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General News of Thursday, 21 June 2007

Source: GNA

Forestry Commission denies invasion of forest reserves

Akyem Oda, June 21, GNA-The Akyem Oda District of the Forestry Services Division (FSD) on Thursday denied that firewood cutters have invaded the Esubone and Essem Epam forest reserves. At a news conference at Akyem Oda after taking newsmen to inspect the reserves, Mr Wilson Owusu Asare, the District Forestry Manager said adequate steps were put in place to ensure the sustainability of the forest reserves.

He said firewood, which were being carted from the areas were from "admitted farms," which were in existence before the demarcation and constitution of the Forest Reserves. According to the district manager, farmers in those areas who have their residence in the forest cut wood residue as firewood for domestic purposes.

He mentioned that Mofram and Aprokumasi, among others are all villages located in the reserves, adding that the Essem Epam forest reserve for instance had 73 admitted farms. Mr. Asare said three alienation holdings embedded in the reserve have been de-alienated to their respective owners who are farming on them.

He said before any alienation holding was released for farming purposes, the economic trees on them would be given to Timber Contractors for which royalties were paid to both government and alienation holders.

"After removing of the timber, the wood residue are taken by farmers as firewood for domestic use", he said. Mr Asare said since the inception of the National Forest Plantation Programme from 2002 to date, a total of 2,477.61 hectares of land have been released to fringe communities for farming purposes. He said under the system, there were the National Plantation (Modified Taungya System), Government plantation (HIPC) and private investor plantation where reforestation is taking place among others, with the HIPC alone employing about 100 workers. According to him more people than before were working on farms in the forest and to the layman it may seem that the reserves were being invaded.

The regional and district monitoring team do patrol these areas as part of normal duties to ward off illegal chainsaw operators. The news conference was in reaction to a publication in the media that portrayed the picture that the forest reserves were under siege by firewood cutters and illegal farmers. 21 June 07

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