Ghana : Thirty-five percent is in the desert (Google / nnahenkan)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thirty-five percent of Ghana is in the desert

The Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) has revealed that 49 out of the 138 districts in Ghana are in the desert. This means about 35 percent of Ghana’s landmass is desert, while desertification is dangerously creeping at an estimated 20,000 hectares per year, with the attendant destruction of farmlands. Already some environmental experts have warned that the current low level of water in the Akosombo Dam is due to desertification, which has affected the tributaries of the dam in northern parts of the country.The Programme Officer of the EPA, Mr. Emmanuel Arthur revealed this when he presented a paper at a roundtable debate in Accra on climate change, dubbed, “Climate Change in Ghana – Widening the Debate.” Climate change is referred to as the long-term fluctuation in precipitation, temperature, wind and all other aspects of the earth’s climate. The debate was organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development, (CDD) and the British High Commission in Ghana. Mr. Arthur cited increasing air temperature, heat waves, sea level rise, drought and storms as some of the climatic happenings in Ghana, stating that these have effects on water resources, agriculture, health, desertification and coastal zone settlements. Explaining climate change on Ghana’s water resources, he said there will be a reduction in freshwater flows between 15-20% for the year 2020 and 30-40% for year 2050 in all the basins. “Irrigation water demand was to increase to about 40% and 150% for 2020 and 2050 due to climate change respectively and 5% and 17% without climate change. Hydropower generation is seriously being affected by climate change leading to about 60% reduction in available water in all basins by 2020, this crisis currently being experienced nationwide.” The Programme Officer noted that both water quality and quantity are depreciating over time and this is causing scarcity worldwide.On agriculture, he revealed that a vulnerability and assessment done for maize, millet, rice and sorghum projected that the yield of maize, which is a main staple crop in Ghana would decrease to 6.9% by 2020. However, he said the yield of millet would not be affected by climate change since it is more drought-tolerant but insensitive to temperature rise. Mr. Arthur said Ghana as a developing country can only reduce her vulnerability to the impact of climate change by managing her natural resources and population in a sustainable manner. He emphasised that Ghana should meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and warned that Ghana’s rapid population growth of 2% is putting pressure on food and water resources, and other vulnerable natural resources. “


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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.