Forest conservation paves way for ecotourism potential

January 31, 2024

Yaw in the 20ha mushroom anti-hill landscape in the sacred forest in Zikpuri of the Upper West Region of Ghana. The mushroom anti-hills, conserved by the communities, offer ecotourism opportunities. Public-private partnership is required to unlock the investment opportunity to advance SDGs attainment in Ghana.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP


Yaw has since his childhood lived in Zukpuri in the Upper West region of Ghana. Zukpuri has a beautiful landscape, endowed with diverse natural resources including forests, wildlife, water bodies and unique mushroom anti-hills. 


Those days, these mushroom anti-hills served as a defense ground and anyone from the community that runs away from danger and gets here is protected”, Yaw narrated. 


Recognizing the importance of the rich natural resources, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme, (UNDP GEF-SGP) collaborated with the people of Zukpuri and other adjoining villages to establish a 4,000ha Community Resource Management Area (CREMA). Ten communities in the CREMA were supported to restore and manage the landscape for the return of wildlife through agroecology schemes, planting, and natural regeneration.


This is the single largest community forest in the Upper West region serving as a habitat for large mammals including hippos. We have kept the landscape away from illegal mining, wildfires, illegal hunting and harvesting of trees for charcoal, and this forms part of our conservation efforts”, Zintang Barry Mohammed, the Zukpuri CREMA Project Officer stated.


The forest provides several benefits to the communities. Traditional healers rely on the forest for medicines and the sale of non-timber forest products also provides income for the communities. The Zukpuri forest landscape presents ecotourism opportunities, waiting to be tapped. 

Mohammed (first in front) and his team entering the sacred forest.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

The project has supported women with alternative livelihood options including dry season vegetable farming and shea butter processing in different communities.

Women processing shea butter in their factory, provided by the UNDP-GEF Small Grant Programme. In middle is the UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, Angela Lusigi, during the field visit.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

The UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, Angela Lusigi, admiring the finished shea butter product.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

Jamilatu, one of the women benefiting from the dry season vegetable farming as part of the project's interventions.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

The forest serves as a habitat for hippos and other unique features. Community-led conservation has protected the special mushroom anti-hills and investment in this rich biodiversity resource will contribute to socio-economic development”, noted George Ortsin, the UNDP GEF-SGP Coordinator.


With about 1.2 billion tourists crossing borders each year, tourism has a great potential to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


“Tourism accounts for one-tenth of global GDP, is a significant employer and plays a key role in SDGs attainment. These unique mushroom anti-hills situated in a pristine natural forest and wildlife sanctuary are protected by community conservation and ready for ecotourism.  This is a great opportunity for the private sector to invest in sustainable and inclusive local development”, stressed Angela Lusigi, UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana.

The UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, Angela Lusigi (first on right), interacting with Mohammed. On Mohammed's left is George Ortsin, the UNDP GEF-SGP Coordinator.

Photo @Praise Nutakor/UNDP

For Yaw and the people of Zikpuri, the benefits from their conservation efforts, particularly the traditional medicines, are valuable. Their greatest hope is to have the conservation turned into ecotourism opportunity for more economic benefits.  


We learnt that we could turn the wildlife sanctuary into a tourist center, if we get the right investors and our hope is that this will happen one day and benefit us,” added Yaw.


The tourism sector can positively contribute to sustainable development and financing of tourism is key to SDG success. This requires political will and private sector commitment. With strong partnerships and decisive action, we can turn this vibrant sector into a development opportunity for all.