Department Of Plant and Environmental Biology Hosts Workshop on Biodiversity Information Needs for Ghana

Group photograph of workshop participants

A workshop on biodiversity data information for Ghana has been organized by the Ghana Node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) hosted by the Department of Plant and Environmental Biology, University of Ghana. The workshop was organized at the Erata Hotel in Accra on 21st April 2017. It was attended by 31 participants from diverse backgrounds comprising of participants from the academia, research institutions, government ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The objective of the workshop was to arrive at a national consensus on biodiversity information needs for Ghana including identifying the opportunities, gaps and challenges as well as strategies towards mobilization of data to address the information needs.

The Manager of the Ghana Node of GBIF and Principal Investigator of the project, Prof. Alex Asase, of the Department of Plant and Environmental Biology, in his opening remarks explained that GBIF is a global organization with a vision to make biodiversity data freely and openly accessible via the internet. He indicated that Ghana is a signatory and a voting participant to GBIF, and stands to benefit a lot from the opportunities offered through GBIFs initiatives. He further explained that the current project is supported by GBIF through the Biodiversity Information for Development (GBIF-BID) programme with funds from the European Union, and it is aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Ghana node. Prof. Asase said that the project will initially support digitization of persevered plant specimens at the Ghana Herbarium in the Department of Plant and Environmental Biology, specimens in the Vertebrate Museum at the Department of Animal Biology and Conservation Sciences, and preserved fish specimens at the Department of Fisheries and Marine Sciences at the University of Ghana.  Prof. Asase was very grateful to GBIF and JRS Biodiversity Foundation for their continued funding of his research work in biodiversity informatics.

Prof. Alex Asase

The Head of the Department of Plant and Environmental Biology at the University of Ghana, Prof. I. K. Asante, in his speech talked about the importance of biodiversity in our daily lives for socio-economic development. The Dean of School of Biological Sciences, Prof. Matilda Steiner-Asiedu delivered the formal opening address for the workshop on behalf of the Provost of College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS) and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana. In her address, the Dean highlighted the significance of biodiversity data in various sectors of national development including tourism, academia, research, and socio-economic development. Prof. Steiner-Asiedu in her concluding remarks emphasized the importance of data for attainment of the global Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).

Prof. Matilda Steiner-Asiedu, Dean of School of Biological Science, UG delivering her opening address at the workshop

Participants at the workshop worked in three parallel sessions, namely: (1) academic and research, (2) policy and governance, and (3) Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and other biodiversity stakeholders, to identify the opportunities, gaps and challenges with regard to accessing biodiversity data about Ghana, as well as strategies for mobilizing prioritised biodiversity data about the country. The participants at the workshop also underscored the need for a sustainable central hub for management of biodiversity information in Ghana. Public education, capacity enhancement, and funding for biodiversity research were some of the other recommendations from the workshop.

Group discussion of participants at the policy and governance session

The Chair of the National Biodiversity Committee, Prof. Alfred A. Oteng-Yeboah, who spoke on  the way forward, said that the workshop has brought to light data gaps and lack of public awareness about biodiversity, which he said have to be taken care of immediately.  He further stated that, with documentation of data seen as a necessary step to appreciate the status of the Ghanaian biodiversity and ecosystem services, the workshop provided the opportunity to look into this as a useful knowledge gap and the need to fill these gaps. Prof. Oteng-Yeboah suggested that the outcome of this workshop should be discussed at the highest level of decision making to ensure that the appropriate actions are taken to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Ghana.

Prof. Alfred A. Oteng-Yeboah, Chair of the Ghana Biodiversity Committee