Breman Baako (C/R), July 28, GNA- Prof Dominic Fobih, Minister of Land and Forestry, has announced that stumpage fees and royalties for chiefs in forest reserve communities have been increased by more than 50 per cent.
The increase would motivate them to help curb the activities of illegal timber operators.
Prof Fobih, who announced this at a durbar at Baako after inspecting some of the President's Special Initiative (PSI) forestry programmes in the Central Region, told the chiefs to use the fees and royalties for projects that would be beneficial to the whole community. The Minister also visited some of the HIPC plantation development projects at cape Coast, Assin Foso and Winneba.
He urged communities along the forest reserves to see the reserves as their property and ensure that they protect them from the activities of illegal chain saw operators.
Prof Fobih expressed satisfaction at the operations of the PSI Plantation, HIPC plantation, urban forestry and participatory forest management project and said 85 billion cedis have been spent on the two projects.
Mr John Elledey, the Regional Director of Forest Service Division of the Forestry Commission, commended the workers for the work done and said within three years, 917 hectares of degraded land had been rehabilitated.
He said under the Forestry Commission's policy to partner fringe communities in the management, protection and development of forest resources, 84 communities have been formed with 876 members trained and equipped to manage the project.
Mr Elledey said 134 people have also been selected from some forest fringe communities in the region and have been trained to benefit from Forestry Division Alternative Livelihood Scheme like snail farming, bee keeping and grass-cutter rearing.
He expressed concern about illegal timber operation in the Fosu and Breman Asikuma areas and said that all efforts by the staff of FSD to contain the situation, has not yielded the desired impact. This is because not only do the illegal operators out number their staff but that they were armed to the teeth.
He called on the Ministry of Defence to allow military personnel to assist in flushing out the illegal operators especially at Baku forest to avoid devastation.
Nana Adu Twum II, Chief of Baako, denied allegation that he was involved in illegal timber operation and that since he was enstooled five years ago, he had been championing the fight against illegal chainsaw operators.
He suggested that the communities living along the forest reserves be given the power to arrest and punish illegal timber operators. Mr Kofi Yeboah, a supervisor at the Baako HIPC plantation project, called on the Ministry of Land and Forestry to increase their salary and to provide them with Wellington boots, cutlasses and raincoats to facilitate their work.