Ghana aimed to plant at least 5 million trees in a single day on Friday to help regrow the country’s lost forests and curb the impacts of climate change, the president said.

The expansion of farming, and to a lesser degree mining and logging, has led to high levels of deforestation in Ghana, environmentalists say.

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Forest cover in the West African gold miner has dwindled to less than a fifth of what it was in the 1990s, according to Forestry Commission figures.

At Jubilee House, the seat of Ghana’s presidency, President Nana Akufo-Addo planted a seedling of lignum vitae, one of the world’s strongest hardwoods. The species is locally referred to as the “Tree of Life” for its medicinal qualities.

“The exploitation of forest resources for national development has not been sustainable over the years,” Akufo-Addo said in a speech marking the country’s inaugural Green Ghana Day.

“We don’t have tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to do this. We have to act now,” he added.

More than 7 million seedlings were distributed to Ghanaian parks, schools and businesses ahead of the day’s events, according to the lands ministry.

Planting kits were handed out at shopping malls in major cities. Participants chose from a selection of fruit, crop or ornamental trees.

By noon on Friday, nearly 2.7 million of the targeted 5 million seedlings had been planted, Ghana’s forestry commission wrote on Facebook.

The government plans for Green Ghana Day to become an annual event, with an ambitious goal of expanding the day’s planting target from 5 million to 100 million trees by 2024.

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