Mrs Esther Obeng Dapaah, Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines, has called for massive reforestation programmes through plantation development schemes for the reversal of the current trend of forest depletion.
She appealed to Ghanaians to embrace the programmes to secure the raw material base for the timber industry and to improve the environment.
The Minister made the call in a speech read for her at Dormaa-Ahenkro at the signing of a land lease and benefit sharing agreement under the modified Taungya system between the Forestry Commission and the Koradaso 1 and 2 communities in Dormaa District. The agreement would make farm land available to farmers under certain conditions.
Mrs Dapaah said it was important to sustain enthusiasm and interest among plantation developers through transparent benefit sharing schemes that guarantee access and tenure rights to the developers.
'There cannot be any good participatory resource management practice without defining the benefit flows to the resource owning communities who depend directly or indirectly on such resources for their livelihood', she said.
The Minister stated that the agreement was a clear demonstration of the government's dedication and firm commitment to promoting investments in plantation development and also rewarding plantation developers adequately.
Mr Matthew Owusu Abebrese, acting Executive Director of Forest Services Division, said the Division was implementing the modified Taungya system to get forest fringe communities and farmers involved in tree plantation.
'Under the agreement, farmers would be given parcels of degraded forest lands and assisted by the Division to plant trees that will be inter-cropped with food crops.'
Mr Abebrese said farmers would have the chance to harvest their non-permanent food crops till such a time that the canopy of the growing trees would make it impossible for the crops to grow. He said labour provided by the farmers towards the establishment of the plantation 'is treated as equity and documented in the land lease and benefit sharing agreement with the life-span of 50 years and is subjected to renewal after the first 25 year period'.
Mr Abebrese put the benefit sharing ratio for the parties to the agreement at 40 percent for the Forestry Commission as the investor, 40 percent for the farmer, 15 percent for Dormaa Traditional Council as land owner and five percent for the community for being entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the plantation against bushfires.
Mr Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, said the agreement was timely and strategic within the context of government policies aimed at reducing poverty in rural communities.
He said the project was important for the sustenance of forests and forest resources for generations and required the support of all Ghanaians.
Barima Ansu Adjei, Krontihene of Dormaa Traditional council, who presided, assured the Forestry Commission of the council's support for the project, adding that communities implementing the agreement would constantly be reminded to keep bushfires at bay.