Mr Christopher Ackon, Programme Officer at the Infrastructure and Sustainable Development of the European Union, has affirmed the resolve to build the capacity of forest fringe communities to acquire skills for alternative source of livelihood.
He said this was necessary to serve as a safeguard to empower and motivate the communities to take keen interest in protecting the forest for the benefit of the nation.
Mr Ackon was speaking at the launch of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)-Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Forest Stewardship Honey Project at Sefwi-Wiawso in the Western Region.
The programme, being funded by the European Union (EU), aims to provide training on bee-keeping for forest fringe communities at Bibiani, Juaboso and Sefwi-Wiawso, all in the Western Region, implemented by the Working Group on Forest Certification Ghana, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
It forms part of social intervention programmes to ensure successful implementation of the Ghana-EU VPA within the context of the Legality Assurance System (LAS).
The VPA is a bilateral agreement between the EU and timber exporting countries designed to improve forest governance and also ensure that the timber exported to EU countries has complied with legal requirements.
Mr Ackon was hopeful that the project would be sustainable and replicated in other forest fringe communities to build the expertise of the beneficiaries to produce honey for commercial purposes.
He tasked forest fringe communities not to engage in practices that could have adverse effects on the forest, saying it was their responsibility to protect the forest at all times to improve biodiversity and the environment in general.
Mr Lawrence Santanah, Municipal Chief Executive for Sefwi-Wiawso, in a speech read on his behalf, gave the assurance that the district assembly would be committed to the project to boost the economic status of the communities.
Dr Ernest Asare Abeney, Board Member of the Working Group, said the NGO had for some time now intensified education to sensitise the communities at Bibiani, Juaboso and Sefwi-Wiawso to be conversant with their responsibilities in protecting the forest.
Mr Emmanuel Amoah Boakye, Co-ordinator for the Group, urged the communities, particularly the Social Responsibility Agreement committees, to work within their terms of reference to develop their areas to appreciable standards.