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Regional News of Friday, 20 May 2005

Source: GNA

Forest Forum organises workshop for forest communities

Odomase (B/A), May 20, GNA - Participants at a two-day workshop for 30 selected forest fringe community members from five communities in the Sunyani municipality at Odomase near Sunyani on Thursday called for the review of Timber Utilization Permit Law to enable it effectively serve its intended purpose. The workshop organised by the Sunyani Forest Forum (SFF), and funded by Civil Society Strengthening Facility (CSF), an NGO based in Accra was geared at training the participants so that they in turn could disseminate the information to the general public in their communities.

Beneficiary communities were Nsoatre, Abronye, Mangoase, Adoye and Odomase with teachers, traditional chiefs, representatives of NADMO, Community Forestry Committees CFC), among others as target groups.

The theme for the workshop was, Rights-Based Advocacy and Policy Influencing and it formed part of the Forum's one-week programme towards creation of public awareness on the need to involve the people in the prevention of destruction of forests in the municipality. The TUP Law appeared attractive on paper, but in true sense, it had not been helping the nation and the various communities. The associated Social Responsibility Agreement (SRA) under which Timber Firms were authorized to operate in a given forest land were to compensate the Forest Commission (FC), Forest Service Division (FSD) and the Government on one hand and District Assembly, Traditional Council and Stool Land on another from their activities.

The participants said things had not worked the way they should serve the nation hence the need for the suspension of the Law pending its review.

The architects of the Law taking all things into consideration saw the need to form CFC whose members primary duty was to be form part of a team of range supervisors and an authorized timber operator to enter the Forest to jointly inspect logging in the Forest, the participants said The participants added that, more often than not, members of CFC were ignored in this important exercise by the range supervisors for their parochial interest. On the chain saw operation in the Brong-Ahafo Region in general, the participants said it was an open secret that Timber Market at Techiman was mostly the product of chainsaw operators noting that, notwithstanding the continuous warning from the government and other stakeholders against chain-saw operation in our forests, brisk business continued at Techiman timber market with impunity and in the full glee of security agencies. They also criticized the Taungya tree farming system reactivated about four years ago in the saying the essence had also been eroded or defeated because of a show of dishonesty among some people the task entrusted on them. In their view, it would be better for the authority to allow farmers themselves to plant the trees alongside cultivation of food crops instead of the current arrangement whereby individuals are employed to plant the tree at a fee of 15,000 cedis a day, which they even failed to do it properly.

Topics discussed included relevance of rights-based advocacy, the role of CFC in the Management of resources, need for communities to participate in resource management, rights based approach to development, taking responsibility for our rights, factors affecting the decline of forest resource base, overview of the 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy, who suffers from the degradation of the forest resources, who should be held responsible for the destruction of the forest, what is Government obligation? among others.

Mr. William Osei-Owusu, Coordinator of SFF and a Forester after outlining the objectives of the Forum explained that the initiation of CFC in Forestry administration in Ghana three years ago by the British Government was aimed at assisting the nation check the wanton destruction of forests illegally. Mr. Osei-Wusu noted that civil society played major role in good governance stressing that participants could collectively help a lot in the nation's task of revamping forests as they were some years back if only they could attach the needed seriousness in their approach to public education towards the degradation of the forests. They should therefore not throw in the towel even in the face of frustration but be bold and committed in all their endeavours. Mr. Osei-Wusu announced that FSD had established a Customer Service Centre within the Division and appealed to the general public to make use of the outfit.

Mr. Emmanuel Charles Ansong, an executive member of the Forum urged participants to concentrate on one-on-one public education as well as through churches and other identifiable bodies. He said all but two of seven forests in Brong-Ahafo Region were in their normal geographical features and passionately appealed to chiefs and assemblymembers to join hands with members of CFC in their communities to protect the forest within their ambit. Mr. Daniel Aduse-Poku, Vice-Chairman of the Forum was tasked to contact the district office of Forestry Service to clarify allegation made by participants from Abronye that a timber contractor was operating in Tain Two Forest at Abronye near Odomase without the knowledge of CFC and Assemblymembers.

He hinted that there are 52 community Forestry Committees in the municipality and expressed the hope that with correct approach and assistance the members could deliver.

Mr. Emmanuel Adjei, Chairman of Nsoatre CFC also alleged that Forestry Service Division did not pay workers contracted to work on Boundary Line pruning two years ago and this had put back a lot of the youth in the area to render similar services towards the afforestation programme. Earlier, similar workshops were held at Atrodie attended by participants from Ntotroso, Yawsai, Daadom, Antwikrom, Benu-Nkwanta and Nsagobesa. On Thursday May 26 another workshop will be held at Buoku to be attended by participants from Chiraa, Asuokaa, Ayigbe and Tromoso.

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