside land to plant trees and have the knowledge and skills to do so. In addition, fast-growing exotic species like eucalyptus have been planted to provide firewood and construction timber, which relieves the natural forest.

Support for restoration and better landscape management complemented efforts to protect remaining forests like Ayum. Years after working in the landscape, the Ayum Forest now finds its destiny to restore the climate and the loss of biodiversity in Ghana. It is also interesting to see how beneficiaries of the MTS project are receiving support under a UNDP-supported community resource management area (CREAM) initiative.

CREMA’s training has been a great added value in our efforts to help restore and manage natural resources. Now our farmers are able to improve soil fertility on their farmland and have stopped harmful activities such as group hunting and illegal mining. Thanks to our training, they now practice efficient agricultural activities“, noted Mr. Daniel Amponsah Gyinayeh, President of CREMA.

It is evident that the involvement of communities in the restoration of degraded landscapes is a win-win situation for the sustainable management of natural resources. It also provides livelihood opportunities. Empowering more communities to adopt environmentally sustainable practices will increase efforts to restore climate and biodiversity loss in Ghana. The role of all actors is essential.

Stephen Kansuk Environment Manager UNDP Ghana with a field officer monitoring the project

UNDP Ghana Adwoa Adoma Forest on a farm.

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