Learn how to join the Global Landscapes Forum Accra, 29–30 October, here.
Ghana is soon to host two major global events focused on the restoration of degraded African landscapes. From 26–29 October, leaders of AFR100, a continental initiative led by countries to bring 100 million hectares of African land under restoration by 2030, will meet to cover their progress and projections. Following that, the Global Landscapes Forum Accra will expand on those conversations for two days, bringing in more voices from the private sector, science, youth, policy, civil society and the arts.
Ghana has committed to restoring 2 million hectares to AFR100 – but what are the landscapes therein? Ahead of this week of important dialogues, here’s run-down of the host country’s terrain past and present.
Ghana is located along the “Gold Coast” of West Africa, bordering Côte d’Ivoire to the west, Togo to the east, Burkina Faso to the north, and the Gulf of Guinea on its southern Atlantic coast. Ghana has an area of about 238,500 square kilometers – comparable to that of Romania or Laos – and a population of 30 million people. The first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from European colonial rule in 1957, Ghana means “warrior king” in the Soninke language.
Located just a few degrees north of the equator with a tropical climate, Ghana sits atop an ancient Precambrian craton – a stable part of Earth’s continental crust that is estimated to have formed about 2 billion to 300 million years ago. This rock is the source of Ghana’s rich mineral deposits, which account for more than 5 percent of its GDP.
Its topography is dominated by low-lying plains, and its south-central and southwestern regions contain a forested plateau region home to the Ashanti uplands and Kwahu Plateau, the highest inhabited area in Ghana. Moving north, the land gradually rises, with the country’s highest peak, Mount Afadja located at 880 meters, in the Akwapim-Togo ranges in the eastern Volta region of the country, bordering Togo.
Although English is the lingua franca and sole official language, some 80 languages are spoken across Ghana, nine of which are government-sponsored: Akan, Dagaare, Dagbane, Dangbe, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem and Nzema. Of these Indigenous languages, Akan is the most widely spoken, with around 9 million speakers in Ghana.
Formed by the Volta River system and its three main tributaries – the Black Volta, White Volta and Red Volta – West Africa’s Volta Basin covers more than 60 percent of Ghana’s land area. It is known as “Ghana’s microcosm,” an area of astonishing beauty lined with rocky outcrops and lush hills and valleys of equatorial forest and wooded savannah. The health of the Basin is crucial to the country’s water freshwater supply.
Lake Volta is the world’s largest man-made reservoir, formed in the mid-1960s by the construction of the Akosombo Dam over its namesake river to produce hydroelectric power for Ghana and its aluminum industry. The lake is also a major fishing ground, a source of irrigation and a popular tourist destination. However, erratic rainfall patterns have spurred drought and seasonal water shortages in recent years, threatening the area with water insecurity.
Ghana is endowed with countless enchanting waterfalls, several of which have their own story. The Wli Falls, known locally as Agumatsa waterfalls, are the highest in West Africa, while Boti Falls in the eastern region are known as twins – one male and the other female – forming a rainbow when they unite.
Ghana is Africa’s largest producer of gold. Other top exports include gold, crude petroleum, cocoa, cocoa paste, coconuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. As a result of cocoa production, logging, agriculture, fuel wood extraction and gold mining, known locally as galamsey, Ghana has lost almost half of its forest cover since 2000. Nearly 100,000 people are employed in the informal small-scale forestry sector, which is responsible for 70 percent of timber production.
Nearly half of the country’s population depends on agriculture for their incomes and livelihoods. Cocoa is Ghana’s foremost agricultural export, making the country the second-largest cocoa exporter in the world. Shea butter is quickly rising as a desired export as well, with global companies such as Lush Cosmetics sourcing the nut butter from the northern Ghana.
Other cash crops in forested regions include oil palm, coffee and rubber, with maize, plantain, cocoyam and cassava as the staple food crops. In the northern regions and middle belt, tobacco and cotton are the main cash crops, with sorghum, maize, millet, cowpeas, groundnuts and yam as the staple foods. Rice is a key staple in all regions.