Greening Ghana project: More jobs for the youth

The President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, has directed the national security apparatus to strengthen security networks to ensure the swift arrest and prosecution of illegal loggers and chainsaw operators.

He gave the directive at Abofour in the Offinso North District in Ashanti Wednesday when he launched a national forest plantation development programme dubbed, “Greening the Environment for a Better Ghana”.

The programme aims at arresting the depletion of the country’s forests and creating over 51,000 jobs for the youth in the next five years.

The country’s forest resources, which were estimated at 8.2 million hectares in 1900, have now been reduced to just 1.2 million hectares.

The President said the activities of illegal loggers and chainsaw operators had not only deprived the nation of huge revenue over the years but also contributed to environmental degradation in diverse ways.

“We can no longer sit by and encourage the degradation of our forest resources and forest reserves,” he warned, adding, “The practice of people entering gazetted forest reserves for cropping is unacceptable and will not be allowed to continue without the appropriate sanctions being applied.”

The afforestation programme is also designed to develop a sustainable forest resource base within the next three years to satisfy the future demand for industrial timber and enhance environmental quality, thus relieving the pressure on the ‘natural forest.

It is also aimed at restoring the degraded forest cover of the country, reducing wood deficit and improving the quality of the environment.

Expressing concern over the selfish interest of illegal chainsaw operators and loggers, President Mills noted that “illegal loggers and chainsaw operators do not only undertake their activities with sophisticated weapons but also operate at odd hours as a way of outwitting the security agencies”.

President Mills pointed out that the tin1e had come for the mobilisation of resources not only to protect the forest and wildlife resources but also go on the offensive and recreate or regenerate those resources.

He said the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission had been directed to collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism “to develop strategies to protect our tourism sites and river bodies not only for job creation but also our survival”.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Collins Dauda, said the activities of illegal chainsaw operators had contributed to the destruction of forest resources in the country.

He pointed out that the nation continued to lose as many as 65,000 hectares of forest resources each year and said the onus lay on all to embrace the national forest plantation development to enhance its success.

He said the programme would be implemented in all parts of the country and also offer employment avenues to the youth to reduce the unemployment problem in the country.

He appealed to chiefs to collaborate with the government by releasing land for the programme.

He also appealed to the private sector to invest in the new programme to enable the country to meet its local demand for wood products.

The Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Opoku Manu said the programme proved that the government was committed to the protection of the environment.

Source: Daily Graphic