Accra, Oct. 3, GNA - A three-member team of fire specialists from the United States Forest Service is in the country to assist Ghana implement her 10-year Wildfire Management Project (WFMP). The project, which commenced in 2002, seeks to promote a programme of forest rehabilitation through fire prevention and control in ensuring the generation of economic and environmental benefits, which include an increase in water supply and quality with increasing tree cover and biomass.
The team led by Ms Blessing Asnguo, Africa Programme Specialist of the US Department of Agriculture, on Monday met with the Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Mr Andrews Adjei-Yeboah for discussions before moving to the project sites.
As part of their schedule, members of the team are to undertake feasibility studies of the design and site selected for the construction of fire detection towers, fire suppression and equipment needs and training needs assessment for detection and suppression of wildfire. At the meeting, which was attended by members of the steering committee of the project, Mr Adjei-Yeboah said the forest degradation had become one of the major problems of natural resource management, which had been factored mainly by annual wildfires.
He said wildfires alone accounted for an annual loss of three per cent of gross domestic product estimated at 210 million dollars. Wildfires were therefore a major concern for Ghana as majority of livelihoods was dependent on forest.
He explained that the Governments of Ghana and the Royal Netherlands developed the project, which was being implemented in the transition zone where wildfires occurred almost every year. Mr Adjei-Yeboah said significant progress had so far been made for the establishment of a network of fire detection, monitoring and communication systems within the project areas due to lack of technical expertise.
"It is for this reason that the Government of Ghana has sought long and short-term technical assistance from the Government of the United States to support the WFMP."
He said, he was hopeful that the cooperation would provide Ghana with the necessary support to be able to deal with wildfire issues on a more systematic approach rather than the current ad hoc approaches being used.
Ms Asnguo expressed the hope that the right support would be given to the team for them to give the needed technical support and recommendations as they toured the forests in the Ashanti region. Mr Owusu-Abebrese, Chairman of the Steering Committee, said the Netherlands Government had assisted the project with a grant of 12 million euros while Ghana had given 6.7 million euros as her support. He said the team was to visit selected forest areas and advice Ghana on areas to mount fire towers and the kind of fire tenders to buy to "enter the forest easily to prevent any fire outbreak."