Five million trees were due to be planted across Ghana on Friday as part of a massive government-led “Green Ghana” programme to save depleting forest reserves.
Ghana’s current forest cover stands at 1.6 million hectares, down from 8.2 million in 1900, according to statistics from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
Illegal small-scale gold mining and indiscriminate felling of trees without proper reforestation have led to huge environmental degradation in the West African country.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has vowed a crackdown on illegal small-scale mining, known locally as “galamsey”, in an attempt to curb its environmental damage.
Under the project, the government provided free seedlings to Ghanaians from all walks of life including celebrities, government officials, parliamentarians, traditional leaders and school children.
“This is time for action. We’re sitting on a time-bomb. Our forest cover is depleting as a result of galamsey and harvesting of trees for different purposes,” lands and natural resources minister Samuel Abu Jinapor told AFP on Friday.
“The aim of Green Ghana is to save us now and our future generations. We can’t fail our future leaders.”
The director of operations at the Forestry Commission, Hugh Brown, told AFP the project looks ambitious but the government is committed to sustain it over the next five years.
“We’ve had similar projects in the past. Once the trees were planted everybody goes their way and they end up dying. This time we’ll make it an annual affair,” he said.
Neighbouring Ivory Coast last year also launched a “tree day”, hoping to counter some of the deforestation caused largely by the cultivation of cocoa.
“I’m happy to be part of this beautiful event. So far we’ve planted 15 trees today,” said Rosemond Asante, a 12-year-old student in Ghanaian capital Accra.
“My colleagues are excited and we’ve been given some of the seedlings to take home to also plant with our parents over the weekend. I love trees.”