Save the Atiwa (or Atewa) Rainforest Reserve.
'Our forests shall be sold off to mining companies and will then be turned into open pits without heed for the priceless natural resources we depend on' stated Daryl Bosu of A Rocha Ghana, a Ghanaian environmental NGO.
The Atiwa Forest Reserve in south-eastern Ghana is one of West Africa’s greatest natural treasures. Its varied ecosystems contain exceptional biodiversity – lush jungle with magnificent tall trees, eight-meter high tree ferns, grasslands, marshes and river landscapes that are home to a rich variety of animal and plant species and a refuge for some of Africa’s rarest animals and plants. Many of these species cannot be found elsewhere in Africa, except here in the tropical rainforest of Atiwa Forest Reserve.
Atiwa has been recognized as a protected area since 1926 due to its outstanding variety of life forms and most recently, BirdLife International 2001 classified the rainforest as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Due to many of the plant species occurring only in this part of Ghana, or in few other localities, part of Atiwa was declared as a specially protected GSBA (Globally Significant Biodiversity Area) following a national botanic survey of forest reserves by Ghana Forestry Department in the 1990s. Atiwa Forest Reserve has for instance, at least 323 species of trees.In a research expedition in 2006 to survey the forest, scientists discovered two rare and endangered species of primate in the reserve: Ursine or Geoffroy's Pied Colobus (also known as Black and White or White-thighed Colobus) one of the most endangered African primate species and the Olive (or Green) Colobus species. Habitat destruction and poaching of these two Colobus monkeys for meat and skins is threatening their survival. They also found the critically endangered frog species, the Togo Slippery Frog, which only inhabits streams in moist tropical forests and is restricted to some parts of Togo and Ghana.
As well, 17 rare butterfly species were discovered in the Atiwa Forest, including the amazing Giant African Swallow-tail, which has the widest butterfly wingspan in the world and the Atewa Dotted Border, which is restricted to Atewa and is one of the rarest butterflies in Africa and is considered to be critically endangered.The Atiwa Forest Reserve also contains many birds that are rare elsewhere in Ghana including the Afep Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Broadbill, Common Bristlebill, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Spotted Honeyguide and Least Honeyguide.
The Atiwa rainforest also supplies five million people with drinking water. And forest dwellers rely on it for food, medicine, building materials, tools and clothing. The forest cover also serves the country and its inhabitants by providing protection against floods and drought.
But this unique rainforest treasure is now under threat. This is because the Atiwa Forest is also rich in minerals, with sizeable bauxite deposits that the government wants to develop and mine. A total of 260 square kilometres of Atiwa have been declared a forest reserve, but unlike national parks, such protected areas are not safe from mining and timber exploitation.In recent years, several multinational mining companies have obtained prospecting licenses in Atiwa. “Yet the negotiations are not open and transparent,” says Daryl Bosu , fearing that the government will one day disclose the go ahead for mining and the Ghanaian people will have no say in this important matter.
There is still time for action though. A Rocha Ghana has joined forces with several groups opposed to mining in the Coalition of NGOs Against Mining in Atewa (CONAMA). The coalition is calling on Ghana’s government to protect the entire Atiwa Rainforest Reserve against all forms of exploitation and declare it a national park.
It is vitally important to protect the irreplaceable Atiwa Forest and its natural wealth for Ghana and the world: for its 40 mammal species, including the critically endangered Ursine Colobus, more than 150 species of birds, over 40 species of amphibians, the greatest diversity of butterflies in West Africa and a number of plant species that exist nowhere else in Ghana.
The protection of the Atiwa Forest is also vital to the people of Ghana. The reserve is managed by the Forestry Commission of Ghana in collaboration with other stakeholders, mainly the Okyeman Environment Foundation, which has restricted people from farming in the area and instead is trying to encourage eco-tourism. However, the reserve is already under pressure from rampant illegal logging and hunting for bushmeat. It is also vulnerable to mining exploration activities, since the reserve contains gold deposits as well as the low-grade bauxite. While mining will provide short-term income for a few people, it will for evermore degrade or destroy the ecosystem.But no mining licenses have been awarded at the moment and so concerned people in Ghana and elsewhere have time to strongly implore the government not to allow Atiwa Forest Reserve to be plundered and ruined by mining and timber companies. “A decision has not yet been made...We therefore need the international community to support our petition calling on President John Dramani Mahama and the government to protect the Atiwa rainforest against all forms of exploitation and to establish a national park.” said Daryl Bosu of A Rocha Ghana.
The varied tropical terrain of Atiwa Forest with its wealth of wild animal and plant species, many of them rare and threatened deserve urgent assistance from all those who care about the rainforests and ecologically sustainable ways of life. Protected this forest and its wildlife will go on giving forever, environmentally, socially and economically to the communities dependent on it. Clearing its vital habitats through mining and logging will quickly destroy it. What’s needed is now is effort by people to make the powers that be appreciate its great significance and its real worth to the society and the world.Environmental activists in Ghana urgently need support to save the Atiwa rainforest and consequently protect and preserve Ghana’s unique fauna and flora. Please write to the Ghana government and urge others to do so as well, to help make the Atiwa rainforest a national park and conserve it for the benefit of present and future generations. Please act to keep this unspoilt wilderness intact. This incredibly precious wild place must be saved.
- To take action to help save Atiwa Forest - Please sign the Ghanaian environmentalists’ petition to the Ghanaian government to save this special natural place and create a national park to conserve the forest: and do whatever else you can to make other people aware of the importance of the Atiwa Forest and the struggle to prevent its destruction.
- For more information or to help the campaign contact - Save Atiwa Forest Reserve,
- Sources- Rainforest Rescue, A Rocha Ghana and Save Atiwa Forest.