Koforidua, Mar.1, GNA- The Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Prof. Dominic Fobih, has assured workers of the Government Plantations Development Programme (GPDP), that the handing over of the Urban Forestry component of the programme to the various District Assemblies in which the projects are located would not affect the security of their jobs.
He said their salaries and other benefits would continue to be paid by the Ministry until proper arrangements were put in place for their payment by the assemblies or they are transferred to another component of the programme under the Ministry.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony of the New Juaben Municipality Urban Forestry Project at Koforidua on Wednesday, Prof. Fobih announced that the current wage of 12,000 cedis for the workers had been raised to 16,000 cedis in line with the new minimum wage to improve upon their well-being.
The GPDP is one of the mechanisms designed to achieve the objective of the National Forest Plantation Development Programme, launched in September, 2001 by the President J.A. Kufuour as a Presidential Special Initiative(PSI), funded from HIPC allocations. Prof. Fobih explained that the handing over of the supervision and management of the urban forestry project became necessary to enable the Ministry focus on plantation activities in forest reserves, which was also a component of the programme.
He said apart from achieving a favourable afforrestation that would provide timber for industries in the country in future, the programme had created direct jobs for 13,229 people and produced over 15,000 tones of food to supplement efforts of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) through the tree planting exercise.
The Minister told them that the Ministry had paid all the SSNIT contributions in respect of all workers under the programme since its inception, saying it was therefore left with the SSNIT to accredit them with numbers to enable them register with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The National Co-ordinator of the GPDP, Nana Yaw Osei Barimah, said the programme had other objectives such as protection of water bodies, establishing parks and securing government plots to check encroachment. He indicated that in the Eastern Region, a total of 400 hectares of different species had been planted in six selected districts with New Juaben Municipality alone planting 150 hectares and creating job opportunities for 54 people out of the 269 total workforce in the region.
He said other districts that had benefited from the programme's 29.8 billion cedis allocated to the region are Birim North, Akuapem North and South, West Akyem and Kwahu South.
Nana Yaw Osei Barimah said, the trees planted included acassia, which could serve as fuel woods in five years time. The New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, Nana Akwasi Adjei Boateng, assured the Minister of his Assembly's preparedness to maintain the project to ensure that the government's initiative was not undermined.
He pledged to co-operate fully with the Ministry on measures to shift the responsibility of the payment of salary to the Municipal Assembly to maintain the already planted trees and if possible expand to areas that the programme had not reached. Prof. Fobih, who earlier paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Eastern Regional Minister, Ms Susana Mensah, and toured the project sites in the municipality expressed satisfaction at the work done so far and expressed the hope that this would be replicated in the other districts. Mar. 1, 06