The Ghana-Cote D’Ivoire Trans-boundary Project to establish a viable and sustainable trans-frontier conservation area was launched in Accra on Wednesday.
The trans-frontier conservation area would link forest reserves and protected areas in and around Bia in Ghana and Diambarakro in Cote D’Ivoire.
The three-year project also aims at ensuring free movements of animals, especially elephants, and would develop, test and promote best practices in cocoa agroforestry for the rehabilitation of degraded forest landscapes.
It would also provide connectivity between the fragmented forest blocks and enhance ecosystem services.
The project is estimated to cost over two million dollars and is being funded by the Global Environment Fund, Governments of the two countries, Organisation of Food and Agriculture (FAO) and other co-financiers.
Conservation Alliance, an Environmental Organization, is the co-ordinating agency while FAO would oversee its implementation.
A similar project had already been carried out between Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Ms Babara Serwaa Asamaoh, Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said the project was a laudable one and commended the organisers for their initiative.
She noted that wild animals did not respect boundaries in their movements or migration and that had made it important for countries which shared boundaries to collaborate in conservation activities geared towards the protection of those animals.
Ms Asamoah, therefore, asked the Forestry Commission, particularly the Wildlife Division, to actively participate in the implementation of the project and also draw on lessons learnt from the previous arrangements with Burkina Faso to increase the success stories.
Mrs Ernestina Osei Prempreh, Project Co-ordinator, Conservation Alliance, said wildlife species, especially elephants in the forest zone of West Africa, were now found in small isolated fragment of forests.
She said many of those groups were probably too small to be viable in the long term and would probably dwindle to extinction.
“A network of forest reserves and shelter-belts in south-eastern Cote d’Ivoire and south-western Ghana has been identified as a priority landscape that provides the habitats for a number scattered elephants and other endemic or threatened species populations,” she said.
Mrs Osei Prempeh said the project was structured into three main technical components to improve capacity for biodiversity conservation; ecosystem restoration and protection; and strengthening conservation in the production landscape.
Dr Lamourdia Thiombiano, FAO Deputy Regional Representative in-charge of Sub-Regional Office for West Africa/Representative to Ghana, in a speech read for him, said the tropical forests of West Africa harboured more than half of all mammalian species in Africa, yet 15 per cent of the area’s original forest cover remained.
He said the Guinean Forest of West Africa, including the forest zone in Ghana and neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, were considered one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.
“This is an important landscape where people engage in subsistence agriculture and cocoa production with heavy dependence on wild animals as a source of bush meat. Agriculture expansion, tree cover removal, hunting pressure and human-wildlife conflict are all issues on the rise that require further attention to enable the adoption of long lasting solutions,” he said.