The Paramount Chief of Sefwi Wiawso in the Western North Region, Katakyie Kwasi Bumangama II, meets the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, to map out strategies on how to preserve forests and forest reserves.
This was during a ceremony to launch the 'Just Rural Transition Programme' in London last Thursday.
Katakyie Bumangama II, whose region was once the leading producer of cocoa in Ghana, expressed worry about decline in yields due to ageing and diseased farms, and insecure farmland tenure.
He said before the forest reserves were constituted and gazetted, there were some family settlements with farms in the areas, which were hitherto demarcated for protection and legally accepted as admitted farms.
The paramount chief said weak enforcement of regulations had allowed settlements to expand into forests, and the Forestry Commission was struggling to get such encroachers out.
“We cannot continue with the status quo. Together we now have an opportunity to drive reform, make real changes to the way land and natural resources are managed, and in the way all stakeholders – farmers, companies, governments and civil society – engage in the production of cocoa and food crops,” he said.
Katakyie Bumangama II, who is an experienced cocoa farmer, expressed delight in the 'Just Rural Transition Programme' which he promised to be championing in his area to bring about the transformative change towards a more resilient landscape where his people, their livelihoods, food and nature can co-exist.
He, however, commended government, COCOBOD and the Forestry Commission for the reforms being introduced in Ghana, including the increase in cocoa price for farmers, re-introduction of agric extension officers for artificial pollination, pruning of cocoa trees as well as the re-planting of trees in all cocoa farms and the youth in afforestation programmes.
He said a Forest Reserve Encroachment Remediation Committee — to identify, map and profile all illegal farms and settlements and developed a grandfathering and remediation plan to plant trees, reduce expansion and as well as ensure that cocoa companies do not buy from those profiled illegal farms — had been set up and some traditional authorities were involved in the programme.
On his part, the Prince of Wales promised to support countries and communities who are determined to fight climate change.
He highly commended the paramount chief for his efforts to preserve the remaining forest reserves in his area and pledged his full support for any assistance towards sustaining what is left.