With oil, mineral and other natural wealth and over twenty years of democratization, Ghana has made tremendous strides towards sustainable development, moving its status from a low-income to middle-income country—yet it still faces challenges.
Located along the West African Atlantic coast, just 400 miles north of the equator is the country of Republic of Ghana. Ghana has mostly a tropical climate displaying the characteristic wet and dry seasons. With an area of 238,500 square kilometers and a population of 25 million, Ghana holds a dense and diverse population. Ghana faces challenges as resources continue to be depleted and unemployment remains high.
Most of the population of Ghana lives around the capitol city, Accra, in the low-lying southern half of the country. In the northern half of the country is undulating savanna with little tree cover. Much of the Ghanaian landscapes have been altered over the years for urban or rural agricultural purposes, especially in the southern part of the country where the population is densest. The southern part of the country accounts for nearly all of the forest cover of the country and a large majority of the nation’s biodiversity. Hardwood forests covered most of southern Ghana in the late 19th century—now less than half of those forests remain. This forest cover has been removed for agricultural purposes, mainly cacao, of which Ghana is the third largest producer worldwide. Deforestation, overgrazing and drought plague the northern savannas and have led to desertification. Recently, Ghana has implemented various international agreements to protect its biodiversity, tropical forests and endangered species. One of the most notable of these agreements restricts the export of 18 tree species and the export of raw logs.
Cacao and Major Commodities
Ghana is enormously rich in natural resources and is able to use these commodities to foster economic growth. Cacao, diamonds and manganese are some of the resources naturally found in Ghana. The country is also home to one of the largest oil discoveries in recent history, containing at least 3 billion barrels. Before the discovery of the oil deposit, and until it is further developed, mineral exports remain the largest commodity export. Ghana has been one of the world’s top five producers for gold, and boasts large deposits of diamonds and bauxite. Despite oil and minerals, Ghana’s cacao industry has been a staple of the nation’s economy. For much of the twentieth century Ghana was the world’s largest supplier of cacao, and now remains in the top three largest producers. Because of Ghana’s dependence on the cacao industry and its vulnerability to environmental shocks, the industry has become a prime focus in sustainable production. Unsustainable cocoa production is found to have significant impacts on Ghana’s forests and biodiversity.
Ghana’s economy has strengthened over the years, taking the country from low-income to middle-income status and it owes most of this economic growth to its endowment of natural resources. Commodities such as gold and cacao have been critical for economic growth. Agriculture also plays a large role in the economy, making up to 43% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employing more than half of the work-force.
Ghana and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa
With Ghana’s wealth in natural resources and its economy’s dependence on them, the country is set up to easily make strides towards the Gaborone Declaration’s objectives. Ghana is already cognizant of the importance of its natural capital in lowering poverty levels and the need to protect it.
National Strategies and Poverty Reduction
Ghana conducted a baseline study of its natural resources in 2006 through a World Bank-funded Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) with a focus on forestry, mining and wildlife and their role in the economy. This study found that natural resources together make up more than 50% of the country’s GDP. In 2010 the Global Forest Resources Assessment Country Report for Ghana was published to provide an assessment of the nation’s forests and forest resources. These analyses of Ghana’s forests, wildlife and minerals provide a baseline for the nation to continue with its national strategies to protect its resources and natural capital. The Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda 2010-2013 (GSGDA) discussed the linkages between poverty and natural resources. As a result, the country’s poverty reduction strategy focuses on natural resource management and agriculture.
Natural Capital Accounting
As a supporter of the Rio+ Communique on Natural Capital Accounting, Ghana is in its nascent stages of incorporating natural capital accounting into its economic accounts. Within the last two years training to build capacity on natural capital accounting and natural capital stock surveying has begun. Capacity is currently being built and no natural capital accounts are included in Ghana’s economic accounts. The only exception to this is the headway made in the forestry sector through the Forest Investment Program (FIP). The country plans to advance its natural capital accounts through three frameworks: UN-SEEA framework, the System of National Accounts (SNA) and the International Standard Industrial Classification with focus on land, oil, mineral, water, energy, soil, timber and aquatic sectors.
Private Sector Partnerships
Ghana has already made significant advances in establishing private sector engagement in the forestry sector. The Government of Ghana is encouraging private sector investment in the forestry sector and private public partnerships. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has created the Private Sector Plantation Development project, which is partially supported by the Forest Plantation Development Fund, engages private sector in sustainable forest management. Perhaps the most notable of this engagement was the 2013 signing of Forest Commission and Form’s, a private forest plantation company, fifty year public partnership agreement. This agreement will result in the joint reforestation of 14,000 hectares of degraded forest land in Ghana. This agreement is one of the first of its kind in Ghana and sets a precedent for future agreements.
Image credits, top to bottom: © Benjamin Drummond
Ghana Quick Facts
Nearly 50% of Ghana's native hardwood forests have been lost since the late 19th century.
Ghana is one of the world's top three cacao producers, and has been one of the world's top five gold exporters.
Natural resources have been found to account for more than half of Ghana's GDP.
Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa Focal Point for Ghana
Mr. Peter Dery