THE importance of forests to human life cannot be overemphasized. According to agric scientists, forests, apart from conserving nature, are a source of life.
They purify the air that we breathe, serve as habitat for the animals that we feed on, and preserve climatic temperatures to protect our bodies. In Africa, in particular, forests are the main source of herbs and many of the food we eat.
Experts have also noted that forests play a crucial role in helping mitigate the impact of climate change on humans.
|Some illegally-sawn timber that were recently seized in Saboba|
According to the Director of the United Nations (UN) Forum on Forests Secretariat, Mr Pekka Patosaary, forests can act as a ‘sink’ to absorb greenhouse emissions and store large quantities of carbon for extended periods of time.
No wonder the developed world is now committing itself to invest in afforestation projects in Africa under the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.
One is therefore at a lost why forests in the Northern Region of Ghana are being depleted at such an alarming rate, in spite of how essential they are to the livelihoods of the people in the region.
Checks at the Forestry Commission indicate that there are 24 forest reserves in the Northern Region.
The region even boasts of having the largest forest reserve in Ghana, the Yakombo Forest Reserve, near Buipe, which occupies an estimated land area of 1,160km².
Each year, more trees are planted in various parts of the region so as to create new or replenish existing woodlots and forest plantations.
Currently, the Forestry Services Department (FSD) of the Forestry Commission is establishing large acres of forest plantations in various parts of the region through the National Forest Plantation Development Programme.
During a recent visit to the Northern Region by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry, the Northern Regional Forestry Manager, Mr Ebenezer Djaney Djagbletey, revealed that the region had exceeded its targets for the plantation programme.
“A total area of 3,309 hectares had been planted by the end of December, 2010, which is far higher than the 2000 hectares target that had been set,” he told the committee.
He said in Yendi alone, a total area of 1,126 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas and 200 hectares in existing forest reserves.
In Tamale, a total area of 462 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas, whiles 70 hectares of areas located within forest reserves had been planted.
In spite of all these glamorous statistics about the establishment of large acres of forest plantations, the question to ask is “how many of these trees would survive?”
How many would become prey to the painful blade of chain-saw operators and how many would crumble when the dry season fires start?
Statistics from the EPA paint a gloomy picture about the depletion of forest resources in the Northern Region.
According to the EPA, the region loses 38, 000 hectares of its tree cover every year due to activities such as indiscriminate bush burning, deforestation, use of chemicals in fishing, over grazing by livestock and illegal commercial logging.
Just recently, the FSD intercepted large quantities of illegally sawn rosewood, which had been felled from forest plantations in the Saboba district.
Due to the depletion of forests and the vegetation, some parts of the region are being reduced to desert-like conditions and this has caused a reduction in food and water resources and also increased the intensity and duration of droughts and disasters in the north.
It is sad to note that many community folk do not seem to know about the harm they cause to the environment and future generations when they run down forest resources.
The extent to which they cut down trees for firewood and to make space for farming and settlements exposes the region to desertification.
Unfortunately, forest conservation issues do not receive adequate attention from local government authorities and politicians in the region.
Under the noses of District Chief Executives, Members of Parliament, Co-ordinating Directors and traditional rulers, forests are destroyed and no one seems to border.
It is high time that the nation’s leaders and the entire populace were reoriented on the importance of forests and the need to conserve them.
Politicians, chiefs and opinion leaders in the region must stand up now to protect the region’s forests and not wait for calamity to befall us.