Man and the Biosphere (MAB)
The Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO was launched by UNESCO in 1971 to help develop scientific knowledge needed to rationally manage and conserve natural resources.
Ghana has been a member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 1983. At present, the country has three biosphere reserves at Bia in the Bia West District of the Western region, Songor in the Greater Accra Region and Lake Bosomtwe in the Ashanti Region. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosts the secretariat of the MAB Programme. The EPA therefore chairs and coordinates the activities of MAB in Ghana in collaboration with the National Commission for UNESCO.
With the complex nature of problems of the environment, membership of MAB are drawn from a wide scientific, social and technological disciplines like botany, zoology, climatology, soil science, physical geography, biochemistry, biology, mathematics and the social and human sciences as well. Since the MAB programme is people-centred, the local population is also not left out in the composition of membership.
Experts on the Committee have conducted a lot of social and scientific researches and have published and presented papers in international journals and conferences.
The National Committee on the Man and Biosphere is one of the strongest in Africa and is known in UNESCO circles to have contributed significantly to environmental preservation and in particular, the protection of Biosphere Reserves. As a beneficiary country of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Anglophone Africa (BRAAF project) implemented between 1995 – 1998, the National Committee of Ghana was able to reorient and empower communities in the Bia Biosphere Reserve to have a collective sense of responsibility for the protection of the natural resources thereby reducing resource degradation. Awareness on the Biosphere Reserve Concept and the role of traditional knowledge in conservation was also highly increased.
The output of BRAAF set the basis for development of the collaborative management system found in Bia today. The National committee have also conducted ecological studies that led to the nomination of the Songor Ramsar site a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in July, 2011 as well as the nomination of Lake Bosomtwe as Ghana’s third Biosphere Reserve in March, 2016.
The role of the National MAB Committee on the establishment and functioning of the African Regional Network of Biosphere Reserves (AfriMAB) is worth emulating and Ghana has chaired the AfriMAB Network for two consecutive times (2013-2017). Ghana has also served severally on the International Coordinating Council of MAB (MAB-ICC).
Over the years, UNESCO has assisted the National Man and Biosphere (MAB) Committee to undertake many activities:
Sharpening the research skills of young scientist in biodiversity conservation through the UNESCO Young Scientists Award. The awards encourage young scientists from developing countries, to use MAB research or project sites and biosphere reserves in their research.
In Promoting the Sustainable Management and Conservation of Freshwater, Terrestrial Resources and Biodiversity, UNESCO commissioned a study on the ‘Assessment of the Climate Change Impact on the Bia Biosphere Reserve’.
The study provided information on the impact of climate change on the Bia Biosphere Reserve and provided a basis for climate change mitigation in Ghana’s Biosphere Reserves and protected areas.
This information was exchanged with other reserves in the African Network as well as the World Network to enhance visibility of the Bia Biosphere Reserve and contribute to providing solutions to the emerging problem of climate change.
UNESCO through the MAB programme has promoted the sustainable management of ecosystems through the concept of biosphere reserve. A National Mapping of ecological sites with a major focus on international trans-boundary and coastal sites was undertaken by the National MAB Committee.
The main aim of the activity was to conduct an ecological mapping with a focus on trans-boundary and coastal areas in order to identify new potential sites for biospheres reserves.
This study was commissioned by the Man and Biosphere (MAB) National Committee as a requirement for the nomination of the Ramsar site to a biosphere reserve.
In the survey, an inventory of the most significant natural resources was prepared. These were mapped together with the boundaries of the areas under exploitation and protection. Maps of population distribution, soils, geology, ethnicity, land uses and ecology were generated.
Indicators of ecosystem degradation were then determined. An assessment of community awareness on the need for ecosystem management was done. A stakeholder workshop was also organized for the validation of the initial results.
The results thereof formed part of a complete dossier sent to UNESCO MAB International Coordination Council which later approved the Songor Ramsar Site for enlistment onto the World List of Biosphere Reserves.
The project, supported by UNESCO under extra-budgetary funding from the Government of Spain, aimed at enhancing the sustainable management and conservation of Lake Bosomtwe which is rich in aquatic biodiversity of national and global significance, but has become particularly vulnerable due to intense human pressures.
The Project, among others:
- Identified and documented sources of water to Lake Bosomtwe and their seasonality.
- Promoted soil and water conservation and good agricultural practices in the catchments.
- Promoted alternative sources of livelihood, such as fish farming and agroforestry practices.
- Developed a comprehensive and long term lake water quality monitoring programme as a tool for water quality management.
- Promoted and supported the eventual creation of the lake and its catchment as Ghana’s third biosphere reserve.
This Project, implemented in the Bia Biosphere Reserve is being supported by UNESCO through extra-budgetary funding from the Government of Korea. The project aims at Conserving biodiversity, reducing poverty and contributing to sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa through biodiversity businesses in Biosphere Reserves. The project is being implemented in Bia Biosphere Reserve, Omo Biosphere and East Usambara Biosphere Reserve all in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania respectively.
The biosphere refers to the life zone of the Earth and includes all living organisms.
Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognized sites nominated by national governments which are of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems which promote solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable useAll Biosphere reserves essentially serve three main functions:
- Conservation - Contribution to conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
- Development - Fostering economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable
- Logistics - Provision of support for research monitoring and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.