The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, has reiterated calls for the Atewa protected forest reserve to be developed into a national park.
He suggested mining gold, which is not a renewable resource, was not a best option. He spoke at the Ofori Panin Fie at Kyebi over the weekend when Tourism Minister Dr. Awal Mohammed, his Deputy, Mark Okraku-Mantey, and an officials from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) paid a courtesy call on him.
The visit by the sector minister and his entourage was to seek Okyenhene’s permission and support to identify two iconic tourism sites in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council to develop to international standards and create more jobs as well.
“We want to exploit the tourism potential in the traditional council and create more jobs.Tourism has the potential to create more jobs for the youth in this country. As at now, we have 670,000 jobs [and] we think we can do more than that,” Dr Awal Mohammed said.
The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, identified the Atewa Forest and the Bunso Eco Tourist site for development.
“Develop a national park at Atewa forest, the species that God has given us there is phenomenal but if we begin to look at gold and its recklessness of galamsey and other things in the forest, we would never get there.
“Gold would go away. It is not a renewable resource. The reckless felling of timber is a disregard for our nature. Build a museum in addition to the park that would tell our history and show artefacts.”
The protected Atewa Forest Reserve of about 17,400 hectares runs through roughly north-south, consisting of steep side with fairly flat summits.
It was gazetted as a National Forest Reserve around 1926, later as Special Biological Protection Area in 1994, as Hill Sanctuary in 1995 and finally as one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) around 1995.
The last remains of the cenozoic peneplain that once covered southern Ghana contains ancient bauxitic soil and has international recognition as one of the highest priority ecosystems in West Africa.
The range is the site of an important forest reserve and the source of three major rivers – Birem, Densu and Ayensu – which is source of water production to over five millions of citizens in the Eastern and Greater Accra regions.
The Atewa Forest is a centre of significant plant diversity with at least 1,100 plant species that are threatened with extinction.
The forest rides from 300 to 800 metres. The highest parts often shrouded in mist and clouds resulting in a distinct flora, and trees richly festooned with epiphytic mosses and lichens. Where the tree canopy is intact, the ground is covered in shade-bearing herbs.
Despite its critical nature, the forest is subject to degrading edsfecrs of a range of human activities including substantial threat from artisanal mining and commercial bauxite exploitation, illegal logging, hunting and farm encroachment.
Government through its agency Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Authority is undertaking exploratory drilling for bauxite in the Atewa Forest Range.
The Okyenhene was of the view tourism should be able to generate enough revenue for the country for development needs and long-term investment that would create long-term employment with meaningful and great incomes for citizens.
The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry intends to embark on a domestic tourism drive to ensure citizens develop taste for tourist sites across the country.
Covid-19 hit hard on the tourism sector because of low patronage largely by tourists from foreign countries.