Minister appeals to chiefs to stand firm

Minister appeals to chiefs to stand firm

15 February 2011

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Ghana — Mr. Sam Nasamu Asabigi, Deputy Northern Regional Minister, has appealed to chiefs to stand firm in enforcing bye-laws on the prevention of bushfires and the destructive activities of alien Fulani herdsmen in their communities.

He said the government, the constitution and the laws of the country were fully behind them and they should therefore not hesitate in applying the law when it is aimed at protecting the environment. Mr. Asabigi said this at a two-day workshop organised for chiefs on the menace of bushfires in Northern Ghana in Tamale on Monday.

The workshop was collaboration between the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It was on the theme: Integration of indigenous knowledge into bushfire management practices in Northern Ghana, the central role of traditional authorities and their communities”. Mr. Asabigi said the annual deforestation rate in the country had been averaging 65,000 hectares per year since independence and that Ghana’s primary rainforest had been reduced by 90 percent. He said in 2010 the total forest area was 4,940,000 hectares adding that this was as a result of a number of factors including the activities of illegal chain saw operators and bush fires in some forest reserves. The Deputy Minister called for stronger enforcement of forestry and wildlife policies and strategies to ensure that forest and wildlife resources were managed on economically sound principles.

“Streamlining institutional responsibilities, strengthening inter-agency coordination and strict enforcement of policies and associated legislation on forestry will help ensure sustainable natural resource and bio-diversity conservation in the country”, Mr. Asabigi said.

Dr. Nicholas Iddi, National Coordinator of the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP), said the intensity and magnitude of bushfires had increased over the years, particularly in the three northern regions which had led to a frequency of drought conditions.

He said the most recent of these dry drought conditions occurred in 1970, 1975, 1977, 1983 and 2007 and brought about low precipitation or rainfall which affected the water level of the Akosombo Dam. Dr Iddi said the consequences of bushfires impinged on food insecurity, famine and poverty resulting in social, economic and political tensions which create conflicts, impoverishment, land degradation and the loss of livelihoods.

Dr. Iddi said it was in recognition of the key role traditional authorities played in the fight against bushfires that the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology was looking beyond government legislation, laws and bye-laws and to critically examine the long tested traditional beliefs and practices in bushfire management.

He said it was in line with this that, government was receiving support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to strengthen Ghanaian institutions and rural communities to enable them reverse land degradation in the three northern regions and adopt sustainable land and water management systems that improve food security and reduce poverty.

To achieve this objective, Dr. Iddi said there was the need for the citizens to change their attitudes and actions on bush burning and rather undertake positive actions such as tree planting, soil and water conservation and improved controlled grazing to improve the environment and their livelihoods.

Mr. Abu Iddrisu, Northern Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the first phase of the implementation of the GEMP had already been undertaken with the formation of over 100 environmental management communities formed in the regions, while several workshops and seminars had also been organised for key stakeholders. He said under the second phase of the project 79 proposals had been received from several stakeholders and urged the chiefs and landowners to take advantage of the GEMP and improve it through their district assemblies. “This is the time to reverse the poverty levels in the three northern regions. It is our collective responsibility”, he said.

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