Environmental sensitivity criteria for screening agricultural projects within the environmental assessment framework of Ghana - case study of two districts in Ashanti Region

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This study was designed to help develop screening criteria for agricultural projects proposed for hilly areas, within the EIA framework of Ghana. Two districts Ejura Sekyedumasi and Asante Akin’ North in Asante Region were used for the study. The criteria for selecting the districts were topography and ecological zone. One hundred and fifty (150) farmers were interviewed using structured questionnaires. The farmers were both males and females and the questionnaire covered information that assisted in establishing linkages between farming practices and extent of problems encountered with reference to site characteristics. Informal discussions with experts including an agronomist, a soil scientist on linkages between slope characteristics and farming practices observed. Rainfall data from the Meteorological Services Department for two major observation posts (Ejura and Agogo) within the Districts was collated. Bimodal rainfall pattern with mean rainfall intensity of 1200mm could have significant negative impact on farm sites with slope gradient less than 7°, particularly when the site is under continuous cultivation and the soil have low organic content like in the transitional zone. Due to varying environmental conditions associated with different hilly areas and the different nature of agricultural activities, It would be appropriate for crop cultivation earmarked for hilly areas to undergo Special Preliminary Environmental Assessment Registration (SPEAR) The registration should take cognizance of slope characteristics among other factors in screening agricultural projects at hilly areas. It should gather information from the following. indicators: (i) Slope gradient; less than 7° or above 7° but less than 15°, (ii) Sitting of agricultural project; Transitional zone or Forest zone, (iii) Farming system or practice to be employed; e.g. Mixed farming, crop rotation. continuous farming, shifting cultivation or plantation or a combination of two or more, (iv) Soil characteristics; soil texture or aggregate stability and organic matter content, (v) Land area to be cultivated; small, medium or large. However, if the slope gradient is above 7° in the transitional zone or above 150 in the forest zone then a critical examination should be applied. This may require detailed level study, with a broader sample area and empirical weightings for key factors to determine their thresholds. What is proposed now could be a very useful guide for EIA practitioners and managers. It is also an improvement on the hither to blanket environmental sensitivity area criteria in the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedures of Ghana.
A project report submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the MSc. Degree in Environmental Science, 2000