The Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP) has called on the government to enact and implement a legal system to protect non-timber forest products in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone to help build resilient rural communities.
According to the GhaFFaP, the move coupled with responsive policies would not only help to protect the environment and non-timber forest products from destruction and help fight challenges of climate change but would also empower smallholder farmers to sustainably use the forest and farm products to improve their lives.
“Apart from the Cocoa sector, where cocoa is being well protected by the Cocoa Board Act, in the Savannah zone, non-timber products such as shea and dawadawa among others do not have legal backing.
“So, we would want to see some policies that have effect on protection of non-timber forest products, for instance, shea,” Mr Mark Akparibo, the Secretary of GhaFFaP said this in an interview with the media on the sidelines of a northern savannah ecological zone stakeholder engagement held in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
The meeting was organised by GhaFFaP and facilitated by the Kassena-Nankana Baobab Cooperatives Union (KANBAOCU), a local NGO operating in the Upper East Region.
It was funded by the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) through the Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Institute of Environment and Development and International Union of Conservation of Nature and Agricord.
It brought together Forest and Farm Producers Organisations (FFPOs) and other stakeholders including the Department of Social Welfare, Ghana Shea Landscape Emission Reductions Project (GSLERP), the Forest Commission and others to dialogue on how smallholder forest and farm producers could access market linkages, social protection services and influence policy direction.
Apart from rampant bushfires, which had destroyed the forest and continue to pose climate change challenges, the Secretary said lots of non-timber forest products and economic trees continued to be felled for production of charcoal.
“Our aim is to build synergies with various stakeholders so that we can have a common goal especially in the restoration of landscape and ensure that the landscapes are much more sustainable, support the businesses of these forest and farm producers so that they can become much more available to be able to support landscape restoration interventions and affect national level policy on bushfires and protection of non-timber forest,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel A. Baapeng, the Manager in charge of Climate Change Directorate of GSLERP, Forestry Commission, noted that implementation of the Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) concept in some forest reserves by the Wildlife Division of the Forest Commission was helping to address environmental destruction and advocated for innovations to be scaled up to many forest reserves.
Mr Elvis Kuudaar, the National Facilitator, Forest Farm Facility, noted that smallholder farmers played critical role in ensuring food security in the country and it was imperative to support the protection and restoration of the landscapes to promote value addition and increase returns of the farmers.
“The government does not have institutional agriculture production schemes, so it is the smallholder producers who make Ghana a leading producer of cocoa and produce the rice, maize, soya beans that we find in the market, so if you take them out of the food chain, then you are going to create hunger,” he said.
Mr Clifford Adagenera Amoah, the Coordinator, KANBAOCU, said the smallholder forest and farm farmers were vulnerable which made it difficult for them to access government social interventions and called for flexibility in the roll out of government social interventions that would eliminate all barriers hindering the smallholder farmers.