The Achimota Forest is a 360-hectare state-owned property that includes an arboretum, a zoo, and spiritual retreat areas.
It is home to a variety of animals, including lions, monkeys, and parrots.
According to the Ghana Forestry Commission, the Achimota Forest attracts 20,000 people each year and generates US$60,000 in revenue, every year. Encroachment pressures on the forest have been increasing.
Following a statement by the Ministry of Lands and Resources that an uncompensated piece of the land has been returned to the Owoo family, the legitimate owners, exploring the history of the Achimota Forest has become critical.
According to the Lands Ministry, the Government of the erstwhile Gold Coast purchased the piece of property on which the Achimota School is located from the Owoo Family in 1921 via a Certificate of Title dated 16th December 1921, issued under the Public Lands Ordinance, 1876.
Issued under Lieutenant Governor Lees, this ordinance purported to en- title the government to get land for public purposes (CO.96/358, Drayton to Antrobus 97, 6 March 1900). It also stipulated that a compensation would be granted to the owners of such land, except for “unoccupied land” which was defined as follows:
Any land shall be deemed unoccupied where it is not proved that beneficial use thereof for cultivation or inhabitation or for collecting or storing water or for any industrial purpose… (CO.96/358, Drayton to Antrobus 97, 6 March 1900).
Subsequently, by another Certificate of Title dated 17th May, 1927, the Government acquired from the same family another tract of land measuring approximately four hundred and seventy-nine (479) hectares as an extension to the Achimota School. Although there are receipts indicating payment of compensation for the 1921 acquisition, there are no records of payment of compensation for the 1927 acquisition.
By an Order 31 of 1930, dated July 17, 1930, the Government, pursuant to its power under the Forests Act, 1927, (Cap 157), constituted the land acquired in 1927, as a Forest Reserve for the purposes of Fuel Wood Plantation for Achimota School.
Forests Act, 1927, (Cap 157), provided for the protection of forests and the creation and management of forest reserves. The President may, by executive instrument, constitute as a forest reserve – (a) lands which are the property of the Government; (b) stool lands, at the request of the relevant authority; (c) private lands, at the request of the owner; (d) lands that ought to be protected in order to (i) safeguard the water supply of the district, or (ii) assist the well-being of the forest and agricultural crops grown on those lands or in the vicinity of those lands, or (iii) secure the supply of forest produce to the inhabitants of villages situated on those lands or in the vicinity of those lands.
The Act has however been amended, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The amendments are Ghana Forestry Commission Act (Act No. 405 of 1980). on 22 March 1980 Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 1954 (No. 45 of 1954). on 24 November 1954 Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 1957 (No. 10 of 1957). on 27 July 1957.
Achimota Forest was gazetted in 1930 by Ghana’s colonial authorities as a reserve.
Following several encroachments on the Forest Reserve, the pre-acquisition owners, the Owoo Family, in 2007, submitted a petition to the then President, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, for the release of the portion of the Forest Reserve adjoining the Tema motorway. After consultations between the Office of President and the relevant bodies, it was recommended that that portion of the Forest Reserve be released to the Owoo Family.
This culminated in an Agreement dated 24thNovember, 2008 between the Government, acting by the then Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines, and the Owoo Family for the grant of a lease over ninety (90) acres of the land to the Owoo Family for a term of ninety-nine (99) years. The Lease agreement was however not executed as agreed.
In 2011, the Owoo Family, submitted another petition to the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Mike Hammah, for the grant of portions of the Forest Reserve. The Minister constituted a committee, chaired by the then Chairman of the then Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr. Samuel Afari Dartey, to inquire into the legitimacy of the request and its impact on the Forest Reserve.
The Committee after its investigations concluded that the request of the Owoo Family was legitimate.
The Minister then, sought executive approval to implement the recommendations of the Committee.
On 5th September, 2013, the then President of the Republic, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, gave Executive Approval for the conversion of the Forest Reserve into an Ecotourism Park, and to release the peripheral portions of the Forest Reserve to the Owoo Family, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Pursuant to the said Executive Approval, the Forestry Commission, acting on behalf of the then President, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, three (3) leases executed in September 2013, granted these portions of the Forest Reserve to the Owoo Family for a term of ninety-nine (99) years. The Family then registered the land in its name and granted sub-leases to other private developers with the consent of the Forestry Commission. However, because the land remained a Forest Reserve, by virtue of Order 31 of 1930, the lessees and sub-lessees could not develop the land, although they had obtained all the necessary permits.
Pursuant to the same Executive Approval, the Forestry Commission, acting on behalf of the then President of the Republic, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, entered into an agreement with Aikan Capital, a limited liability company for the development of core area of the Forest into an Ecotourism Park.
The Commission also executed a lease agreement with the company in February 2016, by which 227.84 hectares of the Forest Reserve was leased to the company to undertake the planned development.
The Owoo Family and their grantees, in a bid to develop the peripheral portions of the land which had already been granted to them, continued to petition Government to release of the peripheral portions as a Forest Reserve.
The government decided to release the peripheral portions of the land from the Forest Reserve after reviewing the situation and receiving advice from the Forestry Commission that the release would not jeopardise the Forest Reserve’s ecological integrity.
This led to the publication of the two instruments, the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 (E.I 144), and the Forests (Achimota Firewood Plantation Forest Reserve) (Amendment) Instrument, 2022 (E.I. 154).
The first makes the peripheral portions of the Forest Reserve, which had already been granted to the Owoo Family in 2013, with portions developed, cease to be a Forest Reserve. The second, amends the area of the land that should continue as Forest Reserve.
However, as part of measures to ensure that the area of the Forest is not compromised, both Instruments contain provisions that restrict the nature of the development that can take place on the land.
Under E.I. 144, before any development can take place on the peripheral portions of the Forest that has ceased to be a Forest Reserve, Land Use and Spatial Authority shall prepare a Master Plan for the development of the area, taking into consideration the ecological integrity of the remaining portions of the Forest Reserve.
Lahouel. B., British Land Legislation in the Gold Coast (1876-1897): A Threat to Native Institu- tions?. Alizés : Revue angliciste de La Réunion, Faculté des Lettres et Sciences humaines (Université de La Réunion), 2011, Straddled Borders, pp.123-138. Hal-02340739
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/gha40761.pdf
Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources
Forestry Commission of Ghana
Source: The Independent Ghana