23 May 2019

Ghana Marks International day for Biological Diversity

Ghana yesterday joined the global community to celebrate this year's International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB).

The United Nations (UN) proclaimed May 22 as the IDB to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

This year's edition, which was on the international theme: 'Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health', was to create awareness of the dependency of our food systems, nutrition and health on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

It was also intended to celebrate the diversity provided by natural systems for human existence and wellbeing on earth while contributing to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2, 3, 6, 13, 14 and 15 which focus on protecting the environment and promoting good health.

The local theme for Ghana's celebration was: 'Promoting our indigenous Foods and Medicines; A Catalyst for achieving the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda'.

At a forum and exhibition in Accra as part of the celebration, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said, Ghana, as witnessed by other countries, was undergoing the disappearance of a number of indigenous crop varieties and medicines.

The decline which has been compounded by the effects of climate change and the use of arable lands for construction and other purpose, he said, has also resulted in the disappearance of agro-biodiversity as well as essential knowledge of traditional medicine and local food.

However, the country's transition to a green economy, the attainment of the SDGs and the achievement of the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda would not be met without an integrated system to ensure dependency on indigenous food and medicines.

This system, he said, includes conserving land and water resources used for food production, reducing the contamination of drinking water, safeguarding and restoring agricultural landscapes and seascapes, implementing measures that support the production and consumption of healthy foods and supporting traditional food cultures and knowledge.

In this regard, Professor Frimpong-Boateng said, government, through the Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (2017-2024) and The Agenda for Jobs: Creating Prosperity and Equal Opportunity for All (2018-2021), was exploring the use of innovative approaches to engage both formal and informal sectors to ensure effective collaboration towards inclusive growth for wealth creation and social development.

"Indigenous food crops and medicinal plants are tolerant to biotic and abiotic stress, including climate change and thus their sustainable conservation is important in combating food and nutritional security. We need to focus on biodiversity as the foundation for our food and health and also as a catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human wellbeing," he added.

Additionally, the Ministry, he said, has developed a draft national biodiversity policy to mainstream biodiversity conservation issues into all the sectors of the economy, improve status of biodiversity and promote the sustainable utilisation of biodiversity.

Dr Michael Osae, Deputy Director, Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, called for the establishment of a biodiversity museum for safe-keeping of the various indigenous crop varieties and medicines to avoid extinction and enforce closed seasons on fishing in the sea and hunting in Ghana's forests.

He further urged for a system to address the excessive use of agro-chemicals and improve quarantine of food and medicine varieties brought into the country.

Nana Kwadwo Obiri, General Secretary, Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, called on the government to accredit traditional health facilities as part of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to encourage patronage.

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