Addressing the Menace of Illegal Mining – Contribution of CSIR-FORIG
The boom in small scale mining operations, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, is fast becoming one of the major factors contributing to the rapid decline of forest resources in Ghana. Forests play important roles in the maintenance and provision of goods and services that are beneficial to all segments of society. As a natural resource pool, forests store and recycle nutrients, protect land and water resources, provide valuable genetic resources and habitats for wildlife. In Ghana, the forestry sector contributes about 2-3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from about 10% a decade ago (FDMP, 2016). Nonetheless, the forestry sector provides direct employment to over 100,000 Ghanaians and indirect employment to over 2.5 million people (GSS, 2014). In addition, timber exports earn the country about US$180 million per annum, which accounts for about 1.5% of total exports (FDMP, 2016). Despite these benefits derived from the forestry sector, forests in Ghana are under serious threat partly due to deforestation and forest degradation.
The rate of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana has been on the rise in recent decades. From the country's original forest cover of 8.2 million hectares from the onset of the last century, only an estimated 1.6 million hectares remain. Currently, the deforestation rate is about 2.5% of the total land area of Ghana leading to an annual loss of about 135,000 ha. For example, between 1990 and 2000, the forest cover loss was about 387,256 ha (2%) whereas a total area of 531,364 ha (3%) was lost for the period 2000-2010 (FAO, 2016). The increasing trend of the deforestation rate in Ghana has been attributed to agricultural expansion, timber harvesting, population and development pressure, and mining and mineral exploitation (GRPP, 2010; FCPF, 2014).