Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, on Friday said the government was rolling out a National Forest Plantation Development Programme with an employment target of 51,000 jobs.
He said the programme, which was being implemented in all 170 political districts of the country, has a planting target of 51,000 by the end of 2011.
The Minister made the announcement when he met the Dutch Taskforce on Biodiversity and Natural Resources to discuss biodiversity conservation in Ghana, at the Kakum National Park, near Cape Coast.
He said the programme was to help identify additional sources of wood supply to reduce pressure on the natural forest resources and to bridge the huge gap between wood demand and supply.
He was however worried that long-term funding of the programme to ensure its sustainability was a major challenge and stressed that it would require additional funding from development partners.
Alhaji Dauda said another major challenge the nation faced in biodiversity conservation was the high rate of deforestation as a result of wildfires, excessive illegal logging and chainsaw lumbering, surface mining and fuel-wood harvesting.
He said encroachment on forest reserves was another problem that required immediate attention and added that through funding from the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance Programme (NREG), of which the Netherlands Government was a major contributor, efforts were being made to resettle communities near forest reserves since they were becoming a serious threat to the reserves.
He also mentioned inadequate infrastructural development of the National Parks to fully exploit their tourism potentials as another challenge.
The Minister noted that about 60 percent of the nation’s population lived in the rural areas and were highly dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem for their livelihoods.
He said the erosion of biodiversity should therefore be of great concern to everyone since the nation’s very survival depended on how well its biodiversity and ecosystems were conserved and sustained.
Alhaji Dauda disclosed that Ghana was the first country to sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union with the commitment to ensuring that only legal timber was produced and exported to the European market.
He said by the agreement, Ghana would ensure that wood in the domestic market came from only legal sources to significantly minimize illegal harvesting of timber which destroyed the ecosystem.
The leader of the 15-member Dutch Taskforce, Mr Hans Alders, said they had noticed the importance of biodiversity in Ghana and were therefore in the country to learn about the nation’s policies in terms of biodiversity and that the youthful economy of the Netherlands largely depended on biodiversity.
He said it was important to connect children to nature, adding that they would learn from Ghana’s experience and create parks such as the Kakum National Park.
The Taskforce, led by Mr Gerard Duijfjes, Netherland’s Ambasador to Ghana, included scientists, government officials and academicians.