Bia Biosphere Reserve

Location; where is it?

Ghana joined the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in 1982 with the Bia Biosphere Reserve. Bia is located in northwestern Ghana near the border with Côte d’Ivoire. The biosphere reserve covers an undulating terrain of 114,300 hectares with an elevation between 170 and 240 meters above sea level. Roughly 334,000 people live in the Bia Biosphere Reserve on a permanent and seasonal basis, with agriculture being the main economic activity. Cocoa farming is the major cash crop of the Bia, along with tree crops, cereals, roots and tuber cultivation. Despite not being a large source of income, small scale trading and animal husbandry is also practiced in the area.

Environment & ecosystem; what makes it rich in biodiversity?

One of Bia's medicinal plants, an example of the region's biodiversity.

Bia is located in the Juabeso and Bia districts, a transition zone between two forest types; moist evergreen and moist semi-deciduous vegetation (an area dominated by Celtis-Triplochiton associations, Teinghemella heckelii, Entadrophagma angolense, and the rare tree species Pericopsis elata and Khaya anthotheca). Many of Ghana’s major forest animals and primates can also be found in Bia, like the forest elephant and globally endangered bongo. The area also features a remarkable richness in the diversity of butterflies with 600 butterfly species.

Why is the biodiversity threatened?

An endemic butterfly found in the Bia Biosphere Reserve.

With an agriculturally-based economy characterized by high rates of inflation, local communities become highly dependent on natural resources. More than 50 percent of original forest area has been converted to agricultural land through clearance for perennial or annual cropping, and slash-and-burn cultivation practices. This regular clearance is a major contributor to the ecosystem’s degradation. Crop yields have stagnated, and productivity has declined as a result of rampant soil erosion. Fish, timber and non-timber forest product (NTFP) stocks are also rapidly decreasing. Before the Government acquired part of the land reservation as a National Park in 1974, which also represents the core area of the biosphere reserve, inhabitants depended on the surrounding forest for snails, mushrooms, wild yams, game-meat and fruits to supplement their household economies. Growth sustainability based primarily on these natural resources prohibits Ghana’s socio-economic progress at its current rate of environmental degradation.

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