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Regional News Sun, 22 Feb 2004

"Involve Traditional Authorities in Bushfire Control"

Bolgatanga, Feb. 21, GNA- Traditional Authorities on Friday urged government and its development partners to recognise the key role of traditional institutions as well as other community structures in an effort to find a lasting solution to bushfires.

"The need to look beyond government legislation, laws and bye-laws and to critically examine time tested traditional beliefs and practices in bushfire management would be a step in the right direction", they stressed.

These were contained in a statement issued by chiefs and some traditional opinion leaders at the end of a weeklong national bushfire workshop held at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region. It had the theme "The Chief, the Forester and the Fireman".

It is was jointly organised by CARE International-Ghana, an international NGO, and the University for Development Studies (UDS), with funding from the Danish Embassy under the Bushfires Management and Rural Livelihoods in Northern Ghana (BURN) Project.

The statement said local communities were able to control indiscriminate bush burning in the past because in those days traditional authorities had the powers to enforce bush burning regulations.

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The traditional leaders said former methods of regulating the uncontrolled occurrences, of bushfires have now become unenforceable. They also identified rapid population growth, unnecessary political interference in traditional administration, the gradual collapse of traditional institutions, poverty and the breakdown of traditional family values.

They recommended the need to intensify the teaching of traditional values, family planning education, empower chiefs and define roles of traditional authorities in the communities.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr. Mahami Salifu, told the participants to also encourage their communities to adhere to sound environmental practices so as not to further degrade the land. He said0 Burkina Faso has been able to effectively control and manage bushfires because of the involvement of the local communities.

Mr. Salifu thanked the organisers of the workshop and the Danish Embassy for sponsoring the Programme and hoped decisions taken would be followed.

The Northern Sector Co-ordinator of CARE International-Ghana, Mr. Amidu Ibrahim Tanko, said the workshop was aimed at arousing policy dialogue between government, traditional authorities and representatives of government agencies as well as NGOs to jointly find practical measures to control indiscriminate bushfires in the savannah zones.

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He said the workshop also provided a forum for participants to critically assess the role of social institutions in the management of bushfires, while examining insights of bushfire management from historical studies carried out between 1928-1963.

Mr. Tanko said deliberations at the workshop suggest that bushfires have been managed successfully in the past through the enforcement of traditional regulatory system, adding that participants have agreed on the need revisit some of these tradition.

Chiefs, leaders of women groups, and landowners from four pilot communities attended the workshop

Source: GNA