UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Lake Bosomtwe: Environmental Education and Sustainable Agriculture
The Water Resources Commission promoted the sustainable conservation of the Biosphere Reserve in Ghana with educational programmes in schools, trainings for farmers and afforestation measures. In addition, the orally transmitted stories of the Ashanti people living at Lake Bosomtwe were collected and documented.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Located in the Ashanti region in southern Ghana, Lake Bosomtwe is the only natural lake in the country and one of just six meteorite lakes in the world. It was probably formed about a million years ago when the crater created by the impact of an asteroid gradually filled with rainwater. The drainless lake has a diameter of eight kilometres and its surroundings are formed by three different ecosystems - forests, wetlands and mountains - which are home to a large number of animal and plant species.
Around Lake Bosomtwe live about 50,000 people, most of whom belong to the Ashanti ethnic group. According to the Ashanti oral tradition, a hunter from Asaman discovered the lake about 360 years ago when he was hunting an antelope. The game disappeared into the lake, where the hunter then found an abundance of edible fish.
Most people in the region make a living from farming and fishing, but tourism is also an important source of income, as the lake is a popular tourist destination. The area is also used extensively for research purposes, especially on climate change, and for environmental education at schools and universities.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
Since the schools in Ghana were only partially open for some months due to the pandemic, the environmental education programmes usually offered there could not take place. In addition, ecotourism, an important sector for the region’s economy, suffered considerable losses as visitors stayed away due to travel restrictions. To compensate for the resulting loss of income, many people turned to agriculture. However, the methods of classical agriculture put a strain on the sensitive ecosystems of the Biosphere Reserve, e.g. by the use of fertilisers and chemicals or by soil degradation.
Remedy through education, visibility and sustainable agriculture
To promote the conservation of the Biosphere Reserve, the Water Resources Commission, together with other stakeholders from the region, took measures to sustainably protect the ecosystems around the lake as part of the #SOSAfricanHeritage project.
Educational programmes have been developed for schools in the region to teach students about the value of natural resources. For example, they were encouraged to measure and monitor rainfall data at their school. Farmers in the Biosphere Reserve received training on efficient cultivation methods that are soil and ecosystem friendly. They will continue to be supported in implementing the measures autonomously. On deserted areas, the Water Resources Commission planted indigenous trees and fruit varieties in order to reforest them.
In the Biosphere Reserve, however, not only nature but also the traditional culture of the people was to be preserved sustainably. Another component of the project was therefore the documentation of orally transmitted stories and other cultural knowledge of the local population. The stories were systematically collected and finally recorded in a video documentation about the Biosphere Reserve. A new modern website, together with signs and information material, helps to increase the national and international visibility of the Biosphere Reserve and thus to promote tourism.
In addition, education and awareness-raising activities were carried out for the local population. Educational materials as well as programmes on the radio and other media informed about the value of the Biosphere Reserve and ways to protect it.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Lake Bosomtwe
- Country: Ghana
- Type of Site: UNESCO Bisophere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 2016