The Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS-Ghana), a Non-Governmental Organization, has called on traditional authorities in the Upper East Region to support efforts to protect and preserve Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) in the Region, from depleting.
Unlike Cocoa and Rubber Trees, which have legal framework to protect them, there is currently no legal framework that protects NTFPs such as Shea, Baobab, Parkia, Dawadawa and Moringa, which are the major livelihoods of the people in the Northern Ecological Zones of the country.
This creates the challenges of degradation through competing uses such as the Shea value chain versus charcoal producers’ preferences putting the economic trees under threat.
This came to light when the NGO with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) engaged the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs to facilitate the process of drafting by-laws to help protect and preserve NTDPs.
Mr Julius Awaregye, the Executive Director of ORGIIS-Ghana, explained that the lack of legal system that protects the NTFPs in the northern zone does not only give freedom to some people to cut down the trees for charcoal production, but also gives room to those who are into agriculture commercial farming to cut them down freely depriving the communities of their major livelihoods.
The Executive Director who cited countless examples of many Shea and Baobab trees being cut down indiscriminately for charcoal production and export of baobab leaves to Burkina Faso, emphasized that if traditional rulers, the custodians of the people and customs, did not sit up, the trees would be extinct, rendering their culture valueless.
He said it was to help address the challenge that his outfit was engaging all the Regional House of Chiefs of the five regions of the north to see how to address the issue.
“The essence of this project is to secure the support of the houses of chiefs in the five regions towards the development of customarily binding laws for protection of resources of cultural values to traditional councils,” the Executive Director stressed.
He added that his outfit with support from the Tater Law Consult would facilitate the Regional Houses of Chiefs to conduct research on the cultural and traditional values of the natural resources of their respective jurisdictions, which would then inform the proper decision of the by-laws to be drafted and implemented.
Mr Abdulai Jaladeen, a Legal Practitioner, schooled the traditional rulers that per the Chieftaincy Act 2008, section 49-56, they were empowered to make by-laws to protect and preserve natural resources.
The said positive cultural practices formed part of the 1992 constitution of Ghana and entreated the chiefs to test the provision of the Chieftaincy Act that empowered them to make by-laws to protect natural resources.
He added that per the Local Government Act sections 79-83, Assemblies were also empowered to make bylaws and implement them to help preserve and conserve the natural resources’ and therefore appealed to the chiefs to collaborate with the Assemblies to come out with affective by-laws to help fight the canker.
Pe Dituudini Adiana Ayagitam III, the President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs, on behalf of the house, thanked ORGIIS-Ghana and the funding agency, FAO, for the support and gave the assurance that the house was committed to the course and appealed to the NGO to continue to facilitate the process to ensure that the house worked out effective bylaws to help protect the natural resources from being extinct.