17 July 2006

Ghana: Oxford University Partners Forestry Commission On Biodiversity Research

Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the Forestry Commission (FC) of Ghana are to embark on a novel three-million-dollar bio-diversity project which, among others, is to enhance Ghana's competitiveness in eco-tourism as well as update the nation's medicinal plant heritage.

The project, which is to be funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), would enable lead researchers at Oxford University, arguably one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world to delve into Ghana's Fiona and fauna, and other bio-medicinal resources and how these resources could engender development.

Also to be involved in the project is the forest research think tank in Ghana, the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG).

The Technical Director in-charge of Forestry at the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Mr Fredua Agyeman, announced this at the inauguration of a Biodiversity Club for the Abuakwa State College (ABUSCO) at Kyebi in the East Akyem District of the Eastern Region.

The club, which is the first of its kind in the region, is an amalgamation of existing splinter environment groups in the school which have decided to be under the aegis of the FC and be the change agent in helping thaw the ever increasing degradation of the environment, especially in the high forest areas of Ghana.

Members of the club have set for themselves the ambitious target of planting, at least, 6,000 trees on a six-hectare land as their first task that would be followed by a nursery project which is also expected to supply tree seedlings to other school clubs in the region which are soon to be inaugurated.

According to Mr. Fredua Agyeman, the Oxford collaborative research project, which is the first such scheme in Africa, would employ the use of cranes and canopies on which platform; researchers would collect vital information on plant and animal in the pristine habitation and codify the findings for Ghana's perusal.

The platforms could also be used commercially by eco-tourism patrons who, after paying a fee, would be allowed to experience the intricacies of nature, the processes of pollination and the interactions between animal and plants in the wild.

A special aspect of the project, Mr Agyeman said would be the creation of a bio-diversity bank, which will be an inventory of all that have been observed by the researchers to serve as a guideline on how the findings could be used to sustain Ghana's agricultural base.

Other aspects of the project, the Technical Director noted, would be the likely ability of the study to help unravel the mysteries between local yam staples for instance, and the hybrid that were being multiplicated and how the properties of the varied species could be used to enhance each other.

Further, the project would also help improve knowledge of the distribution and status of rare, threatened and endemic species through targeted surveys to better focus conservation measures.

The Deputy Eastern Regional Minister, Miss Susana Mensah, commended the FC and the authorities of ABUSCO for uniting their efforts towards protecting Ghana's forest cover, which she said, has depleted from 8.2 million hectares at the beginning of the century to the current 1.7 million hectares.

Miss Mensah was particularly happy because the project will help conserve the Atiwa and Apedwa forests which are sources to the Densu and Birim rivers, the two important water sources in the region.

The Deputy Minister charged the club members to become the pacesetters for environmentally conscious school communities in the region.

A patron of the Club and an Agricultural Science Tutor of the school, Mr Lumumba Dornyame, envisaged that the club's tree nursery project would become a backbone of the FC's operations in the region as it would help assist in the planting of more economically viable trees.

Miss Mensah later joined the students to plant some trees to mark the occasion.

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