|Environment, Biodiversity and Agricultural Change in West Africa (UNU, 1997, 141 pages)|
Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chancellor, Representative of the United Nations University, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be here to address you at the opening of the Regional Workshop on Environment, Biodiversity and Agricultural Change, because the theme of the workshop is at the heart of the issue my ministry is trying to address. The environmental agenda for the 1990s is getting increasingly complex at both the national and global levels due to the growing threat on life support systems. There is therefore the need to examine the underlying causes of the threat to the citizenry of Ghana.
Most times, Ghanaians as a nation overemphasise the weight of the abundance of our natural resource endowment, with minimal or no emphasis at all on the importance of proper management of these resources. The mismanagement of these resources has resulted in a host of environmental problems which affect the quality of life we all yearn to enjoy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ghana's environmental management strategy as set forth in the Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) aims at ensuring reconciliation between development and natural resource conservation in order to make a high quality environment, a key element in support of the country's economic and social development. The strategy recognises among others the need:
The guiding principle of this strategy is the preventive approach which commits government to a number of actions. Some of these actions which are relevant for this workshop are:
Mr. Chairman, it is therefore gratifying to note that these objectives have found expression in the effort of the United Nations University (UNU) and the University of Ghana in undertaking the pilot study of pressure on the environment and change in biodiversity and agriculture in Ghana's forest-savanna ecotone. This workshop is to me therefore significant in two principal ways.
The first is that it emphasises the importance of cooperation between local and international institutions to come together to provide insight into the emerging complex environmental problems facing mankind.
The second is that it seeks to involve small farmers in the study and their participation in the workshop in an effort to integrate such farmers into agroenvironmental research to achieve realistic community-based agroenvironmental enhancement programmes.
This is a departure from past efforts, where research was carried out without the involvement of farmers, who are the real decision makers on land use, and who can help redress environmental deterioration. This is heart-warming, as there is a growing awareness of the need for the involvement of local people as active partners in all aspects of the research and development process. The immense wealth of traditional know-how, especially in agricultural systems, should be brought to bear on improper land use practices by research projects such as this one to reinforce sustainable practices.
Ladies and Gentlemen, another significant aspect of the study is the question of the interrelationships between population dynamics and environmental change. This aspect of the study seeks to examine and disaggregate the processes of adaptation of indigenous resource management systems and land use through a series of field-based research projects in key aero-ecological zones of tropical and subtropical environments. Most of the environmental problems facing us are due to rapid population growth which puts pressure on environmental resources.
I wish to use this opportunity to congratulate all the collaborators in this study for their contribution towards good environmental management practice in Ghana. In the same vein, I wish to call on other scientists to emulate this example to make their research meaningful to the land users, and to pledge that my ministry will offer its full support and recognition to any such effort towards solving our environmental problems.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Participants, you have assembled here to consider a set of objectives during the workshop. These are:
The outcome of your deliberations on the findings is likely to affect the lives of many farmers and the status of the environment for good or ill. However, I am confident, based on the laudable objectives set for the workshop, that the outcome will be a positive one. It is therefore imperative on all assembled here to discuss the issues before you in a dispassionate manner, taking into account the many small-scale farmers who are struggling to eke out a living with attendant sideeffects on the environment. This group of people, wherever they are, are unknowingly counting on you to give them hope to provide the current formula to get them out of their environmental insecurity.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, on this note, I wish to declare the PLEC/INRA Regional Workshop on Environment, Biodiversity and Agricultural Change in West Africa opened.
I wish you fruitful deliberations. Thank you.