Ghana has a total area of approximately 238,540 km2, of which land constitutes about 230,020 km2. It has nine ecological zones (HALL AND SWAINE, 1981), although for forest policy formulation purposes these are broadly categorised into three vegetation zones: the high forest zone (HFZ), the transitional zone and the savannah zone. The savannah zone and the transitional zone cover two-thirds of the country (15.6 million hectares) and account for the middle to northern part of the country, while the remaining southern part (8.2 million hectares) is covered by the HFZ. Much of the remaining forests and the commercial volumes of timber resources are located in the HFZ (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2002).
Within the HFZ, there are 216 state-managed forest reserves with a total area of 1.7 million hectares. In effect, almost a fifth of the total area of the HFZ is designated as forest reserves. The size of the forests outside the reserves - known in policy parlance as off-reserve areas - in the HFZ is estimated to be about 400,000 hectares spread across an area of 5 million hectares (ABEBRESE, 2002; KOTEY et al., 1998). It is in these off-reserve forests that the majority of uncontrolled timber harvesting and deforestation is taking place. Generally, around 2,555,900 hectares of Ghana’s forests are protected areas (forest reserves and national parks). These areas, despite being designated “protected” and still hosting high biodiversity, are considered as “partly to mostly degraded”, according to the proposal for Ghana’s Forest Investment Programme (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2012).
In 1900, the area of high forest was estimated to be between 8 and 9 million hectares but by 1946 the combined area of reserved and unreserved forest was estimated to have halved to 4.4 million hectares (Forestry Commission, 2012). Deforestation during the period 1990-2000 was estimated at about 135,000 hectares per year and during the period 2000-2005 it was estimated to be 115,000 hectares per year (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010). Comprehensive quantitative assessments of deforestation and forest degradation are not currently available for Ghana, especially for the savannah zone (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2012) but official deforestation-rate estimates are in the region of 2% per year since 1990 of which 65,000 hectares per year is thought to relate to intact closed forest (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2012)).
The current contribution of forest to the national GDP is estimated at 4% having fallen from a previous high of 8% a decade ago. Forest accounts for 9-12% of export earnings and support the livelihoods of nearly 15% of the population (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2012). Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are also extremely important but much of their value is not formally recorded and remains inadequately represented in policy analysis. Ghana's REDD Readiness Proposal claims that drivers of deforestation can be mainly attributed to agricultural expansion (which contributes to 50%), harvesting of wood (35%), population and development pressures (10%) and mining (5%).
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION. 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2010. Country Report, Ghana. Available here. [Accessed September 2013]
THE FORESTRY COMMISSION OF GHANA. 2010. Readiness Preparation Proposal Ghana. Submitted to Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Final, December, 2010. Available here. [Accessed September 2013]