‘Mono-cropping in rubber industry is threat to biodiversity’

Axim Mr Francis Adarkwa, the Executive Director of Vision World Network, an agriculture-based NGO, says the growing spate of rubber plantations across some regions could have environmental threats if good agricultural and environmental procedures were not followed.

He said: Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree-crop across the Western and some parts of the Eastern Region. Concerns have been growing among conservationists that switching land use to rubber cultivation can harm soil, water and biodiversity.

Mr Adarkwa told the Ghana News Agency that research indicates that some bird, bat and beetle species were declining by 75 per cent in forests that had been converted to rubber.

Tropical secondary forests are being cleared for rubber plantations, putting endangered birds, primates and other biodiversity at risk, he said.

The research, sponsored by BUSAC, lasted for three months and it was to find the impact of rubber on biodiversity in the Western and some parts of the Eastern regions.

Mr Adarkwa said the Vision World Network focuses on empowering farmers to advocate on issues hindering their livelihood.

He said the situation, if not handled properly, would have dire consequences on biodiversity.

It has been predicted by scientists that by 2024, up to 8.5 million hectares of new rubber plantations will be needed to meet demand, and this could have a catastrophic impact on biodiversity.

He said the tyre industry consumes 70 per cent of all natural rubber grown, and rising demand for vehicle and aeroplane tyres was behind the recent expansion of rubber plantations.

In the Western Region, he noted, most rich areas of biodiversity and critical habitats for endangered wildlife are being destroyed through unplanned and massive expansion of rubber mono-crop.

The mono-cropping system of Ghana Rubber Estate has meant that entire landscapes are usually cleared and wetlands destroyed to make way for rubber plantation. Chemicals used in the plantations also drift into water bodies and pollute flora and fauna, affecting livelihood of farmers and environment.

Mr Adarkwa said: Currently the Ghana Rubber Estate limited has large tracts of rubber plantations with more than 3000 out-growers across the Western and Central regions including some parts of Ashanti Region.

It is against this backdrop that this advocacy action is being carried out to help find solution to this menace to sustain livelihood of farmers, who depend primarily on these species and water bodies for survival.

He said it was critical that farmers and businessmen in rubber plantation adopted mixed cropping (mixing rubber with other trees) and retaining patches of natural vegetation along rivers or in small conservation set-asides, as practiced in Europe to conserve the environment.

Ghana needs a certification standard that is credible … to help develop ways to manage the rubber crop in an environmentally friendly manner, he said

Source: Ghana News Agency