Accra, Nov 16, GNA - Ghana risks losing large hectares of arable lands due to the practice by most pineapple farmers in clearing trees and other soil cover to plant the non-traditional cash crop. Mr Michael Yao Tomfeah, Chairman of Africa Reforestation Union (AWV), a non-governmental organisation, said the monoculture approach to the cultivation of pineapple was not sustainable since it leads to land degradation after three years of continuous farming. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, he said the practice was also promoting shifting cultivation, which is not a good farming practice.
''Planting of pineapple fields along side fruit trees such as mango was the best means of enhancing soil fertility.''
He said AWV, in collaboration with Afrika Wiederaufforstungsverein e.V (Ed. Correct), an international non-governmental organisation, have initiated a pilot project at Aburi to encourage mixed cropping by pineapple farmers.
Mr Tomfeah said a meeting with the Aburi Pineapple Growers' Association led by Mr Albert Quansah, the President, had impressed upon the farmers the need to replant deserted lands with fruit trees. He said AWV and its international partner were restoring 7,863 hectares of totally degraded at Asubima Forest Reserve in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The 13 communities in the project areas have been provided with wells and trained to start tree nurseries to assist them to replenish the reserve and start sustainable farming. Mr Tomfeah said the organisation was collaborating with the Forestry Department to encourage the beneficiary communities to adopt the Taungya system - planting of trees and food crops on the same piece of land.
He said making fuel wood available to the people would check environmental degradation through the cutting of trees for energy. AWV has also provided a truck to transport the seedlings and cash crops, while five dams are to be constructed to facilitate the harvesting of rainwater
The dams would be provided with hunting stands to enable hunters to do selective hunting of animals. The first phase of the project, which started in 2002 and ended 2004, had been replaced with a second phase, which would last for three years.
AWU, Mr Tomfeah said, aimed at assisting the youth to stop shifting cultivation and rather combine farming activities with agro-forestry. Mr Emmanuel K. Mensah, an official with AWU, said the organisation had projects in the Brong Ahafo, Volta, Northern, Eastern and Central regions.
He said a new project would start at Ada in the Greater Accra Region.