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Ghana - 12 May, 2021
Tropenbos Ghana has encouraged hundreds of farmers to start planting trees on riverbanks to support long-term access to water. In addition, it created a platform for stakeholders to provide input to a bill for Parliament to protect riparian buffer zones from human activities.
Traditionally, farmers in the Juabeso-Bia landscape in Ghana did not plant crops on their riverbanks. It was considered bad practice; riverbanks were supposed to stay forested. A couple of decades ago, however, farmers started to violate this customary rule by deforesting the riverbanks in order to plant rice and cocoa. Some of them thought it would be good for the crops. But they were wrong.
Not only did cocoa not thrive on the riverbanks, farmers also started to experience water scarcity. This was because removing the trees had increased the water surface’s direct exposure to the sun, leading to much higher levels of evaporation. Moreover, runoff from the agricultural fields resulted in the sedimentation of the rivers. Today, every dry season, the rivers and streams dry up. People have to walk long distances to find drinking water, and there is not enough water to irrigate the rice fields, leading to food scarcity.
To prevent such negative effects, the Ghanaian government recently passed a Riparian Buffer Zones policy, which requires a buffer to be maintained between a water source and human activities. Tropenbos Ghana has been working with the national Water Resources Commission to develop a draft bill for Parliament, outlining the details for the implementation of this new policy. This has involved, among other initiatives, creating a platform for relevant stakeholders to provide input to the bill, emphasizing the key role of farmers and miners in protecting water sources, and making sure that the national policy takes local realities into account.
At the same time, it became clear that farmers in the communities knew little about the policy or the rationale behind it. In 2020, Tropenbos Ghana organized several workshops with community representatives to raise awareness of the long-term benefits of restoring riverbanks by using a variety of tree species with commercial value. After the workshops, about 200 farmers from the Elluokrom and Asuontaa communities started planting trees on the riverbanks, where their farms used to be. Inspired by these actions, farmers in other communities also started planting.
To keep the momentum going, and achieve impact at a larger scale, Tropenbos Ghana is now trying to convince other NGOs and district governments to join in the efforts, for example by providing seedlings. Moreover, the organization is engaging with chiefs, who still have an important position in society. Together with the chiefs, Tropenbos Ghana hopes to revive some of the traditional land-management rules that reinforce elements of the national Riparian Buffer Zones policy. The goal is to prevent further deforestation on riverbanks, and to promote tree planting on riverbanks that have been deforested. These efforts will help to secure people’s long-term access to water, while also producing income.
This article is part of the TBI Annual review 2020,
due for release in May 2021