Friday, July 6, 2007
Forest reserves in WR being depleted
Story: MOSES DOTSEY AKLORBORTU, Juaboso-Nkwanta
Forest reserves in the Western Region are being depleted at a fast rate due to massive encroachment by farmers.
The Krokosua Hills at Juaboso Nkwanta in the Juaboso District is one of the important reserves in the region. However, in recent times, there have been reports that the forest reserve is being encroached upon by farmers.
When newsmen and Forest Watch of CARE International, a Ghanaian non-governmental organization (NGO), visited the forest, it discovered that at the time of gazetting the forest reserve, its size was 481.6 square kilometres and had 38 farms.
A vigilante group in the community, led by Mr. Patrick Asamoah, has realized that for sometime now, massive encroachment has been going on in the Nkwanta community as more farmers are found in the reserve.
He alleged that about 30,000 acres of the forest reserve had been illegally exploited with the help of the technical officer of Forestry Division, some chiefs and illegal chain- saw operators.
Mr. Asamoah alleged that the forestry officials and the chiefs were prepared to bribe anybody who tried to stop or report their activities to the authorities.
Members of the community said recently one of the chiefs involved in the illegal lumbering tried to bribe them with ¢20million, which they showed to the reporters as evidence, and added that the technical officer of the Forestry Services Division also promised them additional ¢50 million if they kept quiet.
The activities of the encroachers are having a negative effect on the stream that served the community, which takes its source form the Krokosua reserve.
The people have cultivated farms around the source of the stream, making it to dry up.
Mr. Asamoah said they had written several letters to various interested parties but had not received any response.
He said the encroachers were about to clear the virgin forest for farming when CARE International moved in to save the situation.
Other members of the group and the community also accused the District Chief Executive (DCE) of establishing farm in the reserve.
The DCE was not available, but the District Co-ordinating Director, Mr. Abubakar Alhassan, confirmed to the journalist that it was true that the DCE had a farm in the affected area.
According to him, the DCE had told the forestry officials that if his farm fell within the unapproved areas of the forest reserve, it should be destroyed.
Mr. Abubakar said the survival and the protection of the forest were of great concern to the assembly.
When the newsmen called on him at Takoradi, the Western Regional Manager of the Forestry Services Division, Mr. Kwakye Ameyaw, expressed displeasure at the rate of encroachment of forest reserves in the region.
He said those who were supposed to be leading the crusade in the protection of such resources were rather playing active roles in the negative practices to destroy the reserves.
The regional manager commended the residents of Juaboso Nkwanta for preventing landowners who attempted to extend the boundaries of their farms in the Krokosoa Forest Reserve.
Mr. Ameyaw stated that even though measures were being taken to rectify the situation, their major problem was the non cooperative attitude of the chiefs and other opinion leaders in the area, who had obtained a court injunction to halt the work of the forestry officials.
The situation, he said, was not the best, but stated that currently forestry officials in the district were in the process of re-demarcating the reserve.
Touching on the bribery of the forestry officials, Mr. Ameyaw said that was a criminal act, which must be dealt with according to the laws of the land.
Daily Graphic - Friday, July 6, 2007 Page: 20