In the last week of August 2023, Joy FM premiered the investigative journalist Erastus Asare Donkor’s latest documentary “Forests under siege.” Showing drone/aerial pictures of the devastation to forests and the environment and water bodies in Apamprama Forest Reserve in the Ashanti Region, I asked myself a question I have heard journalist Raymond Acquah ask in frustration, “what is wrong with us Ghanaians?” Why will Ghanaians collude with foreigners to destroy our environment as if there is no tomorrow?
The documentary reminded one of the caustic question by the Chinese ambassador on radio/TV in 2019. Reacting to criticisms of his countrymen/women destroying Ghana’s environment through galamsey, he asked who takes them when they arrive at Accra Airport to the galamsey sites? He told Ghanaians in the face to blame ourselves and not his countrymen/women.
Again, Erastus’ efforts reminded me of Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Who is Maathai?
Professor Wangari Maathai
On 8th October 2004, Kenyan environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011) earned a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace," becoming the first African woman to win the award.
A beneficiary of then Senator (later President) JF Kennedy Airlift programme of 1960 which at Kenya’s independence, saw 300 young Kenyans including President Obama’s father airlifted to the US to study, Wangari Maathai studied in the United States. Having earned a bachelor's and a master's degree from American universities, in 1971 she received a PhD in Veterinary Anatomy from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
In 1977, the environmentally-conscious Prof Maathai created the “Green Belt Movement” (GBM), an indigenous grassroots organization in Kenya that empowered women through the planting of trees. Since Wangari Maathai started the movement in 1977, more than 51 million trees have been planted, and more than 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping, and other trades that help them earn income while preserving their lands and resources.
Having lived in Kenya myself, I am a witness of the results of her GBM. The ecological friendliness aside, the forest beautifies Nairobi. However, it came at great cost and sacrifice on her part including personal attacks on her life!
In recognition of her commitment to Kenya’s environment, in October 2016, a major avenue, “Forest Road” in Nairobi was renamed to Wangari Maathai Road for her efforts to oppose several attempts to degrade forests and public parks through the Green Belt Movement.
Erastus Asare Donkor
In July 2023, Joy/Luv FM journalist Erastus Asare Donkor, was awarded the “Environmental Sustainability Personality” for 2023 by the Department of Planning at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The honour was in appreciation of his consistent dedication and commitment to protecting Ghana’s natural environment through his work, in spite of attacks on him by the sponsors of “galamsey”.
Erastus’ investigative report, “Destruction for Gold” was described as insightful in uncovering the environmental havoc of galamsey in Ghana.
According to Professor Clifford Amoako, Head of the Department of Planning, Erastus deserves to be applauded for his bravery. He commended the steadfastness of Erasmus despite victimization from perpetrators of environmental crime.
Erastus expressed gratitude for the recognition and encouraged corporate entities to join in the battle to fight the growing canker saying;
“I feel humbled. I feel honoured. This is no mean an award. It’s coming from an institution that does planning of our resources across the country . . . It is our duty, it is all our responsibility, each one of us, including academia, to take charge and bring it to the fore and demand that we stop what is going on at the moment and preserve these resources for future use. I think that the Department of Planning (KNUST) has taken that lead and I’m grateful,” he said.
Responding to questions on Chinese nationals’ involvement in the illegal mining after speaking at a lecture organized by the Confucius Institute at the University of Cape Coast in Graphic of 8th April 2019, Chinese Ambassador Mr Shi Ting Wang stated;
“We don’t know where your gold is. We don’t issue visas too for the Chinese people coming to Ghana. Ghanaians issue the visas. Ghanaians aid the Chinese to where they can find your gold. Why are Chinese not doing illegal mining in South Africa where there is also a lot of gold...because they cannot do that there and the locals don’t support such illegalities.”
He added, the Chinese Embassy was surprised as to how some Chinese arrested for illegal mining were released without any communication with the embassy for their repatriation.
Ambassador Shi advised it was important that Ghanaians must first stop aiding foreigners in the galamsey business if efforts at fighting the menace are to be successful.
Need Ghana be schooled on such a basic commonsensical issue about our own national survival?
Like Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai fought for environmental sustainability of Kenya, Erastus Asare Donkor deserves commendation and encouragement as he fights far stronger forces in the minefields of “galamsey” where officialdom has failed woefully!
At the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya from 4- 6 September 2023 Kenya’s President William Ruto stated;
“Kenya will leverage on its long-standing and warm relations with Ghana to increase its tea and horticultural products exports. Under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we will also collaborate to pursue investment opportunities in agriculture and energy for our mutual prosperity.”
The question is, with galamsey being allowed to destroy our environment as cocoa trees are decimated, land degraded and rivers/streams polluted, what is Ghana leveraging on for posterity?
Like Otumfuo Asantehene Nana Osei-Tutu has shown the way destooling derelict/wayward chiefs, institutions, chiefs and individual Ghanaians must join Erasmus Asare Donkor’s effort to save our environment for posterity!
Leadership, LEAD! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Family Health University College,
Source: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd), Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya
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