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:
- to maintain
ecosystem and ecological processes;
- to adequately protect humans,
animals and plants, their biological com unities and habitats against harmful
impacts and destructive practices and preserve biological diversity.
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:
- the creation of awareness among all
sections of the community;
- the development of procedures for the
utilisation of land resources in a manner that ensures a maximum degree of
economy in the use of land;
- minimisation of land use conflicts;
- encouragement of measures to protect critical ecosystems against any harmful
or destructive practices;
- and the promotion and support of research
into environmental problems to improve understanding of environmental
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:
- to discuss the findings
of the United Nations University Programme on Population, Land Management and
Environmental Change (PLEC) pilot study of pressure on the environment and
change in biodiversity and agriculture in Ghana's forest ecotone;
identify possible strategies of extending PLEC research to other agroecological
zones in West Africa;
- and to integrate farmers' groups and other
environmental actors and parties into an extended research programme, in the
quest for sustainable systems of managing the environment by small farmers under
conditions of population pressure.
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