Bushfires, herdsmen undermining government’s afforestation programme

Mr. John M. Ocansey, Upper West Regional Manager, Forest Service Division of the Forestry Commission, has said perennial bush burnings and activities of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle were undermining government’s afforestation programmes in the area.

He said bushfires had destroyed 283 hectares of plantations that had been established in some communities in the Region last year.

Mr. Ocansey said that cattle belonging to the herdsmen destroyed 76.5 hectares of mahogany, mango and cashew plantations that were cultivated at a cost of GH¢133,569 within the same period.

He was briefing members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry on progress of work on the National Forest Plantation Development programme in Tumu.

Mr. Ocansey said that group hunting by community members that involved the setting of fire to vegetation for game had also resulted in the destruction of the plantations and forest reserves in the area.

He said that 4,174 hectares of land had been put under forest plantations with the Ghana Plantation Development Programme cultivating 889 hectares, National Plantation Development Programme 1,046 hectares and National Forest Plantation Development Programme 2,239 hectares.

Mr. Ocansey said 2,380 field workers had been engaged by the Programme in 184 communities in all the nine districts of the Region and more than 2.6 million tree seedlings were planted last year.

He said the Programme planned to plant tree seedlings on 1,000 hectares of land this year and so far 746 workers had planted teak, eucalyptus, mahogany, cassia, grafted mango and cashew species on 700 hectares of land.

Mr. Ocansey mentioned land disputes, inadequate education of landowners, late commencement of the Programme, erratic rainfall, inadequate and untimely release of funds for the Programme and delay in delivery of tree seedlings among others as some of the challenges hindering the smooth implementation of the Programme.

He called for the strengthening and enforcement of forest laws and regulations as well as timely payment of contract workers and the enhancement of the capacity of plantation coordinators.

Mr. Albert Abongo, Member of Parliament for Bongo, and Chairman of the Committee, said the group was on a working visit to the Region, to find out progress of work on the Programme in the Region.

He said the Committee appreciated the challenges facing the Programme, and expressed worry that much money had gone waste because of the setting of bushfires and activities of herdsmen and their cattle.

Mr. Abongo praised traditional authorities of the Region for supporting the programme and asked them to be owners of the Programme to help fight desertification and climate change.

Madam Alijata Sulemana, Sissala East District Chief Executive, called on women to involve themselves in the formulation and implementation of policies and programme on land use and the environment.

Some people suggested to government to establish seedling nurseries in communities in the Region to facilitate the implementation of the Programme in the various districts rather than relying on contractors, who bring the seedlings from the Southern part of the country.

The Zoil Services Limited and the African Forest Brigade Limited are the implementing agencies of the Programmes.

The programme aimed at restoring the degraded forest woodland, reduce wood deficit situation, increase the production of food crops and generate employment to reduce rural poverty.

Source: GNA

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