The UK Space Agency through Ecometrica Limited is funding an Earth Observation project in Ghana, West Africa, to monitor its forest resources. This project is also going to aid Ghana’s understanding of its deforestation challenges towards enhancing cocoa production in the country. Ghana rivals Ivory Coast as the largest producer and exporter of Cocoa in Africa.
The project is called the Forest 2020 Project, and is an extension of UKSA’s Space for Development projects across the world, especially in Africa.
The project will be executed in Ghana by the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the Resource Management Support Centre of the Forestry Commission. To enhance effective execution, other UK institutions will be joining the project, such as; the University of Edinburgh, Cabo Map, and the University of Leicester.
Due to his versatile experience, Prof Emmanuel Acheampong, the Head of Department, Silviculture and Forest Management of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources at KNUST will be the project team leader. While speaking about the event, he revealed that several efforts had been embarked on in the past towards actualising the project.
“Over the years we have done forest monitoring but this is a comprehensive project that helps us to build capacity to monitor our forest resources through the use of earth observation technologies. We have been able to produce a map that segregates forests from cocoa, over the years we have tried it but it hasn’t worked.” He noted that the project had been planned for some time but couldn’t be started until 2017, before securing more funding for it now. With support, they can protect more forests.
“One of the key output is that we have been able to segregate cocoa from forest areas. It is very important because we know that cocoa production leads to forest loss. And the basic idea is to build our capacity so that we can continue to monitor the forest.”
Speaking on the significance of the project the Ghanaian economy, he said “it is very important output for the forestry commission of Ghana in terms being able to monitor the forest resources in terms of cocoa deforestation. In the long term, we are expecting that we will produce cocoa without compromising the integrity of our forest resources. So in the long term, we will be able to produce cocoa and at the same time prevent forest loss.”
Although initially scheduled for a three year period ending this year, the project will now be concluded in 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic’s intrusion.
Using Earth Observation technology, the project revealed the continuous wild encroachment of the forest reserves. The project team then developed an alert system which notifies them whenever an encroachment occurs in the forest. The alert system combines satellite images, remote sensing applications, ground trudging and community inputs and interactions to confirm alert before action is taken.
Yakubu Mohammed, Head of Geo-Information Unit at RMSC-Forestry Commission and Principal Investigator for Forests 2020 Project spoke on the alert system; “what is important about this is that we have developed an alert system so anytime there is encroachment we can pick the signals and trace the encroachment and see to it that we address it before it escalates”.
“So we sit in the office look at the current satellite images on daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis, then we pick out the alert, and then quickly trace out the alert to the ground and find out the nature of the alert; is it as a result of timber harvesting, as a result of farming or settlement and when we pick up these signals then we find a way of addressing them”.