In May, I traveled down to the Volta Region in Ghana’s southeast to pick up my friend Ebenezer from university. I had only very briefly visited the region over a decade ago so this was my chance to see what everyone tells me is Ghana’s most beautiful region.
It also allowed me to drive through the newly created Oti Region, which broke off the Volta Region at the end of last year in the same way our North East Region was formed out of the Northern Region.
Using Google Maps, I picked a spot on the lake that appeared to be accessible by road from Hohoe. Shortly after arriving, four men paddled up in a hand-carved, wooden canoe from the other side.
They were brothers – Prosper, Major, Happy and Believe – and had been fishing that morning on the other side of the lake. They had sold their catch and were coming home. After chatting for a while I found out that they were young Ga-Adangbe men from Accra, Ghana who spend most of the year in the Volta Region working on the lake.
I asked the guys about the bizarre ‘beach’ we were standing on. The ‘beach’ was not sand and rock but entirely made of sawdust. I was shocked to find that the spot I had found on the lake was a makeshift ‘port’ for dumping illegally logged trees from the other side of the lake. Giant trees from the primary rainforest are floated over and sawed into smaller pieces here so that they can be hidden in containers and hauled south to the port for export (most likely to China).
Just after my visit to Lake Volta some news broke from the World Resources Institute that showed Ghana was losing its rainforest faster than any other country! Subsequent research came out showing that the cocoa industry was not entirely to blame; it seems illegal logging, mining, and agricultural expansion are the main culprits.
I feared this was happening based on what I’ve seen going on first-hand in my travels around Ghana. I wish this would be a wake-up call to Ghanaians and their government. But even the government’s own Forestry Commission has admitted that “nearly 80% of Ghana’s forest resources under state management had been lost to illegal logging activity since 1990.”