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Burning the Future of the Upper West Region Because of Cutting Down Trees Without Replacing Them

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The major economic activity of the Upper West Region is agriculture with extremely and difficult challenging conditions for farmers. Known as the poorest region in the country with one cropping season, climate change, the elimination or reduction in fallow and the lack of strategies and policies to return enough resources to the soil together with labor migration are contributing factors to the high levels of poverty in the Upper West Region. The practice of commercial charcoal production in the region is a threat to the environment.

With fewer trees as compared to the Southern sector, charcoal is being exported daily to the South. Many rural communities in the region have joined this lucrative business, cutting down trees daily without replacing them. Even those who know the dangers of deforestation says they cannot stop burning charcoal because they do not have alternatives. “I cannot stop burning charcoal because that is where I get my livelihood from. I pay my children school fees, renew my family health insurances and buy foodstuff for my family all from the sale of charcoal. I know that I am destroying the land in one way or the other but I have no alternative” said Mr. Daanaa Kwabina. Genoue as his concern might be, Mr. Kwabina and a lot of others are causing serious destruction to the environment because their method of production is unsustainable.

There is huge wastefulness in the charcoal production process because a lot of trees are cut down in pieces and then burnt in the local kiln. And asked whether there has been any attempt to plant trees to replace what has been chopped for charcoal, Mr. Dabuo another commercial charcoal producer said there was no need doing that. “The trees we cut down to produce charcoal are natural trees. They are not mongo trees that we normally plant. So why do I replace a tree I have cut down in the bush”? But Mr. Felix, an environmental protection officer is not happy with the situation in the region. He said if action is not taking as soon as possible, the Upper West Region will become a desert region.

The situation is getting out of hands and the district assemblies have to do something about it. As you know, I go around almost all the districts in the region every month and in fact, a lot of trees are being cut down for charcoal in almost all the districts. Selling one or two bags of charcoal is somehow fine but cutting down a lot of trees to burn charcoal and then export them is bringing deforestation and other environmental hazards to us. My checks in all the districts have shown that commercial charcoal burning has increased with many especially shea trees chopped down because they have the highest demand in the charcoal market.

There should be laws and policies that regulate afforestation, the environment and energy consumption at the districts, regional and national levels on sustainable charcoal production. The district assemblies should impose a tax on commercial charcoal production and use the proceeds to restore and replenish the damaged environment. There should be enough education on the need to replace every tree cut down for whatever purpose. There should be an alternative to the use of charcoal. The government should consider the provision of improved stove.

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