Ghana, a West African country rich in natural resources, is in the midst of a transition to holistic landscape management to benefit national wealth and the livelihoods of its people. Ghana’s wealth and sustainable development is strongly linked to natural capital – the plants, animals, air, soils, water and minerals on which the country and its people depend. Nature has been a major contributor and driver of economic growth and development. In the past 40 years, Ghana’s real GDP has quadrupled. Yet, The Changing Wealth of Nations (2021) showed that natural capital per capita peaked at $9,000 in 2014, falling more than 30% to $6,000 in 2018. Likewise, the cost of environmental degradation due to the unsustainable use of land alone was 2.8 percent of 2017 GDP. If this trend continues, it will amplify destruction of the natural resource base, disproportionately impacting the poor and increasing exposure to climate risk.
Going beyond GDP
The Government of Ghana (GoG) recognized that, despite impressive GDP growth, the degradation of nature is having an impact on the future they want for their people. As a result, they are taking strategic action, in cooperation with the Global Program on Sustainability (GPS) and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), to implement the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting in order to integrate the value of nature and its services into development and investment planning.
To successfully mainstream natural capital accounting, GoG found it was not necessary to start from scratch. It was possible to build on existing alliances by first identifying active tools, structures and partnerships that were already working well, like the Cost of Environmental Degradation Working Group. They then boosted collaboration across institutions to help spread best practices and leverage knowledge among ministries. This made it possible to build capacity more quickly among the technical officers inside the different ministries.
With the right structures in place, the next step will be to improve reliability and timeliness of data. This would provide the basis for indicators required in planning, policy, and implementation programs.
Already there are several promising results. Ghana is developing land and ecosystem extent accounts, ecosystem services accounts and deriving environmentally adjusted macroeconomic indicators. As a result, GoG will be able to better target landscape restoration interventions, inform land-use planning and conservation policies, and derive key indicators for monitoring and reporting.
Transitioning towards a sustainable future
As Ghana continues to make steady progress, institutional capacity to generate quantitative and qualitative information is impacting policy decisions at all levels. It is also contributing to the success of other projects like the Ghana Landscape Restoration and Small-Scale Mining Project, financed by the World Bank, with funding from IDA, PROGREEN and EGPS.
This brings Ghana yet another step closer to its national objective of strengthening the country’s foundation for a more sustainable future.