Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG) an environmental, social and human rights not-for-profit and non-governmental organization in collaboration with the Forestry Services Division Nkawie District and University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) organized awareness raising forum on sustainable management of Ghana’s forest resources.
The forum was held at Nyinahin in the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The Nyinahin programme which was the fifth forum on the awareness-raising campaign for sustainable management of Ghana’s forest resources brought together over 80 participants from 13 forest fringe communities and seven range managers bordering four natural forest reserves; Tano-Ofin Forest Reserve, Asenanyo Forest Reserve, Jimira Forest Reserve and Ofin Shelter Belt all in the Atwima Nnwabiagya Municipal and Atwima Mponua District respectively.
The participating communities included, Okyerekrom, Kofi Nyamekrom , Akyerayaso, Ataso, Nyinahin, Nwirem, Ampenkro, Pamuso, Wansamere, Mmoframfaadwene, Akorabourkrom, Antwi Agyeikrom and Bofaaso.
Addressing the forum, Mr. Richard Adjei-Poku, Executive Director of Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG), expressed gratitude to Womadix Fund and Global Greengrants Fund for supporting the campaign financially.
Mr. Adjei-Poku said there is a symbiotic relationship that exists between trees and humans. He said humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, while trees breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen and so humans and trees are interdependent. That is why there is a saying that “when the last tree dies, the last man dies.”
He touched on the important roles forests play which include provision of food, protection of watersheds, prevention of soil erosion, mitigation of climate change, habitats for animals, reservoirs for biodiversity, herbal medicine, provision of wood for shelter, act as carbon sink, timber for export, cultural values, provision of air and water and many more.
He said unfortunately, despite the important roles forest play, in the last five decades Ghana’s forest resources continue to suffer serious anthropogenic attacks and the most significant ones include bushfires, chainsaw operation and mining in the forest reserves.
Mr. Adjei-Poku further advised participants to consider the vital roles forest resources play in ensuring the survival of humans and other organisms on the planet earth, hence the need to take the forum at heart “so that together we can curtail the situation for better.”
On his part, Dr. Daniel Akoto Sarfo, Senior Lecturer and Head of Centre for Climate Change and Gender Studies at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) revealed that since the introduction of forestry in Ghana in 1909, forest conservation has been the main focus of forest management; which is the pragmatic protection and use of forest resources to ensure perpetual flow of benefits to all segments of present and future generations .He said to achieve this; Ghana has ratified a lot of global treaties and conventions such as the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) Certification Programme and European Union’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). However, in most developing countries and Ghana in particular, sustainable forest management is seriously challenged by hunting, illegal farming, illegal timber and most terribly, bushfire, mining and climate change.
Dr. Akoto Sarfo, explained that Forest is a piece of land usually not less than 2.5 acres predominated by trees and there are two main types of designated forests in Ghana – permanent (gazette reserve areas and off / outside reserve areas mostly in farming areas and on community lands. In Ghana, all these types of forests are under the auspices of Forestry Commission (FC) and directly controlled by the Forest Services Division (FSD) which implement the policies of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on forest management in Ghana.
Sustainable forest management which is the protection and use of forest for continuous provision of optimum benefits to present and future generations has become the focus of forest management both locally and globally. To achieve sustainable forest management in Ghana, several Forest Management Plans have been developed. All forests in Ghana have been put in groups called Forest Management Unit (FMU). The FMU has unique climate and biological description which requires specific management prescription classified as working circles which are broadly categorized into Protection, Production, Convalescence, Research and Education and Conversion, Dr. Akoto Sarfo informed participants.
The Production working circles occur in reserves that are wholly protected from entry and other activities but sole for preservation areas such as sanctuaries, water catchment or headwaters, swampy or riparian areas. Convalescence working circles involve the planting up of degraded forest areas, Research and Education circles involve investigations into forest functions and impacts and subsequent training people particularly students and information sharing on forest management. The production working circles occur in areas for timber and other Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) harvesting; Dr. Akoto Sarfo disclosed.
He said in spite of all these measures put in place, sustainable forest management continues to be a major challenge in Ghana hence the need for a paradigm shift where all stakeholders; government, civil society organisations, academia, Traditional authorities, Forestry Commission, the security agencies, forest fringe communities and society at large to put all hands on the deck in the management of the country’s forests.
A 20-member Community Forest Protection Guards –CFPG was constituted to support the fight for sustainable forest resources management. Each member was given a cutlass and safety Boot. Dr. Akoto Sarfo advised the volunteers (CFPG) to be circumspect in their dealings, eschew selfishness and greediness and should not consider themselves as foresters but work to support the local forestry workers to protect the forests.
LEG was established in 2004 at Ahafo Kenyasi in response to the growing social and environmental threats from mining operations of Newmont. Ever since, the organization has expanded to 34 communities within six administrative regions in Ghana namely Ahafo, Bono, Ashanti, and Western North, Eastern, and Western South regions. Again, the organization has supervised for the formation of nine organizations in the various regions and seven of them are women led-organizations. LEG has also carried out hundreds of community education and campaigns on sustainable environment and has also championed for transparency and accountability in the management of mineral revenues and social justice.