Teacher combines mathematical knowledge and passion to protect urban forest for generations

Prior to 2018, a woodland spot at the Techiman Library was renowned as a criminal hideout.

Today, children play on the grass, and locals relax amid the trees as birds sing in the branches above. The verdant community garden also serves as a backdrop for celebrities and other creatives to film their videos.

This transformation is thanks to Maxwell Oppong, 42, who grew up in the neighborhood when it was filthy.

He says he became interested in growing flowers while working as a compound overseer in college.

His enthusiasm deepened after he met a gardener who was working at the Ghana Education Service at Toubodom.

“He encouraged me and told me there are benefits to growing flowers,” he explained.

Maxwell would seek out experts to learn how to cultivate new and attractive plants whenever he spotted them.

Maxwell of Kesse Basahyia Senior High School in Techiman sought permission from the Municipal Assembly to convert an insanitary, strewn feces forest place close to the municipal library into new-look gardens.

He is combining his mathematical knowledge with passion for environmental protection in order to preserve the site for future generations.

Back at teacher training college, Maxwell was one of the compound overseers, a role that brought him into contact with the campus gardener.

Maxwell studied mathematics and technical skills at the Wiawso College of Education in 2010, and then went on to study BSc mathematics at Valley View University of Education in 2014.

Maxwell began the garden at his home before relocating it to the forest near the Techiman Library.

Despite several environmental benefits, community gardens are a type of green infrastructure that is sometimes disregarded in urban climate change and development plans.

They, for example, lower urban heat islands, provide ecosystem services, and improve storm water retention.

Today, the forest location provides a safe and serene atmosphere for students and event organizers.

It also supplies seedlings of various types to homeowners who want to cultivate ornamental plants in their homes.

Maxwell explains how many seedlings he produces for the general public.

“For the flowers, it is a seasonal work. During raining season, from March, I can sell about 1000-2000 flowers a day.”

According to the math teacher cum gardener, there is more to nursing flowers than there is to teaching, but he wants to help humanity in both disciplines.

Maxwell has an employee strength of 3 and other casual workers who are helping in the demarcation, designing among others.

Maxwell has won many contracts for landscaping or production of seedlings in the Bono East region and beyond.

The latest contract Maxwell is working on is some 2 acres for the Bono East Regional Coordinating Council.

“I can even get one contract that is equal to my annual salary. I did the landscaping for Akumadan District Assembly, and Tuobodom. I also did the landscaping for NIB and a lot of individual houses.”

To mention a few, the trees here provide several benefits, including shading and cooling urban heat islands, carbon sequestration, and improved air quality.

There is also Abdul-Razak Yakubu, who comes around on a daily basis to capture the tranquil atmosphere.

Abdul-Razak always visits with the family during weekends.

“Most weekends, we are here. And holidays, we are here,” he said.

As a result of climate change, cities are experiencing record-breaking heat. During instances of intense heat, urban heat islands frequently form within cities, making them much hotter than their surroundings.

Residents like Abdul-Razak can now choose Maxwell’s new look gardens.

“Keeping trees such as this place should be made compulsory. We must have them. For some of us who grew up in the villages, you come to the cities and it looks like a jungle-concrete everywhere.”

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