Ghana: don’t sell your nature to China

A chameleon with a green and brown pattern, clinging to a branch The graceful chameleon belongs to the great variety of reptiles in Atewa Forest. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

Researchers have just encountered a rare primate species – the endangered white-collared mangabey – for the first time in the dense jungle of Atewa Forest in Ghana. Yet that hasn’t stopped the government from closing a billion-dollar deal with China to mine bauxite in the protected area. Please speak out against this madness.

Call to action

To: HE Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President

Atewa Forest is a protected area and must not be mined for bauxite. Please establish a national park there.

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Ransford Adjei was speechless when he saw the images of his camera trap. The researcher of the A Rocha International environmental network had expected civet cats or pangolins, or maybe an ursine colobus if he was lucky. But a white-collared mangabey? The primate species, which had never been spotted there before, is in danger of extinction in the wild.

The Atewa mountain rainforest is rich in biodiversity, a lush landscape of jungle and rivers that provides a refuge for rare animals and plants. It is also a source of drinking water for five million people.

But Atewa is also rich in bauxite, an aluminum ore that the government wants to mine and market – even though the 26,000-hectare Atewa Range Forest Reserve is officially a protected area.

Daryl Bosu, Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, is confident that the discovery of the white-collared mangabey will strengthen his organization’s campaign to save Atewa Forest. Bosu has been working for more than four years to convince the government to declare Atewa a national park.

“We were almost there,” he said. “With the support from Rainforest Rescue and conservationists from all over the world, we were able to convince the government at the time to withdraw the bauxite mining permits and create a national park.”

But now a new government is determined to monetize the mineral resources and has signed a $10 billion deal with China to mine and refine the ore. “Yet the negotiations are not open and transparent,” Bosu said, calling on his government to lay its cards on the table and protect Atewa Forest from exploitation.

“No amount of dollars from the bauxite trade can compensate or replace the values and services that Atewa Forest offers today as well as for posterity. Please support our campaign for Atewa Forest to be designated a national park.”

Back­ground

The deal with China

Ghana has had a new government since January 2017. According to environmentalist Daryl Bosu, it is more determined than the previous one to monetize the country’s natural resources. “President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) made too many political and economic promises before the election. And he now hopes the bauxite deal with China will help him keep them.”

Conservationists and the people of Ghana did not find out about the deal until it was reported in the media: in July 2017, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia stated that the two countries had signed a $15 billion agreement for infrastructure projects, according to the Ghanaian news site Myjoyonline.com. Within that agreement, China Railway International Group is slated to invest $10 billion in the bauxite industry.

“We have a lot of mineral resources,” said Gideon Boako, economic advisor to the Vice President. Boako noted that Ghana has 960 million tons of bauxite deposits. “We want to build the railways and refineries to get the bauxite out of the ground...if we refine the bauxite, it is going to generate an export value of around $460 billion.”

Environmentalists around the world and Ghana’s people are alarmed. “Our protected forests will be turned into mining wastelands, and the red mud from the refineries will taint our soil and water,” says Daryl Bosu. “The government is selling off our forests without regard for the priceless natural resources upon which we depend.”

Atewa Forest Range Reserve: biodiversity and water reserves

The Atewa montane rainforest reserve in southeastern Ghana covers approximately 2,600 square kilometers and is one of the largest contiguous tropical forests in West Africa.

The area is a mosaic of different forest landscapes: tropical rainforest with clear springs and rivers, misty summits, grasslands and swamps. The reserve is home to an abundance of animal and plant species, many of which are endemic and/or critically endangered.

Plants:  With more than 650 varieties of vascular plants – among them 323 species of trees alone – Atewa is unparalleled in Ghana.

Butterflies: More than 570 species have been counted in Atewa Forest – the highest number in West Africa – including the Atewa Dotted Border Mylothris atewa, a large, slow-flying butterfly found nowhere else on Earth.

Mammals: The forest’s 40 mammal species include six primates – three of which are endangered: the white-collared mangabey, ursine colobus and olive colobus.

Birds: With more than 150 recorded species, Atewa is of the most important bird habitats in Africa. The rare species include the brown-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus) and the Nimba flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae), a songbird.

With regard to katydids, Atewa holds the top spot in Africa with 61 species. The estimated 40 to 50 amphibian species include the endangered Conraua derooi – the world’s largest population of this 8-cm frog lives in the river basins of the Atewa rainforest.

Letter

To: HE Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President

Your Excellency,

Ghana is home to Atewa Forest, one of West Africa’s most important natural treasures, the habitat of a wealth of animal and plant species that are rare elsewhere in Africa. Many are endemic to Atewa.

In November 2017, researchers of A Rocha Ghana, an environmental organization, recorded the presence of the endangered white-collared mangabey in Atewa Forest for the first time. This stroke of luck raises hopes that the dense mountain forest regions may be home to even more species that have not yet been documented by the scientific community.

Please do not risk this wealth of biodiversity. We call on you to abandon any plans to sacrifice Atewa Forest for economic growth. Exclude Atewa from the bauxite agreement with China and respect the people’s internationally established right to free prior informed consent (FPIC). The relevant negotiations must not be held behind closed doors.

Thanks to its unusually rich animal and plant life, Atewa Forest has been recognized as a protected area on various levels since 1926. Please take the final step and establish a national park there – for the benefit of the millions of people who depend on Atewa’s abundance of clean drinking water, and to protect its irreplaceable flora and fauna.

Yours faithfully,

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