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13.12.2004 Business & Finance

2.5-million dollar micro-credit scheme for forest areas

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Kumasi, Dec. 13, GNA - People in 30 forest areas across the country are to benefit from a 2.5-million dollar Community Investment Fund (CIF) under the High Forest Biodiversity Conservation Project. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank would provide the funds that would be managed by the ARB Apex Bank. The beneficiaries will be expected to invest in eco-friendly micro-enterprises activities and the production of non-timber products among others.

Mr J.E. Otoo, acting Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, said these at a day's orientation workshop for officials from selected Rural Banks, through which the funds would be channelled at in Kumasi, on Monday.

The Project was aimed at conserving areas of exceptionally high biological diversity for national and global benefits. Mr Otoo said to achieve this invariably, would require putting in place measures that would curtail access to forest resources by "forest fringe communities."

He said it was therefore proper to make available to people in such areas, alternative livelihood opportunities to reduce poverty among them and bring down their over-dependence on the dwindling forest resources. Mr Oppong Sasu, Coordinator of the Project, said disbursement of the Fund would begin early next year and that Community Fund Management Committees and the National Fund Committee to oversee the efficient management of the fund had been established.

Mr Atta Owusu, Ashanti Regional Manager of the Forest Services Division (FSD) of the Forestry Commission, noted that the CIF was crucial for the conservation of the country's biodiversity. He expressed the hope that the workshop would come out with effective arrangements to ensure that monies given out were recovered on time so that the facility could be extended to others.

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