The Unthinkable Happening in Our Farming Communities
In 2017, government introduced the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign to address the declining growth of Ghana’s agricultural sector. It was a call on every Ghanaian to take farming as a full time or part time activity. However, in Nsuwakrom, Yawmetwa and other surrounding communities in Western North region of Ghana, farmers are being denied their livelihood due to the activities of unscrupulous timber companies. This is also undermining progress on the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs initiative. These affected farming communities are located in the off-reserve areas and as such most of the farmers either have timber species on their farms or the farms are on the path to the trees. These trees, which are mostly allotted by government for harvesting, can be removed by companies with legal permits only if the farmer(s) and communities give their consent and also agree to a compensation package with the company. The law also requires the consent and compensation package be documented. These laws are meant to protect our rural farmers and also ensure they get some benefit from the trees harvested on their farms or communities.
However, John Bitar Company Limited a timber company operating in these communities is destroying the livelihoods of these farmers by breaking the forest laws that are there to protect the farmers. The Community Forest Monitors trained by FoE-Ghana’s Timby project have reported that, the company enters the farms without farmers’ consent to harvest the trees. In the course of felling and removing the trees, food and cash crops are destroyed without any compensation paid to the aggrieved farmers. When farmers confront the company, it offers to pay unreasonable compensation that nowhere near reaches the value of the food and cash crops destroyed much to the frustration of affected farmers. As a result of these illegal activities some farmers have been forced to abandon their farms as it would require huge capital investment to return them to full productivity.
Friends of the Earth-Ghana through its evidence-based community forest monitoring has been able to gather film footage of such abuse and destruction in the communities and prepare a short video to share this evidence. During a meeting with the Assistant District (AD) Manager of the Forest Services Division (Juaboso District), FoE-Ghana presented the video evidence of the company’s activities in the communities. The AD Manager expressed his shock and displeasure. He promised to thoroughly investigate the issue and if the company was found culpable, said they will either suspend or withdraw their permit until the right thing is done. Friends of the Earth- Ghana will continue monitoring the companies whiles also following the investigation and action(s) taken by the Forest Services Division based on the outcome of the investigation.