A forum to discuss re-afforestation, environmental sustainability and tourism potentials in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area has been organised at Bunso near Kyebi in the Eastern Region.
Under an initiative, code-named "Forest Okyeman Project", the discussants shared ideas on how best to undertake re-afforestation in the area and ensure its sustainability, as well as study its tourism potentials.
Establishments involved are the Abuakwa Traditional Area, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Volunteers, with funding from the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security.
Present at the forum were representatives from the various United Nations (UN) bodies, Minerals Commission, Forestry Commission, Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Education Service (GES), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Department of Gender, Faith-Based Organisations and traditional rulers.
The Forest Okyeman Project, which started in March 2021, spans over three years and is expected to end in March 2024.
The project aims at fostering restoration, environmental sustainability and tourism in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area.
It is also to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through a multi-stakeholder, community-based approach to sustainable livelihoods and well-being of the people in the affected communities.
Leading the discussion, which took place on the campus of the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies, Bunso last Wednesday, the UNDP Forest Specialist in Ghana, Ayirebi Frimpong, said nurseries would be established in 30 communities to supply tree seedlings for the Okyenhene's tree planting initiative in about 100 communities within the Akyem Abuakwa area.
That development, he indicated, would cover the three-year duration of the project, which according to Mr Frimpong, would restore the ecology of the area.
He explained that the project would ensure the proper management of the eco-system, taking into consideration the use of land for the cultivation of crops.
He said the process was in line with equipping communities in managing their environment and that his outfit would follow all that had been discussed to ensure the success of the project.
The Asomkahene, who is also the Kyebi Kyidompanin, Nana Fredua-Okotomih Agyeman, who represented the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, said the project would be beneficial to Okyeman since it would lead to the re-afforestation of the neighbourhoods.
He said, for instance, it would lead to the planting of economic tree species that would ultimately help to further green Kyebi and its environs.
Nana Agyeman stated that the project would also create employment opportunities for the teeming youth of the area, especially with regards to the planting of trees.
He lauded the UNDP and WHO, as well as its collaborators, for supporting the initiative.
Nana Agyeman called for more funding for the project, which according to him, would not be limited to only three years but would be extended.
The Executive Secretary of the Okyeman Environment Foundation, Gyimah Amoako-Gyimah, said the project had been the first of its kind and that the UNDP and other partners were collaborating with the traditional authorities in the Akyem Abuakwa area to implement the Okyeman Project.
"We are rolling out the project in the various communities within the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area so that the people will benefit directly from the initiative.
"We are also building structures in the communities for them to receive sustainable incomes through sustainable livelihoods.
"We have five divisional chiefs within the traditional area who will be spearheading the project in the beneficiary communities.
"Thirty nurseries in Okyeman and each division will have six of the nurseries but in towns that do not have, the chiefs have been asked to make available land for that purpose,” Mr Amoako-Gyimah stated.
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Abuakwa South, Akosua Asabea Annor, said Ghana's dense forest areas, which included Akyem Abuakwa, had experienced deforestation over the past decade due to socio-economic activities such as illegal logging, mining, expansion in agricultural land use, bad agricultural practices and wildfires, among others.
The 2020 Ghana Country Environmental Analysis, she indicated, showed that such activities had contributed greatly to the loss of about 30 per cent of Ghana's forest cover in the Eastern Region alone.
Mrs Annor said the project sought to provide sustainable means of addressing key challenges in the area relating to economic, environmental, political and health insecurities.
She stated that there was relatively a high unemployment rate in the municipality due to the lack of job opportunities to meet the demands of the growing population.
That, according to the MCE, had resulted in reduced incomes for agricultural households, forcing people into illegal logging and mining activities.
The government, Mrs Annor said, would continue to enforce existing laws on mining and lumbering through its agencies and security personnel to deal with people who engaged in illegal mining and logging activities.