ILLEGAL TIMBER MERCHANTS STRIP COMMUNITIES AROUND MOLE NATIONAL PARK OF ROSEWOOD TREES
The people in Murugu community wake up every morning and end each day living from hand to mouth. Their lives, simple as it is, are very much dependent on the natural resources that abound in their environment. Their source of water is from a couple of boreholes and several streams shaded by gallery forest trees like Rosewood, (Pterocarpus erinaceous). Their source of medicine is from the variety of plants and other natural resources in the environment. These communities can barely manage to get their harvested and processes farm products to the market because the roads are very bad and barley accessible during the rainy season. To Murugu and many other such communities around Mole National Park, their source of water, medicine, food, shelter, windbreak, and survival depends on the continuous ability of the land to produce its goods and services.
In recent times however, illegal merchants waving fake permits, and with authority from traditional chiefs and some self-acclaimed ‘palace boys’, have taken siege in these communities harvesting rosewood, plundering what is left of this fragile savanna ecosystem. Just as no one has cared for the hard living conditions of the people in Murugu and in communities like Kaden, Yazori, Kpulumbu, Bawena, Kopoto and the likes, no one is showing concern or care as the destruction of the natural resources continue unabated.
Sadly, the law enforcement agencies that are now equipped and very mobile refuse to act while a few plunder resource for all, enrich themselves with wanton display of dirty money and affluence, breaking down long lasting social order. Unfortunately, responsible agencies like the Forestry Services Division are clearly outnumbered, inadequately equipped, with no support from the police and the traditional authorities who seem to be smiling now, because they stand to benefit from all the illegal extraction of rosewood from around Mole. And what is the West Gonja District Assembly doing? Have you not heard, if you have not seen? This destruction has been going on for far too long, to have passed without notice.
Remote and out of sight, these merchants are churning the remaining life supporting systems out of these poor people. Interestingly enough, the several truckloads of Rosewood logs, pass through Damongo on daily basis, where the ‘palace boys’ inspect the load, take their cut and allow the convoy to move on. The convey moves at snail pace, go past the once diligent police station in Damongo, past the fufulso junction and who knows how many uncountable police check points, to the ports in Accra for transport to Asia. Another route is to go through Sawla, then to Bole, where the Forestry Service Task Force is based and then to Kintampo and onward to our ports in Accra. Pathetic and a great pity, all to enrich a few while the majority of the people wallow in poverty. Roads that were once unmotorable during the rainy season are now one of the most heavily plied routes in West Gonja District. You want proof, just come to West Gonja District and see for yourself. Remote and out of site, animal farm is the law of the day.
Local Chiefs and so called ‘palace boys’ use threatening words to plunder their illegal trade, especially prevent Forestry Service Officers from acting as the laws of the land delegates. People’s rights to a safe environment are now controlled by a few who claim relationship to the elite and powers that be. As it is now, people’s security is also comprised, because people fear to report what is happening in remote areas of West Gonja District. The merchants have taken siege everywhere.
Some traditional leaders are virtually sucking the blood out of the already impoverished communities they claim to lead. Leadership by receiving and taking by force is not leadership at all. Leadership is service to the people, identifying the people’s need and working diligently as a leader and with the people to address them, not in the short-term but in the long-term. Truth be told, it’s about time leadership here take the bulls by the horns and deal with the carnage that is destroying the environment of this fragile ecosystem. Too much damage is done already, and to pretend nothing is happening is suicidal. Unfortunately, in the time of famine, the rich continue to live as if there if bounty harvest.
Local merchant contractors for rosewood hitherto barely making a living, now ride in cars and others change motor bikes at the detriment of the many, whose lives depend on the environment. Is this the kind of legacy we want to leave our children, a life without toil, but of much gain?
There is only one thing we can learn from the illegal merchants and that is their tenacity, and their conviction that if a resource brings money within a short-term then no place is a no go area. If government were to attach the same commitment and tenacity to providing these communities in remote and around important ecosystems like Mole National Park with basic life supporting needs and ensuring transparent social and natural resource governance mechanisms, surely these illegal activities would not have been condoned. At the moment they are just leeches that need to be plugged out of the system, else the system collapse from disorder and massive deforestation.
Our society has lost the moral fiber of hard work, dedication to duty, patriotism, and neighborliness to one which respects people who show opulence with ill-gotten money. Some officers of the law enforcement agencies, some traditional authority leaders are definitely benefitting from these illegal activities, otherwise there is no reason why these illegal activities should continue. A nation without law and order is a nation doomed to fail. You can also tell the prosperity of a nation by the way it treats its animals and plants.
With all these destruction, one cannot but to put the blame at the door steps of the law enforcement agencies, for failing to act decisively, and providing the necessary support and enabling environments for communities to act to protect their communities against such merchants who will stop at nothing at the price of timber. At the end of the day, when all the rosewood trees are cut, the environment degraded, communities left poorer than before, who will come to the aid of the communities? Sadly and pathetic at it seems, the households of these illegal merchants and their cohorts will continue to feed at least five times a day, and live lavishly in glass and tiled houses whiles people in Murugu, Kaden, Yazori, Kpulumbu and Bawena and many such communities will struggle daily to keep a bowl of TZ and Okro soup in front of their children.
Don’t we feel guilty enough for refusing to act to solve this carnage stripping communities of their livelihoods, while a few enrich themselves?
It is just unthinkable that this carnage started since the beginning of the year and nothing has been done to arrest this situation. Is anyone concerned enough to listen to the cry from the remote and out of sight areas.
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