25 October 2006

Ghana: Deforestation Costs Ghana Low Cocoa Yields

Kumasi — MR. ASIN Nyarko, District Manager - Forestry Services Division, Nkawie, has attributed the low production of cocoa in the country and the current nationwide electricity load-shedding exercise to deforestation, which he noted was on the ascendancy in the country.

He cited illegal chainsaw operations as the chief cause of this lamentable trend.

"The big trees, which since time immemorial had been protecting our rivers and dams, have been felled illegally and alarmingly by chainsaw operators, which as a result has dried up our water bodies, including the Akosombo Dam," he disclosed at a Forest Forum at Nkawie.

It was organized by a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) known as Forest Watch Ghana (FWG) as part of its Forest Voices Project (FVC) and was facilitated by Rural Development and Youth Association (RUDEYA), Tropenbos Ghana and Ghana Association for Conservation of Nature (GACON).

The forum offered a neutral platform for all manner of people and organizations with interest in forest management to engage in discussion of policies with the aim of ensuring equity, good governance and resource sustainability as well as helping to strengthen relations between the Forestry Commission (FC) and the general public for quality policy, good governance and sustainable forest management.

Mr. Nyarko asked Ghanaians to stop blaming neighbouring Burkina Faso, who have recently built a dam, for our current power predicament, lamenting that our own inactions and ignorance about the essential usefulness of the forest, which we have depleted, had caused our present woes, adding, "Chainsaw operators have contributed immensely."

Mr. Ofori Donkor, District Chief Executive of Atwima Nwabiagya, also attributed the depletion of the forest to poisonous chemicals used by farmers for farming, describing the attitude of such farmers and chain saw operators as "rush for money" by these selfish and greedy illegal chainsaw operators and farmers, whose desire to acquire fast money leads them to cut the trees at an alarming and illegal rate.

He lamented that the inactions of these unpatriotic individuals have gradually reduced the beauty of Kumasi, once the 'Garden City' of West Africa, warning that all illegal chainsaw operators caught would be dealt with drastically according to law.

The DCE urged the people to cultivate the habit of afforestation, adding that the Assembly was prepared to support any individual or organization that embarked on afforestation projects. He thus commended the organizers of the forum for a job well executed.

Mr. Kwame Appiah Owusu, Project Assistant, Tropenbos Ghana, disclosed that some policies and management strategies of forestry sector institutions have been a failure and eventually heightened poverty consequences.

He noted that the pilot efforts by FC to get local people involved in forest management decisions was inadequate, and admonished that "participation of all manner of stakeholders is a must for any management of natural resources to succeed".

"The identification of crucial forestry issues, the changing forest policy direction to favour sustainable livelihoods and social acceptability, the checking policy implementation agency of the FC to ensure that their roles are carried out in accordance with laid down principles and laws, among others, would ensure the objective of FWG," he said.

He noted that the conduct of the forum and active pursuit of matters arising from it by all stakeholders would be a significant step towards quality forest policies, good governance and sustainable development, adding that participants should always remember that development was real only when it was jointly undertaken by all stakeholders and its benefits fairly distributed to all concerned without reducing the capacity of the environment to support the provision of such benefits.

He however urged traditional leaders, District Assemblies and participants of the forum to disseminate information generated at the forum to others, assuring that "the facilitators will send a report on the proceedings to FWG secretariat so that the coalition of NGOs can take up the issues and forward them to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Forestry," emphasizing that "campaigns, advocacy and lobbying will also be pursued through the media".

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