Forest reserves in the Bono, Bono East and the Ahafo regions, which formed the erstwhile Brong Region, have suffered a lot of degradation over the years as a result of wildfires, illegal logging and charcoal production.
The situation has also been attributed to the expansion of farms, particularly cocoa farms and cattle grazing, among other factors.
The Forestry Commission has a total of 21 forest reserves in the three regions and, according to officials, all of them have witnessed some degree of degradation.
Forest rangers of the commission have had difficulties patrolling the vast forest reserves due to the limited number of staff and inadequate logistics.
Youth in Agriculture and Afforestation
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The challenges notwithstanding, the commission has been busy implementing a number of afforestation programmes to restore portions of the reserves that have been degraded.
Through the Youth in Agriculture and Agriculture Module of the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), a total of 2,576.55 hectares of degraded portions of the forest reserves have been replanted.
The Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission, Dr Ebenezer Djagbletey, told the Daily Graphic that the replanting exercises were done in forest reserves in Sunyani, Bechem, Goaso, Atebubu and Dormaa.
According to him, the programme, which began in August last year, had so far been successful and expressed the hope that the coming rainy season would ensure the survival of the thousands of seedlings that have been planted.
“Our success at the end of the day will depend on how we will be able to fight wildfires, which are largely caused by hunters and illegal chainsaw operators and this we are prepared to do in order not to let our sweat and toil go down the drain,” Dr Djagbletey declared.
He said the intensification of patrols within the forest reserves were gradually yielding positive results as some culprits who were arrested recently had been prosecuted and fined, jailed or both to serve as a deterrent to people who had made it their habit to illegally enter the various forest reserves to cause havoc.
For example, he said, on February 18, 2019 the Sunyani District Court, presided by Mr Jojo Hagan, sentenced a rat hunter, Kwame Kuutire, 21, to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour for setting fire in the Tain II Forest Reserve at Addae, near Berekum, and destroying 70-acres of teak plantation.
The court also jailed a herdsman, Abubakari Buuba, 21, for six months in hard labour for entering the Tain II Forest Reserve on Thursday, February 15, 2019 with 500 cattle for pasture without permission from the Forestry Commission.
Early on, the court also jailed 18-year-old Daniel Kofi Gontog and Albert Ngmeni for six months each for entering the Mpameso Forest Reserve in the Dormaa-Ahenkro area to engage in illegal chainsaw operation while two other persons, Prince Damoah and Mohammed Alhassan, had also been jailed for 12-months each for similar offence within the same reserve.
Over the past three weeks, a total of 20 people have either been jailed, fined or both for entering the various forest reserves in the area to engage in illegal activities such as felling of trees, setting fire cattle and grazing, Dr Djagbletey said.
Furthermore, he said, more than 3,000 chainsaw machines used by the perpetrators to fell trees and a number of motorbikes and trucks had also been confiscated.
Dr Djagbletey said in addition to the tough measure against perpetrators, the commission would continue to engage traditional authorities, opinion leaders as well as residents of the various forest-fringe communities in the fight against forest degradation.
“If we continue to degrade our forest reserves, we are endangering the lives of the people by denying them of the benefits of such reserves,” he stressed
Dr Djagbletey said Ghanaians needed to ponder over the axiom, “when the last tree dies, the last man dies” and change their negative attitude towards forest reserves, explaining that the heat currently being experienced in the country was the result of environmental degradation.