Ghanaians will come together today to plant trees at various places in a national tree planting exercise as part of efforts to green the country.
More than five million tree seedlings of different species will be planted and nurtured to maturity as an aggressive measure to preserve the country’s forest cover and the environment and roll back climate change and its debilitating impact.
The government's initial target of planting five million trees in a day under its Green Ghana Project has now ballooned, following the expression of interest in the initiative by a number of organisations.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced the Green Ghana Project in the 2021 State of the Nation Address in March to mobilise Ghanaians for an aggressive nationwide tree planting exercise.
Subsequently, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, on March 23, this year, launched the greening project as part of activities to mark this year’s International Day of Forests, which fell on March 21.
The ministry plans to institute June 11 each year as a tree-planting day.
The tree planting exercise is scheduled to commence with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, and the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, planting trees.
Other high-profile personalities who have shown interest in the project are former Presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama, as well as the Rawlings Foundation.
The Chairman of the 60-member Green Ghana Project Planning Committee, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, told the Daily Graphic that the 10 million-tree target was in sight after a collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES) aimed at getting five million students across the country to plant a tree each under the One-student, One-tree campaign.
Additionally, a number of religious organisations, including the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church Ghana, the Church of Pentecost and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, had also indicated their intention to mobilise their members to plant one million trees each, with the Methodist Church Ghana and the Apostolic Church planting 1.4 million and 500,000 seedlings, respectively, he said.
The initiatives of the churches alone translate into 3.9 million trees.
Also, the Chief Imam has encouraged Muslims to take part in the tree planting project by planting trees around mosques across the country, while the Ghana Journalists Association has also called on its members to give the exercise massive support.
Mr Owusu-Bio said all parliamentarians had indicated their readiness to get their constituents to plant trees in the various constituencies.
"We are fully prepared to green Ghana and we will not rest until every seedling raised or donated by individuals and organisations for this project is planted," he said.
He indicated that it was an important project, as it would help reduce the effects of climate change and restore the environment.
The national planning committee, he said, was coordinating the project through its regional and district planning committees, with support from stakeholders such as the Ghana Police Service, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the Forestry Commission, the GES, traditional authorities and metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives.
On the species of trees to be planted, Mr Owusu-Bio said a variety of forest trees and fruit trees had been selected for the project.
Some of the forest trees are teak, wawa, mahogany, acacia, neem, rosewood and ornamental trees.
The fruit trees include coconut, tangerines, pear, orange, mango and royal palm.
The seedlings are to be planted in forest reserves that have been depleted as a result of wanton illegal mining activities, on school compounds, the premises of churches and mosques, in the medians of roads and at designated places within communities, such as marketplaces, lorry stations, police stations and on the compounds of a number of organisations to serve as windbreaks during rainstorms.
Farmers, particularly cocoa farmers, Mr Owusu-Bio said, would be planting trees on their farms to provide shade for cocoa, with individuals encouraged to plant in their homes.
The Forestry Commission has already distributed more than five million seedlings to various faith-based organisations, traditional authorities, youth groups, state agencies, private entities and individuals in all 16 regions to be planted in their various localities.
For instance, Greater Accra received 450,000 seedlings, Central - 400,000, Western - 250,000, Western North - 420,000 and Ashanti - one million.
The rest are: Ahafo - 170,000, Bono - 250,000, Bono East - 300,000, Eastern - 750,000, Volta - 200,000, Oti - 150,000, Northern - 250,000, North East - 120,000, Savannah - 250,000, Upper East - 170,000 and Upper West - 150,000.
The collection points for the seedlings include the offices of all metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, district forest offices and all public senior high schools.
Additional points in the urban areas are all the malls — West Hills, Accra, A and C, the Kumasi and the Takoradi malls.
Unlike previous tree planting exercises when the seedlings were not properly nurtured, this project is using an innovative approach of getting the public involved to own the project.
The 60-member national planning committee overseeing the implementation of the project embarked on a series of sensitisation exercises to whip up public interest in the exercise.
To ensure that a significant number of the seedlings are nurtured into adult plants, Mr Owusu-Bio, who is also the Deputy Minister designate for Lands and Natural Resources, said Forestry Commission officers had been tasked to take care of the plants in the forest reserves, with farmers, various organisations and individuals supporting the project being urged to ensure the trees grow.
Also, a reporting mechanism has been put in place to monitor progress.
"Everyone who plants a tree is urged to take a picture of it and send to a central data system. And next year we will ask all who planted seedlings to take ‘selfies’ by the trees they planted and send them to us," the chairman of the planning committee said.
In the urban areas, Mr Owusu-Bio said, personnel under the youth in afforestation project would be nurturing the seedlings.
In line with the arrangement, he said, the government had released two months’ outstanding allowances of the personnel to be paid to them before the end of next week.
He said nearly 45, 000 people would receive their allowances which were in arrears.
Fighting climate change
The Forestry Commission estimates that about 6.6 million hectares of Ghana’s 8.2 hectares of forest, representing 80 per cent of the country’s land area, has been depleted over the years through indiscriminate human activities.
Currently, Ghana’s remaining forest cover of 1.6 million hectares is being threatened by illegal mining and lumbering and other human activities, worsening the climate change issue in country, as is evident on water bodies and the rainfall pattern.
The Green Ghana Project will, therefore, go a long way to address the degradation of Ghana’s forests and ecosystem.
Aside from restoring the depleted vegetation, the project, when successfully implemented, will also improve on the livelihood of the people, particularly those who depend on economic trees for survival, as the project seeks to plant only such trees.