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General News Fri, 30 Nov 2007

First National Forest Forum opens

Accra, Nov. 30, GNA - Forestry in Ghana is undergoing serious challenges, which have resulted in resource depletion and degradation. Most of these challenges are associated with the limited involvement of communities and other keyholders in the management of those resources. Mr. A. Adjei-Yeboah, Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, said this on Thursday at the inauguration of the National Forest Forum (NFF)in Accra.

The NFF is aimed at providing a national platform for forest stakeholders to discuss critical issues on forest governance, share information and interact with forest mangers and policy makers on best practice resource management.

The three-day workshop organised by the Ministry in collaboration with Forestry Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has drawn delegates from the regional forums, traditional authorities, forest owner and users, farmers, public servants and NGOs. Mr. Adjei-Yeboah said, for far too long the process of forest policy development had been limited to a few policy and decision makers. "This situation has therefore resulted in many conflicting interests, especially during the implementation of these policies and the inability to effectively enforce some relevant legislations.

"I am glad to state that the Ministry has recognised these limitations and is currently pursuing various policies and programmes that aim at securing and restoring the resources' base and ensuring equitable distribution of benefits from the resource to its owners," he said. The Minister announced that to whip up community enthusiasm in forest management and alleviate poverty the government had revised the sharing ratio of revenue from outside forest reserves with the traditional authorities now taking 60 per cent instead of 40 per cent. Similarly, revenue from on-reserve forest is now 50 per cent for the resource owners and 50 per cent for the Forestry Commission. Mr. Adjei-Yeboah said in the area of restoring the forest cover, the Ministry had intensified the implementation of the National Plantation Development Programme, which was being implemented under various schemes. He said it was their expectation that the reforms would improve efficiency in the sector, protect the forest resource and help to reduce poverty in the rural communities, especially those that depended on forest resources for their livelihoods.

"However, the effectiveness of these reforms would depend on the level of awareness of stakeholders, degree of their acceptance as well as the extent of their involvement in the reform process. He, therefore, pledged the Ministry's support for NFF to promote transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness in resource management decision-making.

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Mr Alex Asare, Manager at the Collaborative Resource Management Unit of the Forestry commission, said forests were an integral part of the social, economic, cultural and spiritual life of the Ghanaian. "Apart from the products we obtain from the forest such as wood for exports and domestic consumption and non-timber forest products such as bush meat, the forests provide critical life sustaining environmental services which are not easily quantifiable."

He cited the recent power crisis due to the low water level in the Akosombo dam, which might be attributed to the destruction of vegetation in the catchment area of the Volta River. Mr Asare said one of the foremost tasks of the forum would be to pressurise political parties to have sustainable forest management as a priority in their manifestos.

"The forum should be able to act as a leverage to compel politicians and public servants not to pander to industry lobby to quickly harvest our forests for short-term financial gains to the detriment of life sustaining systems and the future generation," he said.

He said he hoped that at the end of the workshop delegates would come out with enduring strategies to forever sustain the Forest Forum as a dynamic body partnering agencies charged with the management of the nation's forest and wildlife resources. Osahene Aterkyi, Omanhene of Kukuom Traditional Area and the Chairman of the occasion, said there was a gloomy picture painted of dwindling forests and forest resources, thereby threatening wildlife and many more resources, which contributed to livelihood of both urban and rural people.

He, therefore, called on NFF to explain the issues of deforestation and the dire consequences to the people they represented, so that, together, they could avert those consequences.

Source: GNA
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