Merewa (W/R), March 21, GNA – Timber companies have been urged to abide by the Social Responsibility Agreement (SRA) signed with the forest fringe communities to aid efforts at safeguarding the forest and its resources.
An environmental NGO, ‘Working Group on Forest Certification Ghana’ said everything must be done to make sure that the people directly benefitted from timber resources harvested from their communities.
Mr Emmanuel Amoah Boakye, its Coordinator, said the companies have a duty under the law to provide social amenities – schools, building materials, and educational scholarship, to improve the living conditions of the people in areas, where they operate.
This, he noted, would provide the incentive for the local population to take a more central role in the protection of the forests.
Mr. Boakye, who was speaking at a public forum held at Merewa, near Bibiani in the Western Region, said not less than five per cent of stumpage fee, calculated based on the total number of timber harvested, must be paid to the communities.
The programme, organized by the Group and sponsored by the European Union (EU), was meant to sensitize the people in the community, which lies in the Anwhiaso-East forest reserve, on their responsibilities under the SRA.
It formed part of activities designed to promote the successful implementation of the Ghana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the goal of which is to enhance forest governance and legal timber trade.
Mr Boakye appealed to the local population to take ownership of the forest and help prevent its reckless destruction.
He said, as part of an initiative to reduce illegal logging, the NGO, had formed SRA committees in three forest districts – Bibiani, Sefwi-Wiawso and Juaboso to play advocacy roles.
Mr Samuel Adane, an official of the Group, spoke of the training of people in forest fringe communities in bee-keeping and snail-rearing to provide them with an alternative source of livelihood.
This, he said, could discourage them from encroaching on the forest reserves to harvest trees or connive with companies to fell trees illegally.
Nana Kofi Appiagyei II, the Chief of Merewa, advised the people to take the training programmes on bee-keeping and snail-rearing seriously to improve their situation.
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