Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is there hope for the Bui Hippos?

Ghana’s quest to secure and sustain the supply of energy for economic development led to the conceptualisation of the Bui Hydro-Power Project as far back as the late 1950s by the First President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The Bui Hydropower project which is currently under construction on the Black Volta River is expected to generate 400 megawatts on completion. The economic potentials of this project cannot be underestimated. 

Plans to construct the Bui Dam received a lot of media attention both home and abroad. The attention highlighted the negative impacts construction of the Dam will have on biodiversity, and especially considering the fact that the Dam was going to inundate much of Bui National Park, a biologically diverse Protected Area in the savanna woodlands of Northern Region. The conservation community, economic and social commentators as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken subsequent to the project, all reported the devastating current and future implications of eliminating important remnants of savanna woodland in Ghana and the threat to the largest Hippo population in Ghana. Some commentators submitted that ‘The Bui Dam is an even greater environmental disaster than drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge…’.As heated and passionate as discussions on the environmental impacts of the Dam got, plans were far advanced for government to rescind its decision. This certainly has been a clear case of the abuse nature suffers, as a result of man’s quest to advance economic development.

The demise of the Hippo population in Bui and its environs will be an indictment to all Ghanaians. Even more culpable are those of us who claim to be stewards of the environment. We neglected our responsibility to blow the whistle for foul play. We shed our responsibility as stewards of creation for today and tomorrow. A Rocha Ghana is not spared the blame, because we failed to speak for the voiceless and vulnerable hippos. The present conservation situation of the Bui Hippos is an indictment on all of us. That much said, is Ghana not a signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity and many others alike for which we have without compulsion acceded to and obliged ourselves to put environmental conservation at the fore front of our economic development?
On a more positive note, it is good to observe that nature is forgiving in many respects, and it is still possible to salvage and prevent the total demise of the Bui Hippos. Let us start here by asking ourselves some questions and work to find answers that will help us regain some hope for the Bui Hippos.

  1. Is there hope for the Bui Hippos after inundation?
  2. What is going to be the movement patterns of Hippos after inundation?
  3. Are the new areas safe for hippo habituation, in terms of hunting from poachers?
  4. Will the new areas offer preferred feed to the Hippos?
  5. Are communities ready to share their farm produce with the Hippos?
  6. What is government or should I say the Bui Power Authority doing to address the Hippo Conservation issue?
  7. How is government or should I say the Bui Power Authority implementing the Environmental and Social Management Plan, with particular emphasis on the Hippos?
  8. Who is going to ensure the safety of the Hippos when they move outside the ‘Protected’ Bui National Park?
  9. What will be the Status of Bui National Park, will its designation change, what happens after inundation?

There are certainly a lot of questions, much more than I have captured above. Please feel free to add to them.

It is imperative, that as soon as possible we find answers to these questions to enable us take, what I call remedial actions to conserve what might be left of the Bui Hippos after inundation. We all failed when it mattered, but thankfully, we have another opportunity to act when it is critical.
The prospects for salvage is positive are you ready to assist this effort?

Dare to Care for Creation. -Daryl Bosu, ARG Project Manager, Northern Sector

Poaching and the conservation story in Ghana

Photo courtesy of: Chicago Tribune
Travelling to a remote village in the Western Region of Ghana I saw some children walking out of the bushes with sacks over their shoulders. They were tired at the time and so they stopped to rest. Noticing me, one of them walked over to ask if as a traveller I was interested in buying bushmeat. I asked what animal it was and behold it was a monkey mutilated beyond recognition. Usually it is easy to determine the type of monkey by the fur but the boys had cut and burned the fur off of the monkey to disguise its species. In doing so it makes it more difficult to ascertain the species and be punished for the crime of hunting the protected animal. I asked how they got it and they responded that it strayed into the bushes near their farm. Well, in the end I did not buy the meat knowing it was illegal to do so but kept wondering what it takes to protect animals whose home range fall outside protected areas.
With the current rate of loss of forest cover in Ghana at 2.0% each year a lot more animals are being exposed to the weather and adverse forces within their environment. In some cases they actually have to travel over longer distances to find food exposing them to greater risk of being poached. 
The problem here is that some people think some animals are only not to be killed within the protected area. Others will use self defence as an alibi to excuse their poaching activities. People actually appreciate the need to protect our natural resources but have a lot of difficulty knowing the extent to which these resources should be protected and in turn we see the wildlife suffer as a result.
Our wildlife preserves a delicate balance in an ecosystem in which humans have viciously interfered in some of life’s processes. To what extent should we protect wildlife to compensate for how humans have destroyed and encroached on this precious land? Are we overlooking those aspects of our existence that hold the answers to future problems? What form should wildlife education take in our societies? Should it only be in communities fringing resources and parks or should it be an integral part of education at all levels?
The answers are for everyone to think about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mole National Park Natural History Museum

Photo by: Ian Vandingelen
The Mole National Park (MNP) is the largest in the country with a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna species; some of which are very rare. However little is known of the resources and as a result is largely underutilised in research, tourism and education. Meanwhile issues ranging from deforestation to poaching, littering, and uncontrolled bush burning in fringe communities continue to threaten the very fabric of the Park’s makeup.
A Rocha Ghana (ARG) and management of the Mole National Park (MNP) have identified the setup of a Natural History Museum as a way to sustain the natural resource base of the park, improve on awareness of its species richness, reduce the negative effects of human behaviour on it and increase its impact on society (particularly those close to the park). This will be achieved by stocking the museum with zoological and botanical specimens from the park as well as artefacts representing the ethno-biological relationship of indigenes and their ecosystem.
The overall goal of the Natural History Museum is to help to bring further awareness to visitors of the park, both foreign and domestic, of the environmental ecosystems and existence of the different wildlife that the Park’s ecosystem supports. Visitors, while waiting for their safari tour to start, can take the opportunity to walk around the Museum and get educated through the exhibits. They will learn more about the wildlife of the Park as well as the history. After the safari the visitors will have ample time to really go through the museum and look at all the displays and read the posters containing facts about the park; not only about the animals but also about how people historically used the park. This will also give visitors an added feel of the importance of the park. Visitors through the exposition will also make informed choices on time spent at the Park.
The anticipated cost of the project is GH¢ 17,941.00 which includes cost of exhibit mount, posters and art, gathering and preparation of taxidermy, labour and transportation. The organisation needs donations to pull this off.
If you are touched by this vision and wish to donate and support this course, kindly donate online at or contact A Rocha International office at  – Megan Russel, Project Manager, ARG.

Editorial by Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah

By Prof Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Chair, A Rocha Ghana Trusteeship Group

Photo courtesy of: Intl. Inst. for Sustainable Development
A number of very interesting activities have taken place recently which need to be highlighted as part of the ways to bring awareness on and increase knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being. Two of these, with special interest to African biodiversity experts and non-experts, are the Busan, Korea meeting of the IPBES 3 and the AMCEN 13th session in Bamako. A third activity is an ongoing international negotiation process and which may be concluded before long. It deals with the negotiations on an international regime on access and benefit sharing (ABS).

The Busan meeting which held between 7 and 11 June 2010, culminated over 5 years of negotiations to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services. The meeting decided to ask the United Nations General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Platform on science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES) for human well being. The IPBES when established, among others, would respond to requests from governments, including those conveyed to it by multi-lateral environmental agreements, related to biodiversity and ecosystem services as determined by their respective bodies; and would identify and prioritize key scientific information needed for policy makers at appropriate scales and to catalyze efforts to generate new knowledge by dialogues with key scientific organizations, policy makers and funding organizations but would not directly undertake any new research. When established, IPBES will act for biodiversity and related issues in similar ways as the IPCC did for climate change in raising climate change profile and transforming it into a priority issue among and within governments for the urgent actions needed.

The 13th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) took place in Bamako, Mali from 21 to 25 June 2010. This meeting provided an opportunity for African ministers and their experts on the environment to consider the interrelationships between climate change, biodiversity and desertification. It was noted that the three issues were closely related and that synergistic efforts in adaptation programmes are required and must be enhanced to ensure that issues of biodiversity, climate change and desertification are addressed properly and holistically. The AMCEN meeting underscored biodiversity as the major link in the synergy and this has energized the ministers towards the 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which will takes place in Nagoya Aichi in Japan in October 2010.

Coming on the horizons is the final negotiations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABSWG).This working group was set up during COP 7 of CBD in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to elaborate and negotiate an international regime on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing with the aim of adopting an instrument/instruments to effectively implement the provisions in Article 15 (Access to Genetic Resources) and 8(j) (Traditional Knowledge) of the CBD. The idea of the ABSWG negotiations started from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa when governments called for the negotiation of an international regime to promote the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity which is ‘the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources’. It is hoped that when the negotiations on the international regime on ABS finishes and the regime gets approved at COP 10 as the Nagoya Protocol, it will create immense opportunities for developing countries which are the biggest natural owners of biodiversity and its genetic resources, to exact the appropriate and/or equitable benefits to its local and indigenous communities from the use of their traditional knowledge systems, as well as its national institutions. The African negotiators are looking for a larger scope of the protocol to include both biodiversity and genetic resources (which necessarily takes into account all their derivatives).

Conservation and the oil find

Photo courtesy of:
The opportunity to be independent economically and to diversify ones streams of funding is crucial and cannot be overemphasised. Ghana’s economy has long leaned on the hinges of minerals mining, cocoa agri-business and revenue collection which in themselves seem to reach their elastic limits in supporting the unending needs of the country. It is thus a welcome relief knowing that another stream of finance is coming the way of the nation to create jobs and cushion national budget in the uncertain times ahead.

Discovery of oil and gas took place in the Western Region of Ghana the main hub of what is left of the country’s pristine forests. Good as it sounds it also presents us with more challenges than we can relax about. Among these are inevitable altering of some parts of the western coastline including the expansion of settlements and growth in businesses, upgrading of the Takoradi Port and associated services, plus an upsurge in intra-national and international production, processing and consumer oriented institutions.

The pressing questions here are how much effort has ‘the Ghanaian’ conservationists invested in accessing environmental impact assessment reports? Are we in anyway being able to monitor the successes of the oil find or are those considered as off-reserve issues? Are conservationists participating in the pre-production dialogue in addressing all possible issues or has it been left to the affected communities. What is perceived as the problem with such communities is in the lack of money, of knowledge and exposure, including lack of foresight, absence of clear paperwork and intellectualism and promotion of, individualism.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times
The point is that there is so much that are yet to be discovered from the Western Region of Ghana. We should, as a nation start taking stock of what we have there and contribute to issues in the planning and management of the oil and gas resources. – News Team

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Secrets of Ghana's south western wild

Photo courtesy of
Lying within an undulating landscape in South Western Ghana are pockets of forest reserves that hold many secrets. These forest reserves are the home of many species from land dwellers to arboreal species. Some other species that can be found there include frogs (Kassina cochranae, Phrynobatrachus plicatus, P. alleni and P. calcaratus amongst others), the duikers and those in their family. Whilst the birds wake the forest up at dawn with their sweet melodies, the calls of the tree hyrax and the bushbaby serve as a lullaby at night. However the most fascinating species in the forest may be the primates. These are interesting because they live in such harmony with the other species that is yet to be fully understood by man.

In the wild due to the elusive nature of some of the species, primates are usually detected by the use of indicators rather than direct viewings. One indicator for the Mona/Lowe’s and Spot-nosed monkey is the presence of the White Crested hornbill. Upon hearing its call, you should look out for the primates. Another indicator is the presence of the bushbuck especially under fruiting trees like the ‘Kyenkyen’ and ‘Osoma’. As the monkeys feed in the upper branches, the bushbucks feed on the bits and pieces of food from the Mona monkeys’ diet. This symbiotic relationship demonstrates the delicate balance in the ecosystem showing that taking away a member of the food chain adversely impacts the lifestyle of the other.

Chimpanzees are the closest human relation in the wild. A research conducted recently in the South Western forest patches showed that chimpanzees still exist in these areas. Some of the indicators showing their presence included their nesting sites, footprints, feeding signs and droppings. It is almost impossible to sight any due to low populations. The chimps have an interesting way of making their “bed”. All they need is a forked-branch with some leaves and the bed is ready! They bend the branches together and if it’s not comfortable enough, they pad it with some more leaves. The chimpanzees do not spend much time at each nesting site and so when you locate a nest the chimpanzees are long gone.

The South Western wild has not only interesting animals but also an interesting human history as well. Amongst the places of interest here is an old hunting ground with banana trees which served as food when poachers went hunting. Currently living on the old hunting ground is a community known as Etteso. Though they are in the forest, they have wireless mobile reception. They charge their phones by using dry cells together with copper wires. Thus it shows that is possible for man to live peacefully with the wild.

This exemplifies how humans are able to coexist peacefully with nature. We must realize that it is possible to live in nature without upsetting the delicate balance of the wild. Why is it then that sometimes other people enter an ecosystem and cause such devastation? How do we protect the delicate harmony of nature whilst providing for our needs? By studying the secrets of Ghana’s South Western wild we may hope to understand the graceful balance between humans and their interaction with the ecosystem better. – Jacqueline Sapongma Kumadoh, ARG team member