W/Africa's biggest tree made attractive tourist site

The Big Tree tourism site has been redeveloped and commissioned at Aprokumase in the Asene Manso Akroso District of the Eastern Region.

The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mohammed Awal, is hopeful the redeveloped site would entice more tourists in the domestic tourism drive to have one million citizens move around tourism centres each year.

The Big Tree Eco-tourism site was discovered in the 1950s and later designated officially as a tourist site in 2004 by then Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City Jake Obetsebi Lamptey.

It is reported to be the biggest tree in the West Africa sub-region. It is located in the Essen-Epam Forest Reserve at Aprokumase in the newly created Asene Manso Akroso in the Eastern Region.

Hitherto it was referred to as the Oda Big Tree under the Birem Central Municipality.

Researchers say it has a diameter of 3.22 meters at 1.37 meters, 2.72 meters at 3.1 meters, making 12 metres in circumference and 66.5-90 metres tall. It also has a girth of 10.11 meters at 1.4 meters and 8.63 meters at 3.1 meters.

The tree known locally as “the Big Tree” is of the Bako species and its botanical name is tieghemela heckle.

In 2020, the Ghana Tourism Development Company (GTDC) embarked on a mission to develop the tourism site to an appreciable industry standard with support from other stakeholders – Ghana Tourism Authority, Forestry Commission, Asene Manso Akroso District Assembly, Member of Parliament and Traditional Authorities in the Area.

The redeveloped site has two phases: the phase one is the upgrade of a new entrance, exciting hiking trails to the Essen-Epam Forest Reserve as well as the Asuboni Forest Reserve, labelling of 22 tree species with botanical names for education and research purposes, photo signage among others to enhance visitors’ experience.

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The receptive facility has also seen renovation works completed and now has an event space, general play area, offices, visitor information area and other critical ancillary facilities.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Development Company Kwadwo Odame Antwi observed the impact of the redeveloped site on the local economy cannot be underscored.

“There is an upsurge in business activities here already. It would make the biggest direct and indirect impact on the local economy. We hope to see producers of good quality local caterers come in to prepare food for tourists.”

He gave details of Phase 2 of the project at the Big Tree tourism site which is expected to commence soon.

“The Phase 2 would involve a canopy walk, fuel station and other new additions.”

Funding for the redeveloped tourism site was spearheaded by GTDC with support from the GTA and other partners.

The Eastern Region Minister, Seth Acheampong, pointed out the Eastern Region was blessed with several tourism sites that have the potential to engineer the Region’s growth, create jobs and bring about economic transformation.

“Our Region is blessed with many tourist attraction in areas of nature, heritage, culture, leisure and eco-tourism. But while we focus on agriculture, trade, commerce, construction and other economic activities, we have no doubt that as a government tourism has the potential to engineer the growth we seek.”

The Chief of Manso, Obrempong Sintim Poku, who doubles as the Bankumhene of Akyem Kotoku, commended government for redeveloping the edifice and asked the responsible authorities to put measures in place to stop encroachers from the forest reserve.

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The Tourism Minister charged the Ghana Tourism Development Company and the Ghana Tourism Authority to ensure that about 3,000 tourists do visit the Big Tree Tourism Site within one year to generate an estimated 250 jobs for locals.

He said some 250,000 persons from the diaspora were expected in the last quarter of the year 2021 as part of the ‘Beyond The Return’ agenda.

“We expect to get more dollars coming in into the local economy, create jobs and empower the people.”

The sector minister was hopeful the domestic tourism drive would see a targeted one million citizens move around tourist sites in the country every year to make tourism a number one contributor to the nation’s GDP.

“In the domestic tourism drive, we want one million Ghanaians to move around the country every year.”

By Yvonne Neequaye|3news.com|Ghana