Despite the many challenges to the all-important resource, the ecological integrity of Ghana’s forest reserves has largely been maintained, says the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.
Samuel Abu Jinapor mentioned bushfires, illegal mining and logging, agricultural expansion, settlement, among others, as some of the threats to the country’s forest reserves.
Responding to a question on the floor of Parliament on the state of forest reserves, he disclosed that the Forestry Commission had put in place several measures to protect Ghana’s forest reserves from various drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.
Among them are “regular patrolling of the forest reserves, protection and maintenance of internal and external boundaries, awareness creation and stakeholder sensitisation, decommissioning and demobilisation of equipment used for illegalities in the reserves, destruction of illegal farms, arrest and prosecution of forest offenders, as well as wildfire prevention, control, and suppression interventions.”
According to the Minister, some tree-planting exercises are being carried out to restore the portions of the forest reserves that have been affected by these drivers of deforestation, through initiatives such as the Green Ghana Project, Youth in Afforestation/Reforestation Project, and the Modified Taungya System.
Curbing illegal mining
On measures taken to curb illegal mining in the reserves, Mr Abu Jinapor said his outfit had suspended reconnaissance, prospecting, and/or exploration in forest reserves, except in exceptional circumstances.
He further said that river bodies, most of which have their sources in forest reserves, had been declared as red zones for mining.
The Lands and Natural Resources Minister further disclosed that a total of six Forest Entry Permits had been issued for mining in forest reserves.
They include CIMAF Ghana Ltd, whose permit was granted in 2018 and expired in 2021. The permit is, thus, no longer in force. Others are Chirano Gold Mines Ltd – this permit was renewed in 2019; after the existing permit granted in 2004 expired in 2019; Kingsperp Mining Ltd – granted in 2020.
The rest are Koantwi Mining Co. Ltd. – granted in 2020; Onex International Co. Ltd – granted in 2020; and Trans Atlantic Logistics Ltd – granted in 2020.
According to him, out of these six, only Chirano Gold Mines and Koantwi Mining Co. Ltd are involved in mining. He said the others are still working on other permits and/or authorisations required to commence their operations.
Again, he updated the House on measures being taken on illegal miners in the forest resources. He said several persons had been arrested in these forest reserves for engaging in illegal mining, and are currently standing trial.
“The most recent ones include six people arrested in the Tano Suraw Extension Forest Reserve in November, 2022, two people arrested in the Upper Wassaw Forest Reserve in November, 2022, three Chinese Nationals arrested in the Oda River and Apamprama Forest Reserves in January 2023, with twenty-six persons arrested this February for their alleged involvement in illegal mining around the Atewa Range Forest Reserve,” he said.
All these measures, together with several others being taken by the government against illegal mining, the Minister said, are yielding some results, with some of the river bodies visibly clearing up.
On the protection of public lands, Mr Abu Jinapor said that his outfit is working in collaboration with the Lands Commission to undertake an inventory of public lands, including those that had been encroached upon, to ensure maximum protection of these lands.
To complement the public land protection agenda, he said, the Ministry had also constituted a public lands protection team to support the efforts of the Lands Commission and the Ghana Police Service in the protection of public lands.
He added: “We are also engaging Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), to take steps to protect lands acquired for their use or that fall within the jurisdiction of the Assemblies.”