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Farmers accused of destroying 14,000 tree seedlings at Pantang Hospital

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BY: Seth J. Bokpe
Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie
Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie

Farmers on Pantang Hospital lands in the Greater Accra Region have been accused of destroying 14,000 tree seedlings planted by the Forestry Commission in that area.

This followed fears by the farmers that allowing the trees to grow would make them lose their farmlands and for that matter, their livelihoods.

As a result, only 20 out of the 365 recruits under a Youth in Forestry module undertaking the tree planting exercise were on site during a tour of the area by the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, and his team of officials yesterday.

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Concerns

According to Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, those recruits were unable to turn up because the farmers had prevented them from continuing with the exercise after they (farmers) had destroyed thousands of seedlings earlier planted by the recruits.

A few of the teak seedlings that were spared had grown more than four feet tall.

“After the planting was completed, some farmers pulled out the seedlings and destroyed them. If the seedlings had been allowed to grow, the picture here would have been different. What we have seen here does not give us joy,” he said.

Planting exercise

The 42.5 hectares of tree seedlings on the Pantang Hospital and Pantang Nursing Training College are part of more than 222 hectares of seedlings planted in the Greater Accra Region. In all, 8,000 seedlings are being planted nationwide by the recruits.

Other sites include Tomefa, Joma and Agbozume in the Ga South municipality, Achimota ECO Park and West Africa Senior High School in the Adentan municipality.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie said authorities at the hospital gave the commission the land for the tree planting exercise and therefore wondered why the farmers were being recalcitrant.

He said the commission was engaging authorities of the two institutions to settle the issue after which the commission would sign a memorandum of understanding with the hospital for the exercise to continue.

Significance

The Principal of the Pantang Nursing Training College, Mrs Isabella Laryea, expressed concerns over the development and said the tree planting exercise was significant to their environment.

“The tree planting is a welcome idea that will help all of us. We expect that they will come and nurture what they have planted. We do not see why they should be prevented,” she said.

The Administrator of the hospital, Mr Alex Kissi, also noted that: “Apart from serving as windbreaks, the trees and the greenery enhance the recovery of mental health patients. We also have buildings here that are over 40 years and need the trees as windbreaks, we are grateful and will collaborate to make it a success.”

He attributed the misunderstanding between the farmers and the recruits to claims that some of the recruits were rude to the farmers who are staff of the hospital.

“Some of them went to the extent of saying that the trees were more important than the vegetables the farmers had planted,” the administrator further alleged.

State property

A Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, said the hospital was a state facility and, therefore, its lands were being held in trust for the people of Ghana by the President.

“If we send people to plant trees, the hospital staff have no right to say it is conflicting with their personal interest. The trees are for future generations,” he said.

For his part, the Board Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Brigadier General Joseph Odei (retd), expressed satisfaction with work on the sites visited.

He said the value of the work done would be appreciated in five to 10 years when the trees would have grown.