Mankessim (B/A), Sept 21, GNA - Illegal sale of land and farming activities in the Desiri Forest Reserve in the Asutifi district of the Brong-Ahafo region, have sparked off controversies and accusations among farmers living on the fringes of the reserve. Some farmers are alleged to have bought and entered the reserve illegally to cultivate large tracts of cocoa farms and food crops in the forest.
Officials of some commercial plantation development companies, who have acquired portions of the degraded forest reserves for re-afforestation, have also sold parts of their concessions to individual farmers and collected huge sums of money from them. These came to light at a meeting with farmers on the fringe communities of the reserve and officials of the Forestry Commission (FC) at Mankessim near Dadiesoaba on Tuesday. The meeting initiated by Alhaji Collins Dauda, Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, was aimed at addressing the issues and prevent further farming activities, which could destroy the forest reserve.
It was realized at the meeting that farmers paid between 220,000 cedis and 250,000 cedis per acre of the land and have planted food crops and cocoa instead of trees to replenish the reserve. Currently, about 20 per cent of the 150.2 square-kilometre forest reserve is under serious illegal farming activities. The chiefs and people of Dadiesoaba, traditional owners of the land which was acquired by the Government for the forest reserve, have expressed grave concern about the current situation in the reserve and have therefore, constituted a taskforce to monitor activities in the reserve and ensure that the farmers planted trees. Activities of the taskforce have, sometimes, led to serious confrontations in the communities and this attracted the attention of Alhaji Dauda to convene the meeting.
Addressing the farmers, Mr Emmanuel Atta Owusu, Ashanti Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission, advised them not to buy land in the reserve from anyone and report individuals or groups of people who attempted to sell portions of the reserve to them. He appealed to the farmers to desist from planting cocoa in the reserve and warned that all cocoa plantations in the reserve would be destroyed.
Mr Owusu urged the farmers to plant trees along side their food crops to help restore the forest for posterity.
He also advised the people in the communities to form groups in order that portions of the degraded reserves could be released to them for farming activities and re-afforestation.
Alhaji Dauda, advised the people to desist from acts that might compel the Government to deny them portions of the reserve for farming activities.
He urged the farmers to report people who engaged in illegal activities in the reserve to ensure that the forest was protected. Nana Atta Mensah, Dadiesoabahene, expressed concern about the wanton destruction of the reserve by farmers who had turned the forest into cocoa farms.
He said the situation if not checked immediately could compel his people to also enter the reserve and farm.
Nana Mensah regretted that the illegal farmers were felling trees planted in the reserve in 1983 by the community to restore the forest.