Significant progress is being made towards strengthening forest landscape governance, to protect five reserves in Ghana’s main cocoa growing areas in the Western Region – Sui River, Suhuma, Tano-Ehuro, Tano-Suhien and Santomang, as the local communities begin to show ownership of the reserves.
The people through Landscape Management Boards (LMB) set up under the Rainforest Alliance - Olam project, have taken centre stage in the monitoring and control of activities in the corridor around the reserves.
The Boards comprise of chiefs, community members, farmers in the supply chain, the private sector, Forestry Commission, the district assemblies, COCOBOD and civil society.
The landscape corridor covers four districts – Sefwi-Wiawso, Bodi, Akontombra and Juaboso and a total area of about 12,772.6 kilometres (km).
The four-year project aims to conserve the reserves and sustain agricultural livelihoods of the communities
Mr. Christian Mensah, Rainforest Alliance Senior Manager in-charge of Livelihoods in West Africa, at separate meetings with members of the LMBs at Sfewi-Wiawso and Akontombra, said actions within the corridor would significantly contribute to the protection of about 97,612 hectares of forest reserves.
Sui River covers 335.90 square km, Suhuma, 358.50 square km, Tano-Ehuro, 176.10 square km, Tano-Suhien, 84.42 square km and Santomang 21.20 square km.
These are important habitats for the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and other species.
Mr. Mensah asked that the LMBs went the extra mile to ensure that there was space for everybody to participate and contribute to the efficient management and use of the natural resources.
The knowledge, concerns and proposals the people should be factored into things that the LMBs did – there needed to be inclusiveness, he said, adding that, this was the way forward to sustain local support for practical, effective and harmonized management of the corridor and protected areas
They should also design systems for benefits generation and sharing arrangement.
The LMBs, he said, were meant to decentralize forestry governance so that there would be transparency and accountability, with the local community taking up lead role in natural resources management.
Mr. Mensah announced that 71 communities had agreed to be part of the project to protect the reserves and biodiversity.