The city announces itself long before arrival. If you listen carefully, you may hear its whisper in advance.
It is expanding at an astonishing rate, taking over the landscape. Big construction sites filled with stone carcasses of half-built houses. Day after day, people go into surrounding forests in search of firewood. Another ten years and the landscape will be a polluted sea of corrugated iron roofs, streets covered with plastic and the blue brook dried up for good.
The other day I climbed a green hill to take a look at Kumasi. This Ghanaian garden city, fifty years ago surrounded by majestic ancient trees, is slowly turning into a toxic waste dump. The metropolis in the distance obeys its own laws of nature, covering hill after hill. For decades now, trucks loaded with tree trunks rumble along in a cough of diesel fumes. What took an eternity to grow is felled in an instance, leaving behind a clean shaven hill.
We might see the last tree vanish soon.
In the eighties, Ghana still had 8 million hectares of forest left, today barely more than one. All chopped within a lifetime. Almost all farmers and more than half the city's population use firewood or charcoal to cook their food. A century ago, Ghana's population counted 2.5 million people, now it's ten times as much and a third are under the age of fifteen. 30 years from now, Ghanaian soil will host 50 million people and 70% percent will be living in the city.
It's common knowledge that deforestation is a widespread issue and is speeding up climate change. However, it's not a matter of fate. We can act. But we have to be fast. We have the innovations and techniques at hand. The Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge this.
Wood fuel can be produced in sustainable forests, affordable and clean cookstoves are available, energy sources like biogas and solar abound. Green farming, technologies that help reduce deforestation along supply chains, it’s all there. It just needs to be implemented; marketed, locally adapted and distributed.
At SNV, through our climate adaptation and mitigation approaches, we support communities in becoming more resilient to the effects of climate change and in sustainably improving their livelihoods. We do so together with national governments, civil society and the private sector, in over 30 countries around the globe.
By Karin Bokhove, SNV Marketing Strategist.
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High time to act!