World Wetlands Day 2016 - Wetland for the Future: SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS

In order to create awareness on wetlands and protect these resources to serve their ecological function, World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on the 2nd of February. “Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods” was the theme for this year’s celebration. The theme was selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands for the future of humanity and specifically their relevance towards achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals.This year, DI in collaboration with Forestry Commission (FC) and other government institutions joined the Salo community in the Keta Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site (KLCRS), for the celebration. Last year The DI in collaboration with the Wildlife Division office in KLCRS planted 3,500 mangrove seedlings; DI believes that there is urgent need to support land use planning and local level initiative for conservation and livelihoods while working with commercial entities for wise use of the KLCRS resources. 

Wetlands are an important part of our ecology. These wetlands are essential for many reasons such as tourism; flood and storm control; recharging of groundwater; water purification; and ecological functions among others. They are also important sinks for Carbon dioxide. These wetlands are sometimes the breeding grounds for different migratory bird species. Wetlands are protected by the Ramsar Convention. Ghana is endowed with a number of these wetlands such as the Keta Lagoon Ramsar Site Complex, Sakumono, Songor, Densu and Muni Ramsar Sites and is a signatory to the convention. Wetlands however have not been accorded the significance and value that is required to fully optimize their potential.  Wetlands in Ghana are being developed into prime real estate properties and being used for disposal of waste.

About the Keta Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site

The KLCR is the largest Ramsar site in Ghana with untapped development potential for poverty reduction for the surrounding communities. It is estimated to have over 45 bird species and accounts for 44% of water birds in Ghana. The KLCRS is also the major site of the Ghana wetlands that gives refuge to 5% of all water birds using the East Atlantic Flyway globally whilst at the regional level supporting the fourth largest concentration of water birds of Gulf of Guinea. The KLCR site is also noted for the critically endangered Sitatunga (Tragelaphusspekii) and Manatee (Trichechussenegalensis) as well as several types of marine turtles (Lepidochelysolivacea, Cheloniamydas and Dermochelyscoriacea).Presently, this unique wetland of national heritage and global importance is under serious threat from Climate Change and other negative human practices.

2016 Celebration in the Salo community

This year’s Wetlands Day celebration like 2015 brought together different stakeholders involved in the management and utilization of wetlands resources. In keeping with the customs of Salo which observes every Tuesday as a day of rest, the day was marked on 5th February instead of 2nd February.

The Salo community was chosen on purpose – in order to educate the inhabitants on the importance of wetlands as part of current efforts by DI and FC to plant mangroves.

Activities to mark the day included a durbar and a clean-up exercise.  In advance of the commemoration of the day, Mr. Kareem, the Manager of Keta Lagoon Ramsar Site was hosted on the Fafa radio morning show where he expatiated on the importance and benefits of wetlands including the celebration of the World Wetlands Day.

The clean-up exercise took place at Salo community.

As part of community durbar key messages were given by officials that participated in the event. These include the Forestry Commission (Wildlife Division), National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), Environmental Health (Keta Municipal), Ghana National Fire and Rescue Service, National Disaster Management Organization as well as The Development Institute. The speakers emphasized on the importance of the World Wetlands Day and wetlands, implications of indiscriminate setting of fires and cutting of trees, good sanitation practices and environmental protection for better livelihood.  The speakers also admonished the people to desist from negative practices that harm the environment and destroy wetlands.

At the end of the programme, awareness on wetlands issues and opportunities for raising income had been significantly raised in the Salo community.  The community in response to the awareness and appeals committed to set up a voluntary committee to monitor and check the abuse of the cutting of the mangroves/trees. The programme was very successful because the event was highly patronized by the different stakeholders and also that the community committed to a new course of action to sustain the wetlands.