Today, in the 21st Century, we cannot talk about the horticultural industry in Ghana and West Africa without making reference to the 19th Century Aburi Botanic Gardens (ABG) located on Ghana’s Hilltop haven, Aburi in the Eastern region of Ghana.
Aburi Botanic Gardens, a member of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is a “green gold mine” that has not been fully exploited and explored.
The Aburi Botanic Gardens is not just bringing nature closer to the city but also a haven for socioeconomic and sustainable development.
The 19th Century Botanic Garden has always led in mobilizing resources in securing plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet.
Brief History of Aburi Botanic Gardens
As far back as 1842, the select committee of the House of Commons in London recommended the establishment of a model farm or botanical garden on the British Gold Coast (today Republic of Ghana).
The over century-old Aburi Botanical Gardens, Ghana’s plants haven dates back to 1842. The formal opening was in 1890, when Lady Knutsford planted silk cotton tree (onyaa) alongside the silk cotton tree that is the sole survivor of the virgin forest that once occupied the site.
It was in 1842 that, the British House of Commons recommended that the healthy climate of the Akuapem Mountains would make a comfortable habitat for recuperating colonial officers, away from the swelling coastal climate of Accra. The Chiefs of Aburi were approached for land and the present site, occupying 160 acres was offered.
The Aburi Botanical Gardens is managed by the Department of Parks and Gardens. The core mandate of the Botanical Gardens is as follows:
Conservation, Research, Horticultural training, Plant multiplication, Environmental education and information, Role in National Development
Botanic gardens are uniquely positioned to help address the issues relevant to restoring ecosystems. They provide knowledge and expertise in plant taxonomy, horticulture, biodiversity inventory, conservation biology, restoration ecology and ethnobotany- all key elements for achieving successful restoration.
Botanic gardens also collectively serve as a global repository for documented plant material, with at least one-third of all flowering plants maintained in living collections or seed banks. Utilizing knowledge gained from these collections, related herbaria and libraries, and combined with landscape knowledge from field surveys and ecological research, botanic gardens bring the understanding necessary to ensure that restoration leads to adequate taxonomic diversity and incorporates appropriate genetic provenance. Botanic gardens can therefore restore diverse and ecologically resilient places, avoiding the dangers and pitfalls associated with growing inappropriate plants in the wrong environment.
Botanic gardens are also well-placed to raise awareness amongst the general public of the need for, and benefits that can be derived from, successful ecological restoration projects.
(Botanic Gardens Conservation International)
These roles the Aburi Botanic Gardens have played strategically through its educational unit (School of Horticulture), has produced the finest brains in the horticultural industry. Among them, just to mention a few:
1.Mr. George Owusu Afriyie, Former Curator of Aburi Botanic Gardens and longest serving (12years) Director of Department of Parks and Gardens.
2.Mr. Solomon Z. Bagulo, Former Principal of School of Horticulture, who has helped “curate” the mindset of great personalities in the horticultural industry in Ghana.
3.Mr. Albert A. Prempeh, Curator of Aburi Botanic Gardens
4.Mr. Philip Quaye, Former Curator of Aburi Botanic Gardens and current Senior Curator at the University of Ghana who is positively changing the landscape of the University community and its environs.
5.Mr. Charles Nii Ayitey Okine, Chief Landscape designer at the Office of the President, Republic of Ghana. Mr. Okine is the longest serving Chief Landscape designer at the Presidency and has successfully served God and Country under five (5) different Presidents under the fourth Republic namely: Former Presidents; H.E. Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, H.E John Agyekum Kufuor, H.E Late Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, H.E John Dramani Mahama and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo
The Aburi Botanic has also played a critical role in conserving the ecosystems of Ghana and the world as a whole through the multiplication of tropical plant species for reintroduction and restoration. It has also helped to raise awareness amongst the general public of the need for, and benefits that can be derived from, environmental conservation and landscaping through educational campaigns.
World Environment Day 2019
As we celebrate World Environment Day on June 5 this year with the theme, “Air Pollution”, let’s examine the role of the Aburi Botanic Gardens in controlling air pollution and mitigating climate change in Ghana.
Whereas the Amazon forest is often referred to as the “Lungs of the World”, one can also casually, call the Aburi Botanic Gardens the “Lungs of the City of Accra” if not Ghana. The Aburi Botanic Gardens has always played and still plays the critical role of mitigating air pollution through the emission of fresh air into the atmosphere and the absorption of polluted air in the form of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from the atmosphere. There is nothing more refreshing, exhilarating and nerves calming than walking through the majestically curated Royal palms at the entrance of the Aburi Botanic Gardens and the rich collection of plant species across the globe.
The Aburi Botanic Gardens in spite of its critical role it is playing is facing some challenges including but not limited to: encroachment, inadequate budgetary allocation, Research, and Instability.
A collective effort
The Aburi Botanic Gardens did not start with the support of an individual. The chiefs of Aburi in concert with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Government of Ghana, Department of Parks of Gardens, diplomatic corps and international organizations have worked together over the years to protect and restore the gardens. They have a long history of working together.
I want to stress that the sustainability, full exploitation and exploration of the Aburi Botanic Gardens can only happen through the collective efforts of all stakeholders.
If Ghana wants to achieve its target with regards the SDGs especially SDGs 11, 13, 15, 16 & 17, we must intentionally invest more and pay critical attention to the Aburi Botanic Gardens.
I wish to propose the following to the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture:
1.We must see the Aburi Botanic Gardens as a resource bank and consciously invest more into revamping the gardens.
2.We must see the Aburi Botanic Gardens as one of the lifelines to our tourism industry.
3.Job creation opportunity.
The catch is: Aburi Botanic Gardens needs to be kept in shape. Yes, Aburi Botanic Gardens is a “green gold mine” but it has to be protected and restored. Conservation is the key to keeping the gold mine running.