By switching to dark mode you can reduce your energy consumption of our digital service

Overview of Researches on Bush Fires for Natural Resources and Environmental Management in Ghana: A Review

Explore an overview of the research that has been done about the impact of bush fires on vulnerable vegetation in Ghana.
Use of fire to prepare agricultural areas, credit photo: KS DAHAN, 2022
Use of fire to prepare agricultural areas. Credit photo: K.S. DAHAN, 2022

Introduction

The global environment is deteriorating as a result of a variety of variables, including environmental, human, and climatic influences. All of these causes are weakening and creating fragile ecosystems, particularly forest ecosystems.

Despite having low forest resources, Western Sudano-Sahelian Africa (Chad, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger) performed marginally better regarding forest losses than the continent as a whole, with an annual loss of 0.72 per cent (FAO, 2001). However, according to FAO (2020) predictions, 420 million hectares of global forest area have been lost globally since 1990 as a result of deforestation: the conversion of forest land to other uses, most notably agriculture. It should be noted, however, that the rate of forest loss has greatly slowed.

The annual rate of deforestation in the five years (2015-2020) was estimated at 10 million hectares, compared to 12 million in 2010-2015 and 16 million in 1990-2000. However, fires damaged nearly 98 million hectares of forest in 2015 (FAO, 2020). These fires primarily occurred in the tropics, where they affected around 4% of the forest area. According to FAO and UNEP (2020), more than two-thirds of the total forest area burnt in 2018 and 2019 occurred in South America and Africa, including Australia, Brazil, Greece, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America (California).

In Ghana, the use of fire is customary in a variety of situations, including the cultural realm and the management of traditional agricultural systems (Nsiah-Gyabaah, 1996). Fire is purposefully employed in other parts of the world for slash-and-burn agriculture, resource extraction (e.g., honey extraction), palm wine harvesting, vegetation management, and invasive plant species suppression.

Wildfires are one of the risks to Ghana’s forest resources. These fires result in yearly losses of around US$210 million (3 per cent of GDP) (MLFM, 2006). Kugbe et al. (2012) calculated the total yearly burnt area (1,000 km2) in Ghana and the northern section of Ghana for ten years (2001–2010), demonstrating the variability in total annual burns from year to year. Every year, an average of 684 thousand km2 and 372.6 thousand km2 of land are respectively burned in Ghana and the northern region of Ghana. These constitute 25-32 per cent of Ghana’s total dry land area and 46-60 per cent of Ghana’s northern region, respectively (95 per cent confidence range of mean).

The collection of information at the national or regional level to quantify the effects of the phenomena and discover patterns becomes critical in order to design an effective management plan (FAO, 2006). Climate, land use, and fire management have also influenced changes in the fire regime, according to Moreno et al. (2013).

Thus, in order to better guide research on wildfires and their consequences on the vegetal cover in Ghana in the context of climate change to inform policy and practice, this literature review attempts to gather together scientific and non-scientific material and research done in Ghana so far. This is done to identify research gaps that can help lead future studies to better suggest control, research methodologies, and resilience measures to manage wildfires in Ghana.

*This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.

Methodology

Research, especially in Africa, requires knowledge of previous work from several angles in order to orientate possible research. Thus, the literature review is considered the most suitable approach to have a more complete idea of the innovations or studies carried out on varied topics. To this end, on the issues of vegetal cover protection, environmental management and wildland fire in Ghana, we have adopted this review approach to identify the works already done in Ghana on wildland fire.

This paper aims to review and provide a comprehensive report on research works done on the vulnerable vegetation of Ghana by bush fires. Studies published from 1940 to 2021 were extracted from Research Gate, Google Scholar and Google and other indexed journal sites such as Scopus journals using a defined selection criterion. A total of 136 documents were extracted, these include reports of international organisations and relevant articles.Data were analysed qualitatively by assigning different categories to different information. Content analysis was carried out by checking questions to ensure validity and authenticity of the data given using their titles, abstracts or in some cases, a full reading of the paper. All the information was analysed according to the research questions and the information available. The research questions directed the reviewing of the articles which were used to answer the questions. 52 articles were used for this review to better understand their approach and to highlight research gaps that could make those researches innovative.The keywords for the search were, ‘bush fire in Ghana’ OR ‘Wildfire in Ghana, OR ‘climatic change and Bush fire’, OR, ‘deforestation causes’, OR, ‘Ghana and environmental management’, OR, ‘causes of bush fire in Ghana’ OR ‘environmental parameters and bush fire’ OR ‘Climate change and bush fire in Ghana’ OR ‘laws and policies on wildland fire management in Ghana’. The search yielded 52 articles and all of these were retained for review and analysis. The articles were sorted according to each research question article checklist.

Results

It is noted that most of the research done in Ghana on wildland fire analysis has little or no consideration of the influence of climatic and environmental parameters on understanding wildland fire behaviour. Some respondents do indicate their awareness of the role these parameters play on the fire propagation. The majority of studies, however, have focused more on sociological and economic aspects.

This observation thus reflects gaps in areas regarding the roles of climatic and environmental parameters in different ecological conditions to better assess the behaviour of wildfires in Ghana.Concerning the implementation of regulations and legislation, Ghana recognises the qualitative and quantitative destruction of its forest (forest and savannah) and animal resources as a result of uncontrolled wildfires in its National Environmental Management Policy.

In 1983, legal regulations were enacted in response to the beneficial advantages of fire as a management tool, notably in traditional agricultural systems, as well as the negative consequences that frequently follow its abuse or overuse. Several researchers have, in their research, shown the patterns of use of slash-and-burn agriculture in southern and northern Ghana through the centre (Kusimi and Appati, 2012; Yahaya and Amoah, 2013; Appiah, et al, 2010). Research by Nindel, (2017) shows that fires are most commonly used in agricultural activities. Wildfires have major consequences not just for natural resources and forests, but also on the components of their near surroundings.

The studies of Yahaya and Amoah (2013), highlighted three categories of human-induced fires: activity (agriculture), non-activity (carelessness or negligence) and others (unknown causes). These practices, according to his findings, are the most likely sources of the spread of wildfires. The conditions and practices have multiple origins as shown in the research of Nindel, (2017). The results from different researches in Ghana focused on vegetation fires, their causes and origins, and the impact they can have on the vegetation cover and their environment. Most of these studies have used socio-economic approaches to analyse this phenomenon, which is generally of anthropogenic origin in Ghana. According to research by Agyarko (2001), in Ghana, about 30% of the reserved forest area is destroyed by fire each year. The situation does not differentiate between natural forests and plantations (Nindel, 2017). Forest plantations established by the National Forest Plantation Development Programme in Ghana and other plantation projects are severely and annually destroyed by forest fires.

Figure: Breakdown of indigenous measures aused to manage forest fires (from Husseini et al., 2020).

Conclusions

Based on the information collected on the research done on bush fires in Ghana, it is worth noting that several types of research were based on temporal-spatial analysis to evaluate the evolution of the burnt surfaces, and their impact on the vegetation cover without forgetting also the socio-economic approaches used to analyse the origins of these fires, their importance in the life of the practitioners and communities, precisely the farmers who use them for clearing or for agriculture on burnt land.

This literature review paper with the main objective of compiling the different research done in Ghana on wildfires and the approaches used reveals that research has rarely been based on the influence or impact that certain parameters such as climatic and environmental parameters have on the spread of forest fires throughout the country or more specifically in the areas most vulnerable to climate change.

However, it is noted that there are commendable efforts in the socio-economic context as an approach used to better understand the purposes for which farmers and other actors use fire as a management tool for lands, plantations and even forest areas. In the age of scientific evolution and climate variability, the use of remote sensing tools and approaches (e.g., google engine or interactive map) for real-time monitoring is indispensable, as well as forecasting/modelling tools to get a more or less accurate idea of fire spread and behaviour. All these approaches are not yet well invested in research in Ghana according to the present review. It is, therefore, necessary to reorient research approaches and methodologies in this direction especially considering research gaps.

Figure: Breakdown of indigenous measures aused to manage forest fires (from Husseini et al., 2020).

Conclusions

Based on the information collected on the research done on bush fires in Ghana, it is worth noting that several types of research were based on temporal-spatial analysis to evaluate the evolution of the burnt surfaces, and their impact on the vegetation cover without forgetting also the socio-economic approaches used to analyse the origins of these fires, their importance in the life of the practitioners and communities, precisely the farmers who use them for clearing or for agriculture on burnt land.

This literature review paper with the main objective of compiling the different research done in Ghana on wildfires and the approaches used reveals that research has rarely been based on the influence or impact that certain parameters such as climatic and environmental parameters have on the spread of forest fires throughout the country or more specifically in the areas most vulnerable to climate change.

However, it is noted that there are commendable efforts in the socio-economic context as an approach used to better understand the purposes for which farmers and other actors use fire as a management tool for lands, plantations and even forest areas. In the age of scientific evolution and climate variability, the use of remote sensing tools and approaches (e.g., google engine or interactive map) for real-time monitoring is indispensable, as well as forecasting/modelling tools to get a more or less accurate idea of fire spread and behaviour. All these approaches are not yet well invested in research in Ghana according to the present review. It is, therefore, necessary to reorient research approaches and methodologies in this direction especially considering research gaps.

Figure: Breakdown of indigenous measures aused to manage forest fires (from Husseini et al., 2020).

Conclusions

Based on the information collected on the research done on bush fires in Ghana, it is worth noting that several types of research were based on temporal-spatial analysis to evaluate the evolution of the burnt surfaces, and their impact on the vegetation cover without forgetting also the socio-economic approaches used to analyse the origins of these fires, their importance in the life of the practitioners and communities, precisely the farmers who use them for clearing or for agriculture on burnt land.

This literature review paper with the main objective of compiling the different research done in Ghana on wildfires and the approaches used reveals that research has rarely been based on the influence or impact that certain parameters such as climatic and environmental parameters have on the spread of forest fires throughout the country or more specifically in the areas most vulnerable to climate change.

However, it is noted that there are commendable efforts in the socio-economic context as an approach used to better understand the purposes for which farmers and other actors use fire as a management tool for lands, plantations and even forest areas. In the age of scientific evolution and climate variability, the use of remote sensing tools and approaches (e.g., google engine or interactive map) for real-time monitoring is indispensable, as well as forecasting/modelling tools to get a more or less accurate idea of fire spread and behaviour. All these approaches are not yet well invested in research in Ghana according to the present review. It is, therefore, necessary to reorient research approaches and methodologies in this direction especially considering research gaps.

Suggested Citation:

Dahan, Kueshi Sémanou & Kasei, Raymond. (2022). Overview of Researches on Bush Fires for Natural Resources and Environmental Management in Ghana: A Review. Environment and Natural Resources Research. 12. 48. 10.5539/enrr.v12n1p48.

Further Reading

Related resources

Add your project

Exchange your climate change adaptation projects and lessons learned with the global community.