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Opinions Sun, 16 Jun 2013

Ghana needs a public park & reforestation policy

......towards healthy & holistic lifestyles


Ghana needs an inner city public Park and Reforestation Policy (PRP), as part of an intelligent preventative public health policy that will stimulate holistic and healthy lifestyles. Overall, it needs an ambitious reforestation programme that requires every adult resident in Ghana to grow at least seven trees a week (one-a-day) over 6 months. This will green and also improve our farming cycle.


The PRP has many advantages. Citizens who rest in the parks, read their books, 'chill' or engage in sporting activities will de-stress. Their blood pressure will improve. Those who take up sports like roller skating, badminton, cricket, football, basketball, walking, cycling and even outdoor games like, cards, dominoes, draughts and chess, will improve their general health. All these will positively contribute to national health, thus reducing the national health budget.


If PRP is instituted, it will be a master-stroke. It will be a silver bullet, one-cure-all preventative public health care. Overall, our troubled health services will be spared the additional pressures of a sickly, stressed society.


I suggest we consciously select only certain types of trees and garden plants for our public parks. The selection policy could consider the following criteria:

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1) Trees that encourage aeration or breeziness. 2) Trees that will help general reforestation and greening. 3) Shrubs that are tough and hardy and can trap vehicles that accidentally veer into them. They should be planted along the rim of busy traffic areas. Both local and imported shrub varieties must be considered. 4) Plants that bear fruits and can be accessible to the public (mangoes, midget coconuts, oranges, banana, apple, grapes, pawpaw, avocado pear, 'alugutugbui' or sour-sap, pomegranates, passion fruit, etc).


We can also introduce some foreign plant varieties. 5) Medicinal trees and herbs that the public can access (Nim trees, trees with medicinal barks, cloves, ginger, garlic, 'nunum' - the Ghana Herbalist Society will give a fuller list than me). Proceeds from selling these plants can help fund the salaries and management of the PRPs.


But there is need to correctly prioritise the designing, planting and staggering of short, medium and long term plants.


This is where we involve appropriately qualified architectural and landscape designers, to offer a selection of finished rough designs and scaled models.These should be creative and interesting and must include rockeries, streams, bridges, gardens, lakes, sports areas, food and refreshment stands, exhibition and public entertainment areas.


A properly trained park management staff should be employed. Ghana has advanced beyond those days when it was good enough to pluck some ill-schooled, migrant, gang wielding home-made spidery cutlasses all over the place - kai, kai, kai! Again it will be a good idea for a minimum entry fee to be charged to assist the management of the park. This should, however, either be free or be reasonably affordable for the masses.

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As stated from the unset, a tree planting project should be started all over Ghana. Every adult resident in Ghana must grow at least seven trees a week (one-a-day) over 6 months. Why? Ghana is an extremely hot country. Most of our inner city trees have been cut. Burkina Faso under ex Pres. Thomas Sankara started a successful reforestation programme in 1982-85. This good policy has greened large stretches of this Sahel country. It has also improved its wildlife. It now has more birds and edible game (animals) for good measure.


To conclude, there is need to replant and redesign sections of our inner cities by including public parks full of fruit trees, children's playground toys, lake with fun-ride boats (like Hyde Park in England; Beijing, China); and open football, badminton and tennis courts (like Central Park, New York, and Roundhay Park, Leeds, UK). The Children's park opposite the National Theatre that Dr. Nkrumah built back in the 1960s, is a good model to improve on. Each regional capital needs at least two large parks. Accra needs a minimum of five!


What we need to understand as a people, is that everything links with everything in life. This is often called holistic lifestyles.


Regards.

Columnist: Kofi of Africa