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26.11.2004 Regional News

Involve local people in development plans - Expert

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Accra, Nov. 26, GNA - Mr Francis S. Amoah, Director, Plantation and Development Department of the Forestry Commission, on Friday said to achieve sustainable forestry and food security, local communities should be involved in the management and development of the country's natural resources.

He said if the local people were involved at the decision making level, they would be more committed towards protecting the resources put under their care.

Mr Amoah was speaking at a roundtable discussion on: "Sustainable Forestry for Food Security" organized by the Ghana Agricultural Workers' Union (GAWU) of the TUC in collaboration with Action Aid, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO).

He said if care were not taken, the rate at which the forest was being depleted would lead to food insecurity in the near future. Mr Amoah said the Forestry Commission had introduced a system in which bonuses were given to communities that would not have any bushfire throughout the year.

He said incentives were preconditions for improved and sustained income base of the rural people to motivate them to check and protect illegal acts in handling natural resources.

Globally, 16 million hectares of forests are depleted annually, while Africa's annual depletion figure stood at 15 million hectares. Out of this, 65,000 hectares of forests are being depleted in Ghana annually, he said, and called for measures to avert the situation. Speaking on "The Role of the Media in Promoting Sustainable Forestry for Food Security, Mr Samuel Osei-Frimpong, a Chief Reporter at the Ghana News Agency (GNA), said the media in Ghana tended to give more coverage to political stories than developmental issues such as environment, health and education.

He said in Ghana, almost everybody talked about politics not just because they loved the topic but it was because the media fed them consistently with political issues.

Mr Osei-Frimpong cited the case of the media in India, which activeness in putting into the public domain the threat on their environment and food security had gain that country with food sufficiency.

He said India had cut a pro-food security philosophy in a bigger concept of development-oriented Journalism to the extent that with her large population "Indians never go hungry because the media there never goes quiet over the least threat to food security".

Mr Osei-Frimpong called for scholarship and training programmes for Journalists to equip them with the necessary skills and tools to enable them to be at the top of environmental issues like forestry and food security.

"Those who work in the media must never be allowed to forget that they are there to serve the people. They must not be exclusively concerned with the polishing of a professional product or become simply operators keeping the media machinery going."

The Reverend Dr Samuel Asuming-Brempong, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness of the University of Ghana, said some time past, Ghana was able to produce her own food to feed her people but now the emphasis had shifted from food self-sufficiency to food security because the "Operation Feed Yourself Programme" was abandoned. He stressed the need to re-introduce that programme and modify it to suit the country's situation and food needs.

"We must also try to move from producing raw materials to value added products to generate more revenue to cater for things that we cannot produce locally."

Mr Raymond Okrofu, Coordinating Officer, GAWU, said although Ghana had made great strides in reducing poverty and thereby ensuring food security, there were still many Ghanaians, whose basic needs including food remained unmet.

This situation he attributed to inequitable distribution of resources, unfair trade agreements, low incomes and socio-cultural practices as well as unacceptable high population growth rates and unnecessary ethnic conflicts.

Mr Okrofu said not until the sustainable use of forest resources became the most viable choice for rural people, the destruction of these resources, as a source of physical access to food would continue. He said the local people, who were collectively responsible for the bulk of deforestation were not ignorant about the value of trees and the forest; they simply saw no alternative.

"For GAWU and for that matter the Trades Union Movement, it is clear that fundamental human needs take precedence over economic imperatives.

"The goal of any sane and responsible player in the world economy must be to achieve at the minimum, global food security and sustainable development, in a society, where those who feed the rest of the world are able to feed themselves and to work in conditions of dignity."

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