No forest – no life

21 January 2011 | News story

From wetlands, waterbirds, marine turtles and terrestrial mammals, to forests and people that depend on them for their survival – few conservation issues have escaped the attention of IUCN’s Samuel Kofi Nyame.

Samuel Kofi Nyame is a wildlife biologist with over 26 years’ experience in wildlife management and conservation. He has lead a team that counted birds in the coastal wetlands of Ghana, monitored and studied large terrestrial mammals, marine turtles and water birds and helped manage environmental organizations. But it is working with forests and forest-dependent communities that he found that one can make the biggest difference, both for nature and for people.

"Forests are the repository of all forms of life. They provide numerous goods and services which have ecological, socio-cultural and economic values for the survival and benefit of people around the world. There is no living creature whose very existence would not depend on forests in one way or another. So when the last forest on earth is destroyed, life on earth must die too!"

One of the projects Samuel has been engaged in, is a project involving Allanblackia parviflora, an indigenous tree occurring in West, Central and Eastern Africa. The edible oil from the tree’s seeds is being used as an alternative for palm oil as a base for products ranging from margarine to soap, and has huge market potential. It is incredibly valuable both in terms of the economic growth and biodiversity benefits that it can bring to the rainforests and people living in the area.

“I had and still have a passion for this product, which is being developed in Ghana as an additional source of income for the rural communities who live in and around forests. This project is dear to my heart because it will contribute to reducing the poverty of forest-dependent rural communities.”

Samuel has also been responsible for the coordination of IUCN’s Livelihoods and Landscapes programme for the Upper Guinean region in Ghana. This programme includes strategies that aim to meet human and environmental needs, with a special emphasis on improving people’s lives through the sustainable use of forests. Samuel’s work within the programme has involved the establishment of tree certificates for farmers, Samuel explains:

“Tree ownership has been a very dicey issue in Ghana. For a long time, farmers were not getting any benefits from the trees that were growing on their farms so they either felled the trees or killed their seedlings causing great damage to the land. To stop this destructive practice, farmers were encouraged to plant and register trees with the Forestry Commission. But with no proof of ownership, they still could not get much benefit from planting the trees. I requested the Forestry Commission to make copies of the tree certificates for the farmers who had registered their trees and offered to pay for it. You should have seen the joy on the faces of these farmers when they received their certificates! Sweet !!This has motivated farmers to plant more trees, harvest and sell them, and it has served as insurance for the future of their families. As a result, 10 farmers registered a total of 918 trees in 2009 and 57,015 trees were registered in 2010 by 28 farmers. In Aniahunu-Ohiamantuo, one farmer alone planted and registered 14,850 trees of 14 different species on a 33 acre piece of land!”

Samuel is a native of Ghana and holds an MPhil Degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent, U.K., with specialization in ornithology.

Samuel is a Project Coordinator in IUCN’s Project Office in Ghana and can be contacted at: Samuel.Kofi.Nyame@iucn.org