In the advent of climate change where governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), as well as individual professional bodies championing the course of tree planting and inclusive forest governance to address the negative impacts of climate change on the environment, some cocoa farming forest fringe communities in Ghana have vowed to kill-off naturally occurring trees as well as matured trees on their farms if authorities from the Forestry Commission of Ghana fail to address their concerns.
According to them, their only livelihoods are being destroyed by nefarious activities of some timber contractors who claimed to have been given concessions to log timber in their farms (off-reserve areas) without their consent.
Aside felling the trees (timber) which they (the farmers) have nurtured and help to grow over decades without their consent, the processes involving the logging destroys large numbers of their farm produce, cocoa and other cash crops with little or no compensation from the timber companies.
A visit to some of the affected farms in Western North Region revealed a very horrible and hopeless situation. Most Cocoa farms, and food crops have all been destroyed by the activities of the loggers leaving farmers and their dependents completely shuttered.
Narrating her ordeal, Owusua (Not Actual Name), who is a mother told our Correspondent Franklin ASARE-DONKOH, that her piece of the destroyed cocoa farm was bequeathed to her and her younger siblings by their late parents.
According to her cocoa farm was their only livelihood, catering for herself, her children and younger siblings who are in various stages of the educational ladder. Due to the unfortunate destruction of our farm, she cannot feed her family let alone catering for their educational.
The visibly horrified mother of four told this Reporter that an operator engaged by a contractor to log in her farm threatened to trap her with the tree he was felling if she stays on her own farm. “They maltreat us knowing we are villagers and cannot engage the services of lawyers” she said sadly.
Another cocoa farmer, Opanin Mensah expressing his disgust at what he described as disdain and blatant disrespect to human right and to their persons told this journalist he had the shock of his life when he saw the destruction done to his farm the morning after the logging.
“When I later found the contractor and demanded compensation, they offered to pay me just two Ghana Cedis (Ghc2) for each cocoa tree destroyed. This is an insult.
I’m not being sensible nurturing a tree. When I see any I will cut it down. When they fell the trees without pre-informing us then we don’t need to leave any tree on the farm” he angrily said.
Other farmers in nearby communities also shared same horrifying experience they have suffered at the hands of timber contractors operating in their communities.
When Chiefs in some communities in region, were contacted to find out whether the destructions of cocoa and other crops by timber contractors have come to their notice, most of them admitted they do received several complaints from farmers.
Meanwhile, Opanin Mensah suggested that for both parties to play their roles peacefully any timber contractor who shows up in every community should be met by all the farmers and not only a chief or heads of families who mostly own the lands on which they (farmers) farm.
“No negotiations should be done behind the farmers. After all we grow some of the trees and also natured the naturally occurring ones thus we owned the trees and for that reason our permission must be sort and appropriate compensation paid before any tree would be felled” he added.
In spite of the fact that there are laws governing the operations of logging and other timber related activities in Ghana, it is evident during my visitation to some farms that a number of contractors do not adhere to these laws.
What makes the situation worse is that farmers and land owners have generally been dissatisfied with the existing benefit sharing arrangement for revenue accrued from trees on their farms during the exploitation of the resources (timber).
The end result is that farmers now prefer to kill-off naturally occurring trees than to nurture them on their farms and if this problem is not addressed with all the urgency it deserves, it will greatly contributed to deforestation in forested landscapes, more especially in the cocoa growing landscapes.
Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH