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Regional News of Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Source: GNA

Wood Carvers to shift to Neem tree

Aburi (E/R), Feb. 13, GNA - The future of the wood carving industry in Ghana was becoming bleak due to the lack of targeted tree species, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in Aburi on Wednesday.

It said the target tree species used as raw materials for carving and most sought for such as Ebony (Diospyros), Ossese (Horlarrhenia floribunda), Kusia (Nauclea diderichii) and Dante (Nesogordpnia Papaverifera) were virtually depleted in the natural forests. "These species have become rare and locally extinct in certain areas in Ghana, threatening the well-being of the wood cavers who depend on them for livelihood," Mr. Mustapha Seidu, Assistant Forest Programme Officer, West Africa Regional Programme Office (WARPO) said. He was addressing carvers of the Aburi Industrial Centre at an inception workshop on "Alternative Carving Wood for Sustainable Livelihood Project" in Aburi.

The project, funded by the French Embassy in Ghana, is aimed at creating awareness of the status of the traditional wood species for the carving industry; the changing trends of the wood carving market and to build capacity for the use of alternative wood species for the carving industry.

The project would facilitate a shift from the use of the fast diminishing preferred species to suitable fast growing species such as Neem tree that could sustain the increasing demands of the wood carving industry.

Mr Seidu said in recent times wood carvers have to travel as far as Akim-Oda and Obuasi to obtain the needed tree species for their work. "The livelihood of woodcarvers could be jeopardized if buyers begin to boycott products that cannot be proved to originate from raw materials derived form certified sustainable managed sources," he said. Mr Seidu said it was for this reason that a sustainable alternative wood such as Neem was needed so that plantations would be developed with the necessary farm forestry certification procedures followed. "Supporting the wood carving industry to ensure reliable sources of raw materials, improve skills and better access to the global market will help to save the forest, guarantee the livelihood of wood carvers and therefore alleviate their poverty," he said. Mr. Abraham Baffoe, WAFPO Forest Programme Leader said illegal logging was the main threat to the sustainability of the forest and therefore called for prudent measures that would help the forest to regenerate.

Mr Julien Morel, Co-ordinator, Fund for Social Development, French Embassy, expressed the hope that the project would change the wood carving industry in Ghana and make it more sustainable. The goal of the fund, he said was to fight poverty, gender inequality and youth unemployment. Mr Abbey Emmanuel, President, Aburi Industrial Centre, thanked WWF-WAFPO and the French Embassy for their support saying the Centre would embrace the neem tree concept since there were already large track of neem tree across the country. He admitted that the export market had slackened since the September 11 disaster that hit America and that it had been very difficult to penetrate the European markets due to their strict restrictions relating to wood products.

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