Lydia is a farmer, wife and mother of two who resides in Nsowakrom in the Western North Region of Ghana. She is very energetic, full of life and always happy with what she does. She toils every day on her subsistence farm.
One day she woke up and saw that part of her farm had been destroyed by a timber company felling trees on her farm. She ran to the leader of the workers to complain, but he threatened to drop a tree on her. They completely destroyed her farm.
Farmers in forest fringe communities in the Western North Region of Ghana have often suffered at the hands of timber companies. They harvest timber in off-reserve areas which are mostly farmlands.
She looked at the sky and said, “I swear by God, I will get compensation for my farm from this insensitive Timber Company!!” But when she went home and told her husband she’s going to fight till she gets justice. He said, “Don’t make trouble!” Lydia manages to convince her husband that it is their right under the law to get compensation following the destruction of their food crops during exploitation.
She consulted other farmers in the community, and she realised she was not the only victim whose farm had been destroyed and not compensated. In their anger, she led them to get compensation from the head of the company in charge of the operations when he came visiting in the community.
However, they were offered meagre amounts which seem more of an insult than compensation. When they objected, the officer told them to either take or leave it. And that he won’t add a penny more to it thus adding to their frustration and anger.
In anger, she led the group of farmers to meet the local politician (Assembly man) and the community chief. But to their dismay, their leaders did not exhibit any interest in their cause and were facilitating some of the illegal operations in the community.
However, Lydia was fortunate to attend one of the training programmes of Friends of the Earth-Ghana which was organised in their community to build their capacity in Ghana’s forest laws and how to defend their rights. Armed with this knowledge and information, she brought hope to the farmers that they will soon get compensated for their destroyed crops.
The Chief of the community passed away and a new chief was installed in the community. Lydia worked closely with the new chief to get the timber company to compensate the farmers. Armed with information from Lydia on Ghana’s forest laws, the chief summoned the company to respond and explain the allegations raised by the community farmers.
The community farmers raised barriers in the community to stop the company from operating in the community until their grievances are addressed. Sensing danger, the head of forest operations of the timber company working in the locality, went knocking on Lydia’s doors to convince her to accept an increased compensation and also promised to fix some of their roads in the community.
However, Lydia refused on two grounds, first the compensation must be negotiated based on the destroyed crops and secondly, all aggrieved farmers in the community must be compensated as well and witnessed by the entire community at the chief’s palace.
Finally, when Friends of the Earth Ghana came in through their Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) project, built our capacity on forest laws and our rights, and gathered video and other pictorial evidence for an onward documentary, we became very hopeful that our concerns will finally be addressed through their intervention.
Eventually through their campaign, the company agreed to meet the chief and the community members and together agreed a payment plan for all aggrieved farmers and also reform their operations in the community.
At long last, Lydia is happy and full of joy as she has been adequately compensated together with the other aggrieved farmers. Lydia and the fellow farmers finally advised listeners to all come together and work towards the protection of the forest.
They requested that in case of any challenges being faced by other local communities they can reach out to the forestry officials or if that is not working, they can contact the Friends of the Earth Ghana local forest monitors within the landscape to help with the appropriate steps.
News Desk Report