The Winneba District Office of the Forestry Services Division (FSD), has organized separate durbars to educate more than 500 people in four communities surrounding the 'Yenku' Forest Reserve in the Central Region, on the devastating effects of wildfire on their communities and the nation.
Gomoa-Mankoadze, Gomoa-Onyadze, Gomoa-Asebu, and Gomoa-Bewadze were the communities, which benefited from the programme, organized under the auspices of the Wild Fire Management Project (WFMP) and funded by the government through the Forestry Commission (FC), and the Royal Netherlands government.
In attendance were, farmers, palm wine tapers, hunters, charcoal producers, drivers, smokers, fishermen, fishmongers and petty traders, as well as representatives of community forest committees based at Gomoa-Lome, Gomoa-Oguaakrom and Gomoa-Nyekuadze.
Participants were taken through topics like: "Causes of wildfires and its effect on forests and agricultural resources, and other community properties", "Wildfire prevention, suppression and control', 'Wildfire laws in Ghana', 'Community mobilization for wildfire control and other disasters'.
The programme also sensitised the people, particularly farmers and fishermen on the immense profits they stood to gain from the establishment of wood-lot projects or community forest reserves and advised them to embrace the wood-lot and community forest reserve projects being implemented by the government because it would help alleviate their rising economic difficulties.
The Yenku Forest Reserve is vulnerable to fierce and destructive annual wildfire outbreaks, hence the need for the Forestry Services Division to be proactive to avoid the reoccurrence of such devastating fires in the up-coming dry season, which is just around the corner.
Resource persons included Mr Charles Amoah-Akyeampong, Acting Central Regional Manager of the Forest Services Division, Mr Peter Osei-Wusu, Ashanti Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission and Mr Richard Gyasi-Amoako, Winneba District Manager of the Forestry Services Division.
Others were, Mr B K Nketsiah, District Fire Officer, Mr Atoh Doughan, District Co-ordinator, National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), and Mr Joseph Yaw Owusu-Kwarteng, Public Relations Officer of the District Mutual Health Insurance Scheme.
The speakers stressed the need for people living around forest zones to exercise great caution when handling naked fire during the dry season so as to avoid major wildfire outbreaks in such vital areas.
Mr Amoah-Akyeampong emphasized the important role trees played in the socio-economic and physical development of people and the nation and counselled farmers in the four communities who have been allotted portions of land in parts of the 'Yenku' Forest to plant trees under the 'Tonja' forestation project to make good use of the land allocated to them.
Mr Osei-Wusu charged chiefs, assembly members and other opinion leaders in the rural areas to organize programmes to sensitise people in their areas regularly on the dangers posed by indiscriminate burning of the bush at the beginning of every dry season.
This he said would help minimize the high rate of bushfires the nation registered annually and safeguard the interest of farmers whose food crop and other plantations fall victim to such man-made disasters between January and April every year.
He suggested to farmers in rural areas to ensure that meals they would eat on the farms were prepared at home so that there would be no need for them to carry naked fire to the bush for the preparation of meals on their farms.
Mr Nketsiah reminded the people of the PNDC Law 229, which prescribed heavy jail terms and fines or both on people caught setting bushfire and advised them to desist from any acts that might attract such severe penalties.
Mr Nketsiah also advised farmers in the area to always ensure that they created fire belts around their farms and plantations.
Mr Doughan appealed to chiefs to team up with officials of the Ghana National Fire Service to form fire volunteer groups to assist them in times of crisis.
During an open forum participants spoke bitterly against the activities of group hunters and cattle farmers who invaded their farms and destroyed crops during their illegal hunting expeditions in the dry seasons.
Mr Doughan urged the people to report cattle dealers or herdsman who led their animals to destroy food crops to the police.