Land degradation affects Ghana’s crop and pasture lands, forests, natural habitats, urban areas, and water bodies. The four major types of land degradation in Ghana include soil erosion, declining soil fertility, deterioration of rangelands, and deforestation. These forces increase barren lands and lower resilience to climate change. They also constrain socioeconomic development—reducing the availability or access to water, food, and energy and contributing to resource-based conflict— and jeopardize successful achievement of development goals, like SDG 15: Life on Land [1].

Land degradation has increased over the past two decades in Ghana and is intensifying in the north and middle of the country. Nearly 70% of Ghana is estimated to be subject to “severe to very severe” erosion. Soil erosion rates are high in the Upper West, Northern, Brong Ahafo, and Upper East Regions where Net Primary Productivity (NPP), an indicator of vegetation health, has been on a strong downward trend for the past two decades (2000-2016). In addition to the northern areas of the country, there are significant levels of soil erosion in the upper Volta Region and Brong Ahafo, as well as in Accra, where insufficient urban planning has compromised the soil structure. The cost of soil erosion is estimated at about US$0.54 billion, or 0.9% of the country’s GDP [1].

Erosion is the greatest threat to Ghana’s drylands in the Guinea and Sudan savannah zones in the North, where land degradation is qualified as “desertification”. Ghana has an estimated 35% of its land under threat of desertification. The annual cost of land degradation in Ghana is estimated at USD 1.4 billion. This is equal to 6% of the country's GDP [2], [3].

Land degradation harms Ghana’s most vulnerable populations, the rural poor, entrenching extreme poverty even more deeply. Districts that have seen little or no poverty reduction tend to see more intense land degradation, and Net Primary Productivity change is more negative in places with a stagnant or increased poverty rate [1].


Proximate causes of land degradation are a complex mosaic of demographic, economic, and policy influences including high population growth; land tenure issues; increasing local demand for agricultural and wood products; limited technology use in farming systems (and persistent reliance on rainfed and slash and burn agriculture); dependence on fuelwood and charcoal for household energy in rural and urban settings; and lack of enforcement of relevant regulations, among others [1].

Unsustainable agricultural practices are the leading drivers, out of which progressive reduction of fallow periods probably ranks foremost, accompanied by overgrazing, overharvesting of fuelwood, and uncontrolled bush fires [1].

Soil erosion from wind or water stems from inappropriate agriculture, forestry, and infrastructure practices [1].


Key policies and governance approach

Technical land degradation issues are governed by institutions across several Ministries. The legal framework governing land management in Ghana is complex and is characterized by an intricate combination of constitutional provisions, common law principles, legislation, and traditional law. Legislation to address land management in Ghana include, among others, 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana; Land Planning and Soil Conservation Ordinance (1953); Land Planning and Soil Conservation Act (1957); Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703); Administration of Lands Acts 1962 (Act 123); Minerals and Mining (Amendment) law, 2014; Control and Prevention of Bushfires Act 1999 (PNDCL 229); and Water Use Regulations. 2001 (L.I. 1692).

The 1999 National Land Policy, the governing framework on land management, seeks to, among other objectives, harmonize laws and practices to facilitate equitable access to land and enhance tenure security, order the land market to curb the incidence of land encroachment and unapproved development schemes, create and maintain institutional capacity at the national and subnational levels for land services delivery, and promote community and participatory land management and land use planning within a decentralized planning system.

As a signatory to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Ghana developed, in 2002, the National Action Programme (NAP) to Combat Drought and Desertification (2002-2027). The NAP proposed seven action programs and plans designed to operate simultaneously within a context of integrated watershed management to address the proximate and direct causes of land degradation holistically, these are: i) land use and soil management; ii) management of vegetative cover; iii) wildlife and biodiversity management; iv) water resources management; v) rural infrastructure development; vi) energy resources management; and vii) improvement of socioeconomic environment for poverty reduction. Restoration of vegetative cover is considered a key objective. The NAP stipulated that program implementation would be the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, and that there would be a National Desertification Committee made of multi-sectoral stakeholders, and a National Secretariat to Combat Desertification based at the Environmental Protection Agency. A National Desertification Fund is meant to finance NAP activities. At the subnational level regional, Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, and local committees are tasked with sustainable land and water management issues [1].



The legal framework governing land management in Ghana is characterized by an intricate combination of constitutional provisions, common law principles, legislation, and, above all, traditional and customary law. Inconsistent legislative provisions make effective implementation difficult. As a result, land management and administration fall under the responsibility of a number of different ministries and agencies, as well as traditional authorities. At least 10 agencies and institutions at the central level are directly and/or indirectly mandated for land management and administration. However, these institutions have mandates that are often not well defined and sometimes conflicting. This makes it difficult to identify the correct authority to deal with land issues and pin down institutional accountability.

Coordination among government agencies on land degradation issues is generally weak, especially at the national level. Weak intersectoral coordination makes policy harmonization and coherence more difficult and reduces information flow. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation may not have the resources to lead on a cross-cutting issue as contentious as land use management.

In addition, overall weak enforcement and compliance with environmental laws continues to be a challenge in Ghana. The key issue that has impeded adequate implementation and subsequent compliance with the law is weak institutional capacity, specifically lack of adequate resources to cover operational costs. As a result, illegal activities that negatively affect land such as bushfires in forest areas, illegal logging and mining activities, or cultivation over riverbanks and hillsides, remain largely uncontrolled [1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The World Bank approved $103.4 million for Ghana to reverse land degradation and strengthen integrated natural resource management in about 3 million hectares of degraded landscapes, working with communities of the Northern Savannah Zone and the cocoa forest landscape. The Ghana Landscape Restoration and Small-Scale Mining project will focus on land-use planning for integrated landscape management and promote sustainable mining by helping formalize artisanal and small-scale mining. It will also support sustainable land, water, and forest management activities in the climate vulnerable target landscapes, and enhance women’s role in local-level forest and landscape management activities, and create better income-generating opportunities. Over 250,000 people will benefit from the project. The financing includes an IDA credit of $75 million and $28.4 million in grants from the Global Environmental Facility, the Extractive Global Programmatic Support, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable and Resilient Landscapes (PROGREEN) multi-donor Trust Funds [4]

Ghana is also participating in the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP) for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 15.3, which aims “by 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world”. The country has set a number of targets that define what the country desires to achieve in terms of halting and reversing land degradation and restoring degraded lands through a wide range of possible measures [5].


Goals and Ambitions

Ghana’s LDN targets to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation at the national level include [5]:

  • Reforest 882.86 km² of converted forest into other land use/cover types and rehabilitate/restore all abandoned illegal mineral mining and sand winning by 2030.
  • Improve productivity and soil organic carbon stocks in 18475.96 km² of croplands by 2030.
  • Rehabilitate/restore 5107.70 km² of degraded forest, including abandoned legal and illegal mineral mining sites for enhanced productivity by 2030.
  • Rehabilitate/restore 4593.39 km² of degraded shrubs, grasslands and sparsely vegetated areas for improved productivity and reduction in bush/wildfires by 2030.


  • Improve sustainable land and water management communication and knowledge management.
  • Improve coordination on land use management.
  • Analyze and disseminate indigenous and farmer-to-farmer land degradation management practices.
  • Work with communities to promote low-technology rehabilitation of degraded lands; increase trees on farms.
  • Establish/reinforce inclusive local land governance structures.
  • Increase support to environmental management committees at the regional and district levels.
  • Relieve pressure on trees in the landscape.
  • Improve map preparation, dissemination.
  • Develop spatial development plans.  
  • Scale-up existing interventions in sustainable land and water management.
  • Incorporate ecosystem values in use planning exercises and project economic analysis.
  • Update national education curricula to contain messages on avoiding land degradation or improving lands.
  • Promote inclusivity in sustainable land and water management by creating employment opportunities for vulnerable groups.
  • Harmonize/streamline land management policies and regulations; strengthen key implementing institutions.
  • Formalize National Development Planning Commission role as lead institution in land use planning.
  • Promote enabling environment for land use planning and mainstreaming across sectors.
  • Update land use plans; make development planners available to the local level.
  • Progress towards a landscape approach to development planning and sustainable land and water management at national/subnational levels.  
  • Work with traditional authorities to improve communication, knowledge transfer on land degradation-neutral farming, women’s access to land.
  • Encourage and increase women’s access to land ownership, markets, credit, and extension services to facilitate investments in land degradation neutral activities.
  • Build momentum for land tenure, security reforms.
  • Undertake a comprehensive land registration exercise.
  • Incentivize individuals to invest in their lands.
  • Establish, scale, and support Community Resource Management Areas to incentivize and decentralize local land use planning and management.
  • Resource communities to control bushfires.