AWARDS, PROJECTS& REPORTS
Tropical Biology Association Organises First-Ever Capacity Building Workshops in Ghana for Civil Society Organisations
From 9th – 15th March 2022, Save Ghana Frogs hosted the Tropical Biology Association (TBA)’s first-ever capacity building workshops in Ghana. The workshops were held in Accra, in two folds, the first from 9th – 11th March 2022, a “Communications Masterclass” aimed at building the communications and advocacy strategies of civil society organisations (CSOs) from Ghana, Liberia, Togo, and Sierra Leone. We followed this up with a day’s visit to the Aburi Botanical Gardens on 12th March 2022. From 14th – 15th March 2022, the existing team was joined by their Nigerian counterparts for the crowning event of a delegates’ workshop where participants will share their experiences in conserving West Africa’s rich forest ecosystem. Facilitators for the workshop are established personalities in the field of conservation, environmental policy, and communication from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and UK.
These workshops form part of activities under TBA’s project; Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation Capacity of Civil Society Organizations, which aims to build the organisational capacity of CSOs for the sustainable management of biodiversity in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot. Prior to these workshops, participating CSOs have received online training in project development and fund raising (specifically proposal writing), and institutional management and leadership to better structure their organisations. Nearly 30 CSOs are benefitting from this programme with each been assigned mentors who could also go on to serve as lifelong coaches.
This event is funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) under their “Strategic Direction 4 which is to: “Build the capacity of local civil society organizations, including Indigenous People’s, women’s and youth groups, to conserve and manage globally important biodiversity.”
Gilbert Adum's End of Year Report Highlights Save Ghana Frogs' Accomplishments in 2020 Despite the Year's Challenges
Highlighted Programmes and Achievements of 2020:
Succeeded in rebranding the organisation and legally changing the institution name to Save Ghana Frogs from SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana
Launched a new website, www.saveghanafrogs.org, where we independently control and frequently upload contents and updates on our work
Produced a checklist of the fauna diversity of Sui River Forest Reserve which comprised of 446 species of amphibians, avian, butterfly, mammals and reptiles of which 16% are threatened (www.saveghanafrogs.org/fauna-in-sui-river)
The elusive Gaboon caecilian (Geotrypetes seraphini) recorded for the second time at Sui River Forest Reserve
Kick-started “Sounds of Sui Forest Frogs”, featuring audio recordings of amphibians in different habitats of the forest
Intensified searches for the elusive critically endangered Intermediate Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus intermedius) at Ankasa Resources Reserve after having gone missing for more than two decades
Initiated engagements with local stakeholders including Forestry Commission of Ghana (FC), chiefs and local communities surrounding Sui River Forest Reserve for the upgrade of the forest into a Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) for its better management
Other NGOs experienced in community managed reserves, A Rocha Ghana, Civic Response and Ghana Wildlife Society are assisting with elements to be included in the CREMA draft
Developed updated maps, some in 3-D, showing the exact locations of the Giant Squeaker Frog and associated threats
Extended beekeeping operations including the supply of free apiary materials, beehives and suits, to 123 beneficiaries from three other local communities fringing Sui River Forest Reserve
Produced over 100 litres of honey and 10kg of beeswax from pilot beekeeping site, Yawkrom, the first apiculture beneficiary fringe community of Sui River Forest Reserve
Established a Community Development and Education Fund for three communities fringing Sui River Forest Reserve as a measure to reduce local illiteracy and unemployment
Sustained financial support to six Young Scholars Program beneficiaries including, the first female from Yawkrom community admitted to the University, currently studying BSc. Communication and Media Studies
Furnished Whitley Fund for Nature funded Sui Amphibian Conservation Education Centre (SACEC), with 85 copies of “Legal Frog” book authored by a volunteer children’s writer, Mr. Isaac Armstrong
Commissioned and equipped Community Forest Stewards to support the work of FC with regular monitoring as a measure to reduce illegal activities at Sui River Forest Reserve
Raised and planted in degraded areas of Sui River Forest Reserve, approximately 20,000 native seedlings from local community nursery
Raised nearly 5,000 seedlings of raffia palm and replanted in degraded areas of Ankasa Resources Reserve and surrounding private farmlands to improve habitat conditions and provide non-timber resources for local people to reduce pressure on the forest
Initiated lobbying engagement with Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation to reconsider plans to mine bauxite at Atewa Forest Reserve
Joined 20 other CSOs to sue the Government of Ghana for permitting prospecting activities at Atewa Forest Reserve without following legal and proper requirements for pre-mining assessments
Reviewed the manifestos of Ghana’s two main political parties, National Democratic Congress and National Patriotic Party, as it related to environmental and natural resources management (www.saveghanafrogs.org/awards-projects-reports)
Collaborated with Tropical Biology Association (TBA) to organise online capacity building workshops and mentoring for early-career conservationists especially in proposal writing and how to successfully run an organisation
Subscribed to the membership of the Ghana Biodiversity Watch, a group of NGOs that monitor government’s activities and commitment to ensuring protection of the country’s biodiversity
Empowered over 2,000 local people on the sustainable use of forest resources through educational materials and community engagements
Revamped our social media presence with weekday postings to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to engage our +1,000 followers and broaden our reach
Featured several frog species including the rare and critically endangered Intermediate Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus intermedius), on the newly launched website under our Ghana Online Amphibian Literacy (GOAL) Project, to throw more spotlight on individual frogs occurring in Ghana as a means of educating the public, www.saveghanafrogs.org/blog-1
Featured as a special guest speaker on Facebook live on World Biodiversity Day hosted by A Rocha Ghana on the theme, "OUR SOLUTIONS ARE IN NATURE"
Thank you to our donors and friends for your support in 2020.
Save Ghana Frogs Partners with Synchronicity Earth to Save the Critically Endangered Giant Squeaker Frog
An all-important partnership between Save Ghana Frogs and Synchronicity Earth has been formed as conservation actions get strengthened to secure the last population of the critically endangered Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua) at the Sui River Forest Reserve. This partnership, which comes with an annual grant of $10,000, will boost Save Ghana Frogs’ lobbying efforts for the designation of a Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) status for the forest, alongside several other long-term conservation measures.
The Sui River Forest Reserve is the last home of the Giant Squeaker Frog, and also hosts a rich diversity of Upper Guinean endemic species. However; like most production forests in Ghana, activities of both legal and illegal logging have opened up this reserve to many other illicit activities such as farming and mining, which are contributing to the rapid depletion in forest cover. This has ultimately led to declines in important habitats for wildlife, especially the Giant Squeaker Frog, and the provisioning of ecosystem services. This partnership will support the restoration of 25-ha of these degraded critical amphibian habitats with 20,000 seedlings of native tree species. It will also sustain amphibian research, which is necessary for habitat monitoring and evaluation of conservation success. Additionally, three new communities, representing a total of 120 families, will be trained into the beekeeping programme as an alternative livelihood for those who will be affected by new stricter forest regulation measures which may arise as a result of the CREMA inception.
One key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has unfortunately claimed many lives and disrupted normal activities, was an obvious need to boost Save Ghana Frogs’ long-term financial stability, its structure and effectiveness, and international influence. To this end, Synchronicity Earth’s partnership will also be an opportunity for Save Ghana Frogs to intensify stakeholders’ engagements, develop a fundraising policy, and take the organisation to the prestigious membership of the largest global environmental network, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Thank you to Synchronicity Earth for the support during these hard times.
Gilbert Adum Wins Top Global Award of £70,000
Gilbert Adum, founder and Executive Director of Save Ghana Frogs, has won one of the world’s highest conservation awards from the prestigious Whitley Fund for Nature. Gilbert is the first West African to be among the very few global elite conservationists to have won this award of £70,000 from the organisation.
Gilbert and his team from Save Ghana Frogs will use this award money to advocate for a substantial portion of the Sui River Forest Reserve to be designated as a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA). Sui is the last home of the critically endangered Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua).
The iconic Giant Squeaker Frog helping to protect its natural habitat at Sui River Forest Reserve for biodiversity and local livelihoods
Save Ghana Frogs will also engage local communities in habitat restoration programmes and continue training villagers in beekeeping as an alternative livelihood to previous jobs that negatively impacted the forest. Activities such as farming and honey hunting within the forest which employ the use of fire, have led to recurring wildfires causing massive destruction to the forest.
The goal of achieving a GSBA status for part of Sui River Forest Reserve is to gain stricter government protection, outlawing all forms of destructive activities (especially logging) from the Giant Squeaker Frog's critical habitats. This intervention should ensure that the Giant Squeaker Frog (one of the world’s most threatened frog species) does not get added to the global list of ‘lost’ amphibians. Achieving a GSBA status will further help to deliver more sustainable and diversified livelihoods for local communities and to tighten protection for all the forest's inhabitants, not just amphibians.
This is the second time Gilbert has won an award from Whitley Fund for Nature, the first being in 2016 for £35,000. That award helped Gilbert to develop beekeeping as an alternative livelihood, which has significantly increased household incomes of over 50 local recipients.
A local beneficiary of the Whitley Fund for Nature sponsored beekeeping programme visiting his hives
An education fund (Save Ghana Frogs Young Scholars), and community centre (Sui Amphibian Conservation Education Centre) were also instituted. These actions have helped to greatly improve local children’s level of interest and knowledge of the environment, reading and writing skills and computer literacy. A beneficiary community’s school, Yawkrom Junior High, recently rose from obscurity to beat off tough competition to become one of the best schools in the Basic Education Certificate Examination within their district.
Thank you to the Whitley Fund for Nature for saving Ghana’s frogs.
Gilbert Adum Featured in Worldwide Documentaries
With a dedicated career in amphibian research spanning more than a decade, Gilbert Adum, currently the founder and Executive Director of Save Ghana Frogs, undoubtedly has become a global icon in amphibian conservation. This dedication has attracted worldwide attention and scored him several interviews with both local and international media houses.
In recognition of his work, especially in saving the Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua) and bringing it back from the brink of extinction, documentaries about Gilbert's passion for the frog and biodiversity have been well captured by the international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle TV (DW-TV). For two days the media house followed Gilbert and his team around Sui River Forest Reserve, the last remaining home of the Giant Squeaker Frog, to share with the rest of the world interventions such as habitat restoration that are working in protecting the frog and other biodiversity.
Screen grab of the DW-TV documentary on Gilbert Adum and his work on the Giant Squeaker Frog
Take a chronological walk through a 2-minute film about Gilbert and his work on saving the Giant Squeaker Frog and his plans to permanently secure the species' home produced by the Whitley Fund for Nature and voiced by the renowned natural historian, Sir David Attenborough. Gilbert received this honour as part of efforts by Whitley to shed light on the work conducted by the 2016 recipients of their award, given to only eight of the +100 applicants.
Thank you DW-TV and Whitley Fund for Nature for this exposure.
A ‘Green Oscar’ for Gilbert Adum
The founder and Executive Director of Save Ghana Frogs, Mr. Gilbert Adum in 2016, became the first Ghanaian to receive the highly coveted and internationally acclaimed Whitley Fund for Nature Award dubbed 'Green Oscar'. The award was in recognition for his work in saving the Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua) in Sui River Forest Reserve in southwestern Ghana. Since the award, Gilbert and his team have trained nearly 40 local community members in beekeeping as an alternative livelihood option and freely provided them with apiculture tools; 100 beehives, 40 suits, e.t.c. Additionally, an estimated 10,000 seedlings have been raised in two community tree nurseries which we have used to replant degraded parts of Sui River Forest Reserve.
The iconic Giant Squeaker Frog helping to save wildlife at Sui River Forest Reserve
Born to a tribe of bush hunters, Gilbert Adum grew up hunting frogs as part of the indigenous tradition. His naivety to the global threat of frogs, particularly in his region, turned to regret as he grew older and became aware of the lack of conservation in his home country. This borne in him a new passion setting him on a quest to save frogs. In 2009, Gilbert rediscovered the Giant Squeaker Frog, 14 individuals in all at Sui River Forest Reserve. Now his conservation efforts with Whitley Fund for Nature's support have helped to restore 17-ha of the forest and taken on illegal mining and logging. Today, the population of the frog has more than doubled albeit still stands at less than 50 global individuals.
Community volunteers help with our habitat restoration activities at Sui River Forest Reserve
Gilbert Adum Tackles Illegal Mining with £10,000 Grant
A grant amount of £10,000 was awarded the founder and Executive Director of Save Ghana Frogs Gilbert Adum, by the UK-based Rufford Foundation to save frogs threatened by mining in southwestern Ghana’s Sui River Forest Reserve.
Artisanal illegal miners left pits uncovered when they were forced out of the reserve. A total of 43 pits were counted averaging 10m deep. They were spread out within 5 ha of the forest, posing as serious death traps to several wildlife and other forest users including researchers. At least, 10 frog individuals were found trapped in some of these pits.
One of the few shallow pits found which our camera could clearly capture
Gilbert and his team have successfully closed up these pits and planted 2,000 seedlings of the native tree species Terminalia ivorensis, Triplochiton scleroxylon, Terminalia superba and Ceiba pentandra sourced from our community tree nurseries.
Community and student volunteers who helped to cover up the pits and replant these areas
Thank you to the Rufford Foundation for supporting this project. Click this link to read the full project report: www.rufford.org/files/19411-D%20Progress%20Report%20I.pdf
KNUST Student Members Initiate Habitat Restoration Program to Save Frog Habitats on Campus
As part of efforts to protect the 12 resident frog species at Ghana's premier technology university, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), our student chapter has initiated an annual habitat restoration programme. For the past three years with the financial support of the Rufford Foundation under the KNUST Wewe River Amphibian Project (K-WRAP), the students have planted an estimated 200 seedlings of carefully selected plants including Kusia (Nauclea diderrichii) and Militia (Millettia thonningii) to conservation the soil and control erosion along the river. They also remove invasive weeds such as Devil Weed (Chromolaena odorata), which is a major threat to amphibian survival and replace dead seedlings.
A student planting seedlings along the Wewe River at the KNUST campus
Aside from the 12 frog species, the Wewe River, which is a primary drainage system for one of southern Ghana’s largest watersheds, is also home to several other important wildlife species such as the vulnerable West African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis). Unfortunately, like most watersheds in Ghana, this area has seen a rapid degradation from activities such as illegal farming, housing developments, and pollution, potentially threatening occurring species.
Students periodically go back to replace dead seedlings to increase chances of survival
The restoration project, the first of it kind to be initiated by KNUST students, aims to reverse the threat through public engagements in addition to clean-up exercises. They also monitor the status of the frog species to see how well they are doing.
Thank you Rufford Foundation for the support in helping to save KNUST frogs.
Rufford Foundation Provides Financial Support To Save Endangered Frogs from Wildfires
A £10,000 grant (~US$12,000) has been received from the UK-based Rufford Foundation to help us combat and save frogs from recurring wildfires in Sui River Forest Reserve, the last home of the critically endangered Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua). In collaboration with the Ghana National Fire Service, we have put together a team that is rehabilitating critical frog habitats destroyed by fire; and train farmers, hunters, beekeepers and other local forest users in fire prevention and suppression measures such as fire-belt construction when conducting slash-burning.
In addition to invasive weeds, farming, logging and mining activities, recurrent wildfires are a major threat to Ghanaian endangered frogs. One of the worst catastrophes we recorded was in 2016 when large swathes of the forest were burnt — including 5,000 native tree seedlings we previously planted to restore critical frog habitats.
Weeds such as hromolaena odorata and old dried logs are good fuel that spread wildfires
Due to the prevalence of the highly flammable non-native plant Devil weed (Chromolaena odorata), large tracks of native vegetation were also destroyed. The fire also directly killed many frogs. Thus, funding was urgently needed to reduce wildfire induced habitat destruction, empower local citizens in protecting natural resources and save the last remaining individuals of endangered frogs.
Thank you to the Rufford Foundation for the continuous support.
Save Ghana Frogs KNUST Student Chapter Wins Grant to Monitor Endangered Frogs along the Wewe River
Congratulations to our student members at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for winning their second grant from the UK-based Rufford Foundation. The £5,000 (~$6,000) award will enable the chapter to monitor endangered frogs with cutting-edge surveying technology. Chapter members will deploy automated acoustic devices along the KNUST campus’ Wewe River to monitor endangered frogs as part of the KNUST Wewe River Amphibian Project (K-WRAP). Additionally, the students will plant 1,000 native trees and provide waste bins to dispose of trash properly along the Wewe River. Campaigns to use the trash bins to protect the river and its frogs will aid in spreading the amphibian conservation message in the cosmopolitan city of Kumasi and beyond.
Save Ghana Frogs Executive Director and Chief Amphibian Biologist on a field training with students from KNUST
Previously, biologists throughout Africa have relied primarily on traditional survey methods such as walking along streams to listen for frogs, or using traps and bare hands to catch frogs. These methods are time-consuming and can disturb frogs and their habitats. However, remotely-operated acoustic devices will record and store frog calls automatically for subsequent analysis and identification. Deploying acoustic recording devices does not only provide important data including the calls of cryptic species but it also reduces stressing captured frogs and disturbing their activities or habitats.
Wewe River is a primary drainage system for one of southern Ghana’s largest watersheds and also home to 12 frog species and several other important wildlife species such as the vulnerable West African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis). Unfortunately, many of these species’ populations are declining drastically due to illegal farming activities, fuel-wood extraction, and inappropriate waste disposal into the Wewe River. Thus, K-WRAP is a timely rapid response to prevent the disappearance of frogs.
Students from KNUST conduct frequent tree planting exercises along the Wewe River to protect the wetland for its 12 occurring frog species
Save Ghana Frogs Member Wins Grant To Save The World’s Smallest Crocodile
Congratulations to Albert Chambichoga for winning a £5,000 (US$6,379) grant to identify and survey critical habitat areas of the West African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), which is the world’s smallest crocodile species. The grant is from the prestigious Rufford Small Grants Foundation, based in the United Kingdom. This grant will allow Albert and his team to estimate the population size of the crocodile along the stretch of the Wewe River that flows through the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). The team will also re-forest degraded habitats, draft a Wewe Catchment Dwarf Crocodile Conservation Action Plan, and engage the public through folklores. These efforts will augment conservation activities already underway through the KNUST Wewe River Amphibian Project (K-WRAP) that protects the 12 resident frog species.
The West African Dwarf Crocodile, which is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and an Appendix I on CITES (illegal to hunt), remains the least studied of the three African crocodiles. Data on especially their population status under the growing human pressure is scanty. At least, at the Wewe River, there have been sightings both within well preserved parts such as the botanical garden on campus and other critical areas where human development is on the ascendancy.
The West African Dwarf Crocodile's co-existence with frogs is beneficial for the frogs (even though they prey on them), as the frogs find refuge in deep ponds created by crocodiles.
Thanks to the Rufford Small Grants Foundation for their support!
Protecting 4,000 Hectares of Critical Frog Habitat in Ghana
Once land is destroyed, it is a near impossibility to return it to its original form. An estimated 90% of Ghana's original forest cover has so far been lost. The country is racing against time to safe what is left but with the continuous trend of not giving the required conservation attention needed to safeguard them from anthropogenic activities that have influenced our landscape for decades, it looks like a lost cause. Admittedly, resources available to state institutions in charge of forest protection are not enough. However, when you merge protection with resource extraction which are two diverging goals, managing forest reserves become difficult.
Sui River Forest Reserve (or Sui Forest) is a 4,000 ha of land in southwestern Ghana which forms part of the Upper Guinean Rainforest block. It is a relatively unknown forest reserve compared to others. This 'neglect' perhaps is reason why the forest continues to experience rapid depletion from both legal and illegal activities. Until Save Ghana Frogs (then SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana) got on the scene to investigate the biodiversity value of the forest, we would never have known that this is the last home of the now critically endangered Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua) and several other threatened amphibians and non-amphibian groups.
Sui Forest and the approximately 30 amphibian species that call this forest home are subject to four major threats: logging, alien species invasion, farming and wildfires.
Volunteers help to clear the land of invasive weeds
Save Ghana Frogs has attempted to address these threats, working together with the Forestry Commission of Ghana, logging companies, local communities and international volunteers.
We have monitoring schedules that guide our regular amphibian studies to update species list and distribution, understand their ecology, threats to their survival and propose mitigation measures to slow down extirpation and even extinction. Aside from this activity helping to discover the population stronghold and last home of the critically endangered Giant Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptis krokosua), we have also recorded Slippery Frogs; critically endangered Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi) and least concern Allen's Slippery Frog (Conruaua alleni) restricted to a 1km section of a single stream threatened by logging, farming and potential mining. The former was thought to occur within two sites in the eastern corners of Ghana while the latter, in four West African countries; Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
First country record of Conraua alleni at Sui River Forest Reserve
To date, a total estimate of 20-ha of degraded area of Sui Forest have been cleared of the non-native invasive Devil Weed (Chromolaena odorata) and replanted with nearly 10,000 seedlings of the native tree species Terminalia ivorensis, Triplochiton scleroxylon, Terminalia superba and Ceiba pentandra. Identified critical areas of Giant Squeaker Frog’s including breeding sites, migration corridors and riparian areas have been connected to increase the species' chances of survival. We have also piloted an agroecology farming system, inter-planting saplings with nitrogen-fixing and erosion controlling cowpea to increase seedlings survival. To ensure viability, we have established two tree nurseries managed by local people from fringe communities to ensure constant supply of seedlings to replace dead ones. Alongside, we are collaborating with landowners and community leaders to identify opportunities to expand the agroecology farming system.
Lobbying for the creation of CREMA
Save Ghana Frogs is proposing a Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) as the basic mechanism for implementing collaborative sustainable natural resource management for the forest. The CREMA concept is based on stakeholders including state actors like the Wildlife Division and District Assembly, private organisations, and importantly, local communities regulating together, the use of natural resources through the development of bylaws and management plans.
Save Ghana Frogs Joins Lawsuit against Government to Protect Atewa Forest
Save Ghana Frogs previously SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana has joined 20 Civil Society Organisations and two private individuals to file a lawsuit against the Government of Ghana. This action has become necessary to immediately halt ongoing bauxite ‘exploration’ activities at Atewa Range Forest Reserve, and seek legal orders to permanently secure Ghana’s ‘crown jewel’ of biodiversity.
Intended reliefs of the notice include:
Declaration that the right to life and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992 which includes (a) the right to a clean and healthy environment and (b) the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations;
A declaration that mining bauxite in the Atewa Forest violates the right to life and dignity enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution;
An order, compelling the government of Ghana and its agents to take the necessary steps to protect Atewa Forest Range in accordance with constitutional obligations as contained under article 36(9) of the constitution; and
An order, restraining the Government of Ghana, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allottees and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described, from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Forest.
For several years, Save Ghana Frogs has been campaigning to prevent bauxite mining in Atewa Forest. Our proposed upgrade of the forest into a national park to offer it higher protection looked promising until 2017, when Ghana’s Government entered into an infrastructural ‘loan’ agreement of US$19 billion with China. From the terms of the agreement, the loan will be repaid with proceeds from bauxite including that from Atewa Forest (https://aluminiuminsider.com/first-payment-on-infrastructure-for-bauxite-deal-made-by-china-to-ghana/). By June 2019, the government had approved the clearing of part of the forest for what was later communicated as ‘prospecting’ activities without wider consultation with independent environmental stakeholders like Save Ghana Frogs, or with local communities. Our immediate petitions to the Presidency and Parliament unfortunately, did not yield any positive responses thus, the decision to undertake this new action to prevent the further advancement of government’s plans to mine Atewa Forest.
Atewa Forest is the only home to the critically endangered Afia Birago Puddle frog (Phrynobatrachus afiabirago) and the last viable population of the Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi). Atewa is the single location in West Africa with the highest diversity of butterflies. It also harbors at least 1100 plant species including 56 that are threatened with extinction and many more endemic to the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa. In addition, it is the headwaters of three rivers, Rivers Ayensu, Birim and Densu that supplies water to +5 million Ghanaians. Thus, mining this area to contribute 17% of the total loan repayment will be a big failure in our quest to protecting Ghana’s crown jewel of biodiversity.
An assessment of the economic value Atewa Forest concludes that the forest as a national park will provide long-term benefits which outweigh the short-term gains from bauxite mining (https://ghana.arocha.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/11/Atewa-brochure-compleet-compressed1.pdf). Besides, bauxite reserves in the Atewa Forest are small compared to other locations whose estimated quantity can offset the loan. These developments have caught the attention of prominent institutions and individuals including Oscar-winning American actor Leonardo DiCaprio who tweeted calling on the Government of Ghana to prioritise the protection of Atewa Forest.
Save Ghana Frogs Petitions Parliament To Protect Atewa Forest From Bauxite Mining
Save Ghana Frogs in collaboration with other members of the Coalition of NGOs against Mining in Atewa (CONAMA), has submitted a petition to Ghana’s Parliament as part of efforts to block the government’s imminent bauxite mining operations at Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa Forest). Our petition invokes the house’s supervisory and deliberative role to ensure that government is operating within the confines of local laws and internationally binding treaties such as the Convention on Biodiversity. Our petition was received by the majority leader of Parliament, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, who assured us that the contents of our petition would be carefully studied.
Save Ghana Frogs Campaigns Director, Ms Sandra Owusu-Gyamfi with members of CONAMA in a group picture with the Majority Leader of Parliament Hon. Kyei Mensah-Bonsu (in blue suit) after the petition presentation
We also took the opportunity to march through the principal streets of the capital Accra, and held media engagements to raise public awareness.
Media coverage of our march to Parliament House in Accra
Our efforts are strongly supported by several local musicians including the rapper Bice Osei Kuffuor who just ended his term in office as the Musicians Union of Ghana's (MUSIGA) President. Other bodies including IUCN, US Embassy in Ghana and The Christian Council of Ghana have also added their voices in support, calling on Government to reconsider its decision.
Save Ghana Frogs Campaign Director (right), with Mr. Bice Osei Kuffuor past President of MUSIGA
In early June 2019, news came in from local volunteers that access roads were being constructed within Atewa, home to the last viable population of the critically endangered Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi) and several other endemic and threatened plant and animal species. This development led CONAMA to issue a joint press statement with a local group, Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape, calling on government to cease extractive operations in favor of greener businesses to secure ecosystem services such as the provisioning of water for +5 million Ghanaians.
However, the government continues to conduct itself in secrecy, refusing to hold discussions with us, or take our better economic and environmentally friendlier suggestion for the creation of the Atewa National Park.
A Review of Ghana’s Two Main Political Parties’ Manifestos – How Well is the Natural Environment Captured?
Ghana goes to the polls to elect parliamentary candidates and the main leader, The President, who should steer Ghana to prosperity and continuous peace. This presents an opportunity for the populace to evaluate the intents and processes the various political parties will employ to get us there. Of course, being a conservation NGO, Save Ghana Frogs’ interest naturally will lean towards an assessment of what these political parties have as grandeur plans for the use and protection of the natural environment. We are by no means trying to sway any votes to any particular party, just a candid review of what have been said about our natural resources: Is nature well represented?; Are proposed measures practical?; How well do they fall within our forestry/natural resources management laws, international treaties and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
To keep it simple, we will focus on the manifestos of the two main political parties in the country, National Democratic Congress (NDC) and National Patriotic Party (NPP) in that alphabetical order.
Called the People’s Manifesto, this 121-page document, not counting the content and annex pages, dedicates four (4) pages to natural resources, a spot unequally shared with Science, Technology and Innovation. It has to be said though, that in certain sub-sections, we do find statements that make reference to the environment and natural resources. For example, 6.11.4 mentions:
f. zone and spatially plan the Exclusive Economic Zone to enable Marine Protected Areas to be set up to protect fish breeding and spawning areas.
The above was captured under the Agriculture and Agribusiness Section but are key points raised that stimulate our interest when it comes to marine ecosystem conservation, an issue people tend to neglect when the broader natural environment is under consideration. Now, let us focus on the key environment and natural resources issues that made it to 6.13 ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION.
In the preamble to the ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION, there is the promise to set up a “Science, Technology and Innovation Fund (STI)” which by all means, is laudable. Surely, the addition of the ‘Environment’ would not have affected to any large extent which ever trajectory was being envisaged. If the argument for not including ‘environment’ however, is that it is an area the others could take care of, well to be practical, if it’s a standalone, it becomes more visible and immediately clear that it has a place and a priority in the fund.
A cursory look at the various proposed actions that would be taken to safeguard the environment and we do find few ones that should win a praise from anyone such as gender mainstreaming in environmental issues and promotion and subsidisation of solar power. However, we find the boldest specific statement yet made by any political party in Ghana on natural resources management in 8.3:
d. ensure the sustainability of water sources by halting reckless projects like the proposed mining of the Atiwa forest that is rapidly depleting our natural water reservoirs through evapotranspiration.
For the benefit of those who may not be aware of the issues surrounding Atiwa Range Forest Reserve, this is one of West Africa’s most biodiverse and possibly Ghana’s last intact upland forest that harbours vast numbers of endemic and endangered plant and animal species including the critically endangered Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi) and Afia Birago Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus afiabirago). It is also the headwaters of Ayensu, Birim and Densu which feed into the Weija Dam all in all, providing water to +5 million Ghanaians. There is some amount of bauxite deposit within the forest which considering the ecosystem services and the irreplaceable biodiversity of the area, Save Ghana Frogs together with other numerous experts, the Christian Council, US Embassy, IUCN (who voted on the issue), MUSIGA, Hollywood film stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, and nearly 150,000 signatories have proposed the upgrade of the forest into a national park. The park will generate revenue from visitors, the sale of carbon credits, creation of numerous green businesses, which will be a win-win situation for Ghana’s economy and the environment. Unfortunately, no government has been bold to state that this unique forest will be exempted from bauxite mining. In fact, plans are underway to start mining this critical ecosystem for short-term benefits under the Sinohydro Bauxite Barter Arrangement between the Republic of Ghana and the People’s Republic of China.
However, it’s sad to say that some projects regardless of how well they are being sold to us, are difficult to be reconciled with environmental protection. For example, the agenda to intensify and expand the agriculture sector will see, as stated in the manifesto, the construction of irrigation dams, an estimated 13 in all (6.11.9). We know the importance of dams but their impacts on the environment simply cannot be joked with. Dams aside destroying habitats also displace species, alter the natural flow of water thus affecting river ecosystems, depletes groundwater table downstream, and release greenhouse gases. Building new dams will conflict with proposed investment in water use efficiency. This is where the ingenuity of humankind comes in and it is an opportunity for the proposed Science, Technology and Innovation (plus Environment) Fund to steer research into finding options for crop irrigation that have less impact on the environment. Scientists have also suggested growing crops that require less water or are drought resistant; efficient water application; and smarter irrigation layouts. What is also noticeably absent in the manifesto is the promotion of agroecology farming which could take care of some of the issues of lack of water for farming. For some parts of northern Ghana threatened with desertification, a move towards agreoecology, which is farming practices mindful of the natural world could be the way to approach the issue.
We couldn’t help but also notice in 8.2.2 f. “establish a special purpose port at Keta.” What the “special purpose” alludes to is the least of our worries but the location in question is. Keta being a coastal town is part of Ghana’s largest lagoon. As a Ramsar site, this wetland area serves as a natural sponge thus, retains water and gradually releases it into the floodplains thereby reducing flooding. In addition, wetlands serve as breeding grounds for many marine life, and are wintering grounds for migratory birds so the idea as enticing as it may be, could be an environmental disaster. It also negates the lauded statement in 6.11.4.f.
This was quite a bulky document, 192-pages (minus contents page) with a total of 6-pages dedicated to Natural Resources (Lands, Forestry, and Mining) and Science, Technology, Innovation and Environment (minus cover pages). Also, there are projects not captured within these pages but have elements of environment and natural resources. This manifesto covers activities completed, ongoing or about to commence so they are not promises which may never be fulfilled.
Under Accounting for our Stewardship 1.11. Natural Resources, we have to admit that quite a lot have been done in terms of reforestation and integration of local communities and the youth in this programme. We appreciate the Government for these initiatives which we will applaud even more when a final evaluation and updates are provided. From experience as a habitat restoring organisation, one can never predict high successes; from forest fires to diseases, drought, e.t.c. Notwithstanding, 9 million trees planted along rivers; 25,000 ha reforested; halting the operations of small-scale mining and increasing conservation areas are still quite an achievement. This is where we do not get it though, there is the apparent desire to protect the environment but when it comes to Atiwa Forest and the issue of mining bauxite which most likely will destroy the landscape, reduce the provisioning of ecosystem services including the supply of water to almost 20% of the population, Government is not heading the warning signs from experts. Under 1.12. Science, Technology, Innovation, and Environment, where government is working with international partners to access the global fund for climate change management, this means that there is a vested interest in carbon credits. So why cut down trees in Atiwa Forest which could also get you these credits? It is very hard to understand this firm resolve as seen by the signing of the Sinohydro deal which now has paved way for ongoing “prospecting” activities regardless of the red alert from INDEPENDENT bodies and individuals within Ghana and the global community.
Overall, it can be said that both parties have committed and are committing to protect the natural environment and adopt strategies that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. With just 10 more years to achieve these goals, we believe that more needs to be done. We still have issues with flooding which calls for the implementation of policies that will protect our wetlands, reduce the use of single-use plastics that choke gutters, redesign our cities to be sustainable and green. Why are there no talks of creating heat islands, community nature parks, and why are we not encouraging tree planting in our cities and towns even on private properties?
There also appears to be no room for education and sensitisation of the public on the value of biodiversity, the ecosystem, and the natural world. There is still a disconnect between many people and the natural world. As a country, we should get to the point where people think nature first. After all, we will not achieve any of the plans to boost the economy and promote good health if nature is depleted. As we continue to degrade nature, UN warns us of the impending dangers of more zoonotic diseases the likes of which we have never experienced before. We already are reeling under COVID-19, a devastation that has thwarted many of our plans for economic growth.
We end with this word of advice; “It will not be fair to the future generations if in our quest to remove the tag of ‘developing nation’ from us, we leave them with shadows of our beautiful natural world.”
SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana is now Save Ghana Frogs
We proudly announce to our donors, frog lovers and the general public that from 1st September 2020, we have changed our name and corporate identity from SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana to Save Ghana Frogs.
The name change comes after long deliberations between staff and the board in a desire to own a name that depicts our vision and identity which make us autonomous at the same time maintain elements of our traditions as a company.
During our nine year history, SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana has been pivotal in amphibian research and conservation and chalked many successes which have made us iconic and giants in African amphibian conservation. Nonetheless, we have undergone a significant transformation in the last few years and we felt it was time for a change. Our new identity has been designed to satisfy all the existing expectations of what our original vision stands for, while simultaneously moving the brand forward to embody the international conservation spirit and expectations in modern science. Thus, the name Save Ghana Frogs represents an evolution from our previous experiences, origins and roots which we hope to spread out to the rest of the continent which still lags behind in this field.
Rest assured though that the quality of our brand as West African's first non-profit organisation dedicated exclusively to the conservation and research of amphibians will continue to be the same, as it’s only a name change.
We hope to count on your usual support for us and now Africa's frogs.
Save Ghana Frogs