Ecotourism in Ghana is a conservation project implemented by the Ghana Tourism Authority with support from the Nature Conservation Research Centre, Peace Corps, the USAID and other donors with the purpose of upgrading tourism facilities in the various communities and to promote tourism in the country in a more responsible manner. Its concern is to converse the environment, historical and cultural heritage while generating revenue for the communities at the same time for sustainable development.
What is Ecotourism: According to International Eco-tourism Society, ecotourism involves travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and sustain the well-being of the local people.It seeks to promote a more sustainable approach to tourism by encouraging conservation through community involvement. The essence is to enhance the ecological safety and protection of habitat for man and other species through improvement on biodiversity. This to ensure that communities can make economic gains through tourism while at the same time preserves the environment and their traditional cultures.
The focus of Ecotourism is to increase local capacity building, employment opportunities and empower local communities to foster responsible tourism for sustainable development. It lays more emphasis on awareness and greater appreciation for nature, society and culture. Key features of ecotourism include minimizing physical and social impacts, by salvaging flora, fauna and cultural heritage, creating environment and cultural awareness, providing direct financial benefits for conservation, generating financial benefits for the local people and the private industry and design of low impact facilities.
In line with the Millennium Development Goals, ecotourism in Ghana for sustainable tourism is expected to assist in conserving natural areas, alleviating poverty, empowering women, enhancing education, and improving the health and wellbeing of local communities.
Ecotourism sites: There are about forty-two (42) ecotourism sites identified in Ghana, which heavily tourists from all over the world. Some of these areas are the Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, Bui National Park both in Brong Ahafo, Butterflies Sanctuary at Bobiri Forest, Aburi Botanical Gardens in the Eastern Region Shai Hills in Greater Accra, Nzulezu River, Nini Suhien National Park and Ankasa Resources Reserve in the Western Region, Crocodile Pond at Paga in Upper East Region, Kakum National Park in Central Region, Gambaga Scalp and Mole National Park in the Northern Region. Others are the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, Amedzofe Mountain Community, Afadzato Mountain community at Liati Wote, Wli Waterfalls, Keta Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site, and Kyabobo National Park, all in the Volta Region.
Difficulties of ecotourism in Ghana: Infrastructure improvement is important to move ecotourism to appreciable standards at most tourist sites. Tourist guides and the administration in most communities need to get more professional than currently being the case. Even though services are offered in very friendly and hospitable manner operations in most places appear to be too informal and does not augur well for professionalism which is a hallmark for success in the industry world-wide. Managers and personnel in the sector also need to increase their knowledge about the hospitality industry.
Sponsors: The Ministry of Tourism through Ghana Tourism Authority with some private participation has given a face-lift to some these sites in form of infrastructure development marketing facilities. Some considerable support for ecotourism projects in Ghana also come the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC)and its donor partners the USAID and the Peace Corps.
The Nature Conservation and Research Centre has over the years built a network of more than 30 community-based ecotourism destinations in Ghana, where emphasis is placed on tourism development and economic opportunities through environmental, historical and cultural conservation. The ownership, management and operation of these destinations reside solely in the hands of the communities. In 2007 visitation to these NCRC supported sites reached 188,000. Current actions include: It also targeted to reach a total of 500,000 visitors in 2012 working through a partner Ghana Rural Ecotourism and Travel Office (GRET) by creating 18 more ecotourism communities. The communities retain all their revenue and used it for their own development programs.
By: Patrick Kpikpi