Monitoring deforestation in Ghana's High Forest Zone HFZ

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Monitoring deforestation in Ghana’s High Forest Zone HFZ

The 3PRCL efforts to monitor and curtail deforestation in Forest Reserves located in the Bia-Juaboso Landscape

In recent years, land degradation and deforestation has significantly increased. This can be attributed to development in physical infrastructure, increased population, naturally occurring phenomena such as earthquakes, mining activities, bush fires and agricultural expansion. As a result, large areas of forest cover are lost every year globally. In Ghana, about 140,000 ha of forests in the High Forest Zone (HFZ) is lost every year. The High Forest Zone can be found in 8 of the 16 regions and can be found in the south-western third of the country. The Bia-Juaboso landscape, which is in the Western North Region of Ghana, lies in the High Forest Zone and has a total land area of 243,500ha hosting three Protected Areas, namely the Krokosue Hills Forest Reserve, the Bia North Forest Reserve and Bia National Park. The landscape is one of the major cocoa producing areas in the country and also a major Hotspot Intervention Area (HIA) which has seen increasing deforestation activities in recent years. As a result, the Ghana Cocoa and Forest REDD+ (GCFRP) Programme and the Partnership for Forest’s (P4F) Partnership for Productivity, Protection and Resilience in Cocoa Landscapes (3PRCL) Project is being implemented in the landscape to reduce deforestation. The main objectives of the 3PRCL project are ensuring that Forest Reserves in the landscape are conserved by developing a robust system for monitoring and tackling deforestation activities; ensuring that farmers are producing in a sustainable way by applying climate smart techniques in their cocoa production; and setting up a landscape governance structure for the identification, management and addressing of issues related to the deforestation in the landscape.

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To be able to monitor effectively deforestation in the landscape, the 3PRCL project is utilizing both technological and multi-stakeholder social approaches to identify, confront and address the menace of deforestation. SNV, one of the 3PRCL Project Consortium members with technical support from Satelligence and some Ghanaian Geographical Information System (GIS) experts, have developed a deforestation monitoring system which accurately delineates cocoa from open forest, identify various shades of cocoa agroforest, detect deforestation associated with cocoa, and pin point illegal cocoa farms in Forest Reserves. The monitoring system uses freely available Sentinel-1 and 2 satellite imagery and builds on scientific approaches developed in Ghana. The algorithm used for the deforestation monitoring has been enhanced by the combined use of imagery at 10m detail and advanced radar imagery that can better capture forest and cocoa structure, and new machine learning techniques that achieve higher accuracy than previously possible.

As a means of confirming the quality of the delineation process, Touton’s ground-based farm boundary data was overlaid on the satellite-derived cocoa land cover map. Although both datasets had been generated independently, they perfectly aligned. The accuracy of the map result was further verified quantitatively using an independent dataset collected on the ground, with very high-resolution imagery from alternative sources. So far, Cocoa agroforestry (with shade trees) can be mapped with 80%, accuracy, full sun monoculture cocoa can be mapped at 91% accuracy and forests can be mapped with over 95% accuracies. Satellite-based high-quality maps for the entire Bia-Juabeso landscape have been developed to provide the basis for zero-deforestation compliance monitoring.

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A preliminary assessment based on satellite imagery on land cover change including areas of farm expansion driven mainly by cocoa and expert’s reviews was conducted to prioritize Forest Reserves of interest in Bia-Juaboso districts for the mapping of illegal farms within the Juabeso-Bia landscapes. Out of the three Protected Areas, Krokosue Hills Forest Reserve came up as priority reserve for illegal farm mapping and profiling. This is due to the high level of farm encroachment and potential threats of further encroachment into the Forest Reserve. The Project and the REDD+ Secretariat of Forestry Commission is discussing both personnel and logistical needs for mapping illegal farms in the Krokosue Hills Forest Reserve.  A terms of reference TOR has been developed to guide the mapping of farms.

On the social front, a multi-stakeholder approach has been adopted. The rationale behind the adoption of this approach emanates from the failure of previous efforts to eliminate illegal cocoa farms from Forest Reserves in the Bia-Juabeso landscape.  Efforts by Forestry Commission to curb encroachment of cocoa farms into Forest Reserves dates back to the 1970s. The efforts span the implementation of the white paper issued by the 1974 – 1976 Nyinaku Committee of Inquiry in 1977 (to admit legitimate farms, destroy illegal farms, replant encroached areas within the Bia Juabeso landscape (Manzan, Sukusuku, Bodi and Tano Ehuro and Bia Tawya Forest Reserves); to the Operation Halt Campaign in 1990 (based on recommendations by the Western Regional Administration in March 1989). Most of these efforts were aggressive in nature and lacked collaborative measures that actively engaged traditional leaders within the landscape.

Based on the above premise, a consultative meeting was held with the traditional leaders of Juaboso district in order to seek their views on a more effective way to reduce encroachment into Forest Reserves with particular focus on Krokosue Hills Forest Reserve due to its high level of illegal farms. The outcome of the meeting led to the formation of the Forest Reserve Encroachment Remediation Committee (FRERCO). FRERCO is a 10-member committee of traditional leaders spearheading a more collaborative approach to the prevention and management of encroachments into Krokosue Hills Forest Reserve. This approach includes working through multi-stakeholder engagements, traditional leaders playing lead roles in the encroachment prevention process; and development of strategies that facilitates gradual and voluntary eviction of illegal farmers in the reserve.

Furthermore, a framework that attempts to integrate satellite based near real time (NRT) forest monitoring has been developed. This will be coupled with community-based forest monitoring activities of community resource management areas and law enforcement by forest sector stewards. This will form the basis for piloting and training frontline forest managers in integrated forest monitoring.  Protocol for forest monitoring will be done in partnership with other related programmes such as Forest2020. Schematic representation of NRT Forest Monitoring alert system is shown below.

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The integration of technology and community-based human efforts, led by the traditional authorities, is a comprehensive, participatory and promising approach to reducing deforestation in the Bia-Juabeso landscape.

Partnership for Productivity Protection & Resilience in Cocoa Landscapes - Adm