In 1888, the colonial government of the Gold Coast sent sample wood from the colony to England for tests on their working properties as industrial and construction timber.
Following the favourable results from the tests, the government exported 3,360 cubic metres of Mahogany in 1881 and 84,900 cubic metres in 1913. Since those times, the development and management of Ghana’s forest resource base have focused on forest conservation, plantation development and timber exports, much to the near-neglect of wildlife management for eco-tourism development.
Although the Forest and Wildlife Development Master Plan, crafted more than a decade-and-half ago, attempts to seek equitable attention for the wildlife sector, that quest has not been vigorously pursued, resulting in the continual over-dependence on plantations, natural forests and timber exports for revenue generation from the forestry sector. It is, largely to address this imbalance and tap the resource generation potential of the wildlife sector, especially, in eco-tourism, that the Forestry Commission will transform the Achimota Forest into an ecological enclave – the Achimota Eco-tourism Project.
Achimota Forest In Perspective
The Achimota Forest (AF) was gazetted in July 1930 to create a green buffer between the Achimota School and the city of Accra and to provide cheap fuel for the School. Those initial objectives changed with time to the provision of Nature Reserve, Recreation Park and Nature Study Facilities for children, students and researchers. The Forest is three-hundred and sixty (360) hectares with an arboretum, a zoo and spiritual retreat enclaves, which are privately sponsored.
Presently, as an eco-tourism centre, the Achimota Forest attracts twenty thousand visitors and generates US$60,000 annually. These statistics compare oddly to those of the Nairobi National Park (NNP) in Kenya, which attracts ninety-six thousand (96,000) visitors and generates US$8 million, annually although the two have some comparable characteristics. Both are ‘Big City Parks with easy access for potential visitors; both are subject to increasing encroachment pressures and both are state-owned.
However, the NNP is 117 kilometers with 400 recorded fauna species as compared to the Achimota Forest, which has 3.6 kilometers and few species, which hardly generate any keen interest among tourists. Indeed the NNP is well developed, in terms of infrastructure, fauna holding and its diversity, government commitment and civil society involvement. It is, therefore, imperatively apt that the FC adopts, adapts and replicate some basics in the success story of the NNP for the Achimota Eco-Tourism Park.
Funding The Chief Executive of the FC identifies funding as crucial even as the spectrum of sources is wide and diverse. The major challenge could be funding and a project of such magnitude will require massive capital injection, he acknowledges and explains that the FC shall seek funding from both traditional and non-traditional sources, both local and sometime foreign, depending on the exigencies of the situation, to fund the Project. Alhaji Dauda shares this view: I take this opportunity to invite investors, both local and external, to take advantage of this project. Notwithstanding its private-sector funding of the Project, the Forestry Commission may have to liaise with the central government and resort to its Internally Generated Funds as well donor support for the project. The development partners of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources/FC, especially the European Union, have been extremely helpful and have shown keen interest, through the Wildlife Sector Development Project and other similar interventions, in the development of the wildlife sector of Ghanas forest resource base. Hopefully, they are willing and able to continue with that gesture Secondly, Public-Private Partnership arrangements, accessing the capital market and the Banks are other potential sources of funding for the project. The FC envisions the active participation of local entrepreneurs and businesses in the Project, which it sees, not only as mitigating the adverse effect of age-old imbalance in the forest sector but also the commencement of the general overhaul of the wildlife sector in Ghana. In situating the importance of the Project in a broader context of forest resources development in Ghana, the Environmental Specialist of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Accra, His Excellency Ton Van Der Zon sees the Eco-Park as very important in the future role of the forest in view of integrity of bio-diversity and income generation of the Wildlife Division. Conclusion The Achimota Eco-Park is full of promise and requires broad-based support for its implementation and success. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, just like the Forestry Commission, is unequivocal on this and Honourable Alhaji Dauda puts it more passionately: I am offering my personal commitment to this Project to ensure that it succeeds. Certainly, we will win in this Project and the government will go along with it. Undoubtedly, the FC will need the patronage and support of the public to succeed.