Assin Foso (C/R) March 24 GNA - Mr Samuel Boachie-Dapaah, Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, has announced that a total of 167 companies and private entrepreneurs have over the past three years, been allocated a total of 35,000 hectares of degraded forest reserves to replant under the National Forest Plantation Development Programme. He said the companies had so far planted 9,318 hectares and that the Commission had established a plantation development unit to enable it to meet the challenges posed by the expanding forest plantation estates.
Mr Boachie-Dapaah said this at the national launching of the Community Forestry Management Project (CFMP) at Assin Foso under the theme: "Promoting Community Forestry Management".
The Project, which spans a period of six years, and would be executed in six districts in five regions, is to enhance the livelihood of people, create jobs and alleviate poverty through better and prudent management of the forest.
It is being sponsored by the Africa Development Bank, the Government through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Relief Fund and would promote cottage industries like beekeeping, mushroom production and grass-cutter rearing
It would in addition, involve the construction of feeder roads in the selected districts to facilitate transportation of goods and services to the urban areas.
Mr Boachie-Dapaah said in 2002, the Commission was able to plant 17,461 hectares of plantations within degraded forests throughout the country and that last year, 17,691 hectares were planted, and that 65 per cent of the plantations established, consisted of teak.
The Commission, he said, would this year, need about 42 billion cedis to plant 30,000 hectares, adding that the nation needed about 400,000 hectares of forest plantation to meet projected domestic industrial timber demands.
In a speech read for Professor Dominic Fobih, Minister of Land and Forestry, he observed that the nation's forest cover had been reduced from 8.2 million hectares to 1.66 hectares, as a result of outmoded agricultural practices, unbridled timber harvesting, bushfires and surface mining.
He said the over dependence on timber for construction and other ancillary works had also contributed to the depletion of the forest and, therefore, called for other alternatives to wood, for sustenance. He said he was happy that under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on Forest Plantations, launched three years ago, 47,500 hectares of plantation had so far been established, resulting in the creation of 150,000 jobs. He said in addition, it was estimated that more than 120,000 metric tons of food crops including maize, plantain, yams and cassava worth billions of cedis have been produced from the replanted degraded forest reserves since the inception of the Project.
Prof. Fobih announced that 200 hectares of Apimanim and Baku Forest Reserves were under cultivation for rehabilitation and that 200 youth from Assin were being recruited for employment. In addition 50 youth would soon be employed for the District Urban Forestry Component. He called on the beneficiary communities to embrace, own and nurture the project, adding that the Government had plans to replicate the project in the remaining regions to make it a national project after the pilot phase.
A representative of the ADB, Mrs Veronica Sackey, said the Bank had since 1975, assisted the Government with 800 million dollars, covering about 80 projects, and that it was currently, sponsoring 30 projects including livestock and food crop production.
Madam Theresa Tagoe, Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry, later inaugurated a nine-member District Community Forestry Management Steering Committee for the area.