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Children in the Forefront to Restore Ghana’s Forest

Ghana’s efforts at planting trees to compensate for the over-exploitation of its forests is being given a boost by involving children in tree planting exercises. About 3000 school children are involved in a pilot project spanning 15 primary schools in the Ejisu Juabeng Municipality of the Ashanti Region.

The move is aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of trees among children in a bid to stimulate their interest in planting and preserving trees. Ghana has already lost about 90 percent of its original forest to excessive logging, unsustainable agricultural practices and cutting down trees for fuel wood and charcoal.

Tree planting exercises among adults, including farmers in the past have not achieved the desired rate of success because most forest trees require between 15 to 40 years to reach maturity. This has discouraged a lot of farmers from taking up tree planting because they believe they would not live long enough to reap the benefits.

Hence, using children as the main vehicle in tree planting is expected to address this issue since children would perceive tree planting as an investment in their future which they can reap as adults when the trees mature after several years. Children and adults are also being encouraged to view trees as a legacy they can bequeath to their families, their country and the world at large.

 The project for school children is an offshoot of the Mixed Species Plantation Project sponsored by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) which was initially aimed at helping farmers to establish mixed plantations. However, farmers failed to utilize all the stock of seedlings meant for them hence the need to redirect the seedlings into the school children’s project.

Dr. Paul Bosu, an entomologist with the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) who is pioneering the project said the project includes education and actual tree planting exercises with each school expected to plant at least 30 trees on their compound.

 ‘The notion amongst Ghanaians that trees and forests exist in nature is a big hindrance when convincing people to plant trees. There is therefore the need to create a future generation who believe in the concept of tree planting and the need to protect forests by giving children the right kind of education on trees”, he says. 

Thus, the educational programme will focus on issues such as the role of trees in reducing greenhouse gases and eliminating global warming. It would involve the use of teaching aids such as pictures of trees, samples of indigenous seedlings and tree products like  chewing sticks, medicines and herbal preparations and leaves for wrapping food. The aim is to help children understand that forests are more than just wood since they provide a wide range of products.

Dr Bosu is optimistic that the interest in tree planting that would be awakened in children by the project is sustainable.  “For any venture, the baseline is money. If people know that they can go into tree planting and be financially sound, they will do it. Children can balance environmental benefits with economic incentives to make a choice for tree planting.”

Graduates from the Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA) are also promoting tree planting in their communities. Michael Ahala, a student from KITA who is studying agro-forestry is also undertaking tree planting activities with school children in the Upper East Region during his one year of National Service.    Mr. Ahala who has always had an interest in trees says he views agro forestry as the permanent solution to the problem of land degradation. Besides, it provides fodder for livestock, fuel wood and serves as wind breaks.

Mr Ahala says he intends to embrace agro-forestry as a source of livelihood and would educate farmers on the need to embrace agro-forestry since it is one of the best methods of land cultivation.

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