The Lion That Doesn’t Bite
BEHIND THE CURTAINS OF GHANA’S WILDLIFE
Close your eyes, picture the world without biodiversity, the world without wildlife, and the world without Nature. Reflect on what you have seen as you read this piece. Did you know, wilderness plays a significant role in a country’s economy, way of life, and resources? Living in a world with creatures eager to see each other, Wildlife tourism is an excellent means of showcasing both sides’ beauty. As the Northern Ghanaian proverb says,
“W33 ba3 la nka duni nar3ba”— “The lion that doesn’t bite” is a proverb that implies that when wildlife is treated like humans; they treat you as one of their own. For this reason, the Ghanaian culture embraces Nature as ancestors that have reincarnated; hence they treat the wilderness as humans.
According to Southern (1970), the colonists did nothing throughout the Colonial Administration’s whole period to initiate and impose legislation, which could have conserved Ghana’s wildlife populations and promoted Wildlife tourism. Wildlife areas were programmed but never marked, or publicized. Wildlife saved around the continent were in Ghana kept only in speculation. The hunting of animals went all year round without declared close seasons. Hunting at night with lamps was a culture for colonial masters. But after independence, everything changed; Nkrumah’s visionary leadership and the Presidents that followed changed the narrative term after term. In 1958, the Ashanti Chief Nana Kwasi Agyemang co-founded the Mole National park, the first and only National park in Northern Ghana. Mole has since then been a significant wildlife tourism destination in Ghana; despite this remarkable formation, not all governments that came in subsequent years worked hard to maintain the works of Nana Kwasi Agyemang. Hence wildlife tourism depreciated year after year.
But in 2015, Ghana’s Tourism industry experienced an economic revival and an economic boost as the GDP increased due to Wildlife tourism activities across the country after years of dormancy. According to the recently released hospitality report, due to the increment wildlife tourism added, the Tourism industry contributed 7.8% of its GDP in 2015 (Manu, 2016). The sector was the fourth on foreign exchange earner record after cocoa, gold, and oil in Ghana. The wildlife tourism sector also supported conservation efforts and livelihood improvement in rural communities (Manu, 2016). With all these boost points in 2015, Wildlife tourism is a lucrative sector that would greatly benefit the country when fully utilized.
ISSUES AFFECTING THE WILDERNESS
However, despite its productive potential, the Wildlife tourism sector continues to be patronized at a low-level by the responsible government agency (Cobbinah, 2017).
A critical example is the Ghana Tourism Development Policy of 2006 that was instigated to skyrocket Ghana’s wildlife tourism development. The policy’s objective was to provide first-class visitor adventures that are profitable to stakeholders of the destinations while verifying that the destinations do not accord in terms of culture, society, and the environment. Years later, an investigation was conducted by the Department of the Political Science University of Ghana to prove whether the wildlife tourism development in the Lake Bosomtwe Basin is proceeding in accord with the doctrine of the policy and practice (Mohammed, 2014). The evidence showed that there is an adverse gap between Wildlife tourism policies and practices. Wildlife tourism development is unplanned, chaotic, and seemingly unsustainable. The sector’s activities have weak linkages to other sectors of the local economy. If Wildlife tourism succeeds as a development option for Ghana, Strategic planning and Improvement of current wildlife tourism systems should include destination communities as key stakeholders.
Additionally, a study was conducted in the Mole National Park, which proves that the creation of protected areas does not give it dispensation against biodiversity loss. Diverse protected areas agonize additional pressure in regards to locations (SOWC, 2020). The tourism industry of Ghana ushered a household survey to evaluate respondents’ knowledge of wildlife resources usage in and around the forest. The primary force identified included high population density with adverse effects in communities close to significant biodiversity areas or parks. These fundamental persuasions manifest in unlawful logging and excessive hunting for sustenance and income.
Furthermore, one major factor that is hindering the growth of the wildlife tourism sector is Bushmeat hunting. Globally, bushmeat is an essential source of food and income for many poor communities living close to parks or wildlife. The Forestry Commission of Ghana estimated in 2014 that 385,000 tons of bushmeat were consumed in the country (Helsinki, 2015). Key hunted species include bush rats, grasscutters, squirrels, antelope, and a wide range of primates. Even though the Forestry Commission must regulate bushmeat hunting through licensing and setting hunting seasons, it is not well held due to weak enforcement and regulations. Adverse bushmeat hunting is one of the significant causes of biodiversity losses and declines in several Ghana species.
Some other Challenges of wildlife tourism in Ghana include lack of competitiveness, low diversification, lack of legal backing for plans, Inadequate funding streams for tourism projects and distrust for investing in the sector, Manpower constraints (qualified staff for plan formulation and implementation, tour guiding, catering and capacity building), and mediocrity of tourism sites. All these points, as mentioned above, hinder the growth of wildlife tourism development in Ghana. The Government needs to provide an enabling environment to improve competitiveness and private sector wildlife tourism investment to benefit the economy.
TRUTH ABOUT THE PROBLEMS
From all the outlined problems, what can be seen through them is an enabling system for exploration, Economic boost, and Fun adventures that would attract multiples of tourists to troop into the country. It is written in countless journals, articles, and media publications about tourism’s ample opportunity for many African economies. However, it is only sad to note that many governments, citizens, and businesses do not see nor practice innovations in this sector. It is only right for Africa to rise and take control; the continent is filled with diverse biodiversity, talent, and artifacts that would attract “western adventure seekers” (Tourists). An aspect of wildlife tourism that is usually neglected is the Music, Cultural display, and Arts of the importance of wildlife. One key reason for this compatible neglect is that it is difficult to define the terms “arts, Music, and culture” in wildlife tourism. When this is mentioned, many people think of arts in tourism as plastic artwork created of wildlife, but NO!! The stereotype of African tourism equals wildlife is not TRUE. We need to explore the tourism industry’s wildlife sector by blending other types of African tourism in its promotion. The Wildlife tourism sector can be integrated with other tourism sectors such as musical, dance performances, festivals, and street fests, and from architecture to poetry readings. We realize that when the soul’s expression is in communication with another soul, we find art, Music, and Culture. We may also think of sports and religion as a type of art (Bhatta, 2017).
THERE ARE INNOVATIONS, BUT HOW DO WE LEVERAGE THEM?
The wildlife tourism sector of Ghana needs an innovative approach to retelling the African Conservation Story. A proposed innovation is to utilize our indigenous people’s knowledge of biodiversity conservation and their creative Arts, Music, and Culture to promote biodiversity protection through festivals, street fest, and many other activities.
Natives of Ghana regard the Earth as Asase (Mother), the giver and sustainer of life. Therefore Ghanaians offer prayers (Mpaebo), thanksgiving ceremonies (Aseda dwumadie), and festivals (afahyɛ) such as Ohum (Abuakwa), Homowo(Ga), Odwire(Akuapem), and Adaak3ya(Gurun3) to protect Mother Nature while appreciating Her kindness towards them throughout the year. Deriving insights from the Ghanaian belief system can be an excellent means of promoting a business of conservation approach where tourists get involved in these festivals. It could be in the form of wildlife tourism as the natives perform their native animal gods appreciation rites using Music, art, and cultural plays (that includes wildlife arts and Music to appease the animal gods and goddess) to demonstrate their appreciation to the gods for life and biodiversity (Nature) around them.
An example of this could be done like the Street Carnivals in Takoradi Ghana. Still, this innovation would come with showcasing wildlife Arts, native Music appraising the animal gods, and seeking protection over biodiversity as the natives perform the rites as done in the Aboakyire or Adaak3ya festivals of Ghana. This idea aims to create community inclusion while promoting community-based Wildlife tourism through festivals, carnivals, and other interactive activities. This idea is similar to Community Based Tourism (CBT), where residents host tourists in their communities and give them an enabling environment to learn the community’s culture and way of life. The Government, collaboratively with community heads, would grant tourists an option to either stay with willing locals (host families) to have experience and community involvement before, during, and after the festival. This initiative is an excellent course of action for the Government of Ghana to bridge the gap whereby locals feel excluded in the tourism sector of the country; while doing so; the Government can employ locals as tour guides in places near the National parks, among many others whereby reducing the unemployment rates which is currently at 4.51% in 2020, as reported by Statista (Pletcher, 2020) in the country.
Another idea is to create a space for young artists (Music, Arts, and Dance) to own up the wildlife tourism sector with their pieces. They are encouraged, supported, and given grants to help promote their works, including wildlife and conservation promotion. After training, Arts centers like the National Center for Culture would exhibit their work/performances through a gallery walk activity in Zoos, Exhibition centers, and festivals. Estimating the many forms of wildlife art through which these young creative artists can express their creative skills and imaginations is a unique way to attract tourists in various forms, thereby growing the youth and the economy. With this idea, The National Center for Culture would equip young people with talent and those willing to learn with the knowledge to own their employment status while promoting a generation of young people ready to promote, protect and enhance wildlife while re-establishing wildlife tourism centers in the country that are in deplorable conditions. The Ministry of tourism would invest profit from any tourism activity towards establishing abandoned and poorly structured tourism destinations to make more room for general tourism enhancement while revitalizing wildlife protected areas.
IT IS YOUR TURN…
This is a call to every individual to rise and take a stance for Nature, whether you protect biodiversity from extinction or volunteer to host tourists, or any action you take towards promoting Wildlife tourism is an excellent step towards victory. ENOUGH of the lamentations, it is time to take our economic growth into our own hands; this calls to countries’ governments to think entrepreneurial when it comes to wildlife tourism and explore conservation sector business which would also serve as a way of abolishing the stereotype that African tourism is only wildlife. The time for Africa to shine through tourism is now more than ever.
Blog Post Infographic
Bhatta, C. (2017). The Role of Arts in Promoting Tourism: A Case of Tourism Development in the Thamel area. Journal of Advanced Academic Research, 177-184.
Cobbinah, D. A. (2017). Ecotourism in the Kakum Conservation Area, Ghana: Local politics, practice, and outcome. Journal Of outdoor creation and tourism, 34-44.
Helsinki, F. (2015). Development of Reference Emissions Levels and Measurement,. Forestry Commission, 1-6949.
I. Manu, W. K. (2016). Community-Based Ecotourism and Livelihood Enhancement in Sirigu, Ghana. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 97-108.
Mohammed, A. (2014). TOURISM DEVELOPMENT POLICY VERSUS. European Scientific Journal, 1-27.
Plecher, H. (2020, October 14). Prices and Access. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/808481/unemployment-rate-in-ghana/
Southern, H. N. (1970). Report to the Government of Ghana on Conservation, Management, and Utilization of Ghana’s Wildlife Resources. The Journal of Animal Ecology, 272.
SOWC. (2020). State of the Wildlife Economy in Africa Case Study: Ghana. Wildlife Economy.