Farmers in the Juaboso-Bia landscape of the Western North Region are unhappy with what they described as their long suffering from unfair distribution of benefits from off-reserve timber resources. According to them, commercial tree species nurtured by farmers are given out to loggers by the state through the Forestry Commission without the farmer benefiting from the revenue accrued from the trees. “This unjust situation has often been blamed on the fact that our laws allow the President to be the custodian of naturally occurring trees. In as much as we agree that laws must be implemented to the latter, we are also convinced that laws are made for people and not the people for the law. Therefore, to the extent that a regulatory arrangement does a disservice to the people, it should be reviewed to best serve the interest of society”, Paul Asante, the representative of the famers said at press conference. He said, despite their enormous contributions to forest and tree cover, as well as the country’s climate change mitigating and adaptation efforts, the allocation of rights to off-reserve timber resources offers no financial benefit to farmers, adding, the only right the farmer has is to give written consent to the harvesting of specified trees on his/her farm. “This does not constitute right to any direct financial benefit from revenue that accrue from the timber resources. Is this fair? As if this is not enough, the arrangement on farmer consent is even in many occasions violated, especially when the farmer is not well informed on his right to consent to the harvesting of the trees on his/her farm”. Mr Asante noted that, as farmers, they are not ignorant of the important role trees play as part of our agroecological system, and the fact that they help create the needed micro climate for crops to thrive “Today, we are all living testimony of climate change and its impacts. Countries all over the world including Ghana are making efforts to combat or minimize climate change impacts. One key strategy has been for countries to increase tree and forest cover as in the case of Ghana. Subsequently, the country has initiated several actions towards improving tree cover with the most recent being the Green Ghana Project. We the farmers in Juaboso-Bia landscape through the support of NGOs, Cocoa Companies have contributed our quota by ensuring we plant trees and also nurture trees on our farms”, he said. Farmers, he said, are also aware of the need to take out some of the trees to support development, especially where the number per hectare is more than the optimum needed to promote the growth and yield of our crops. He however pointed out that, it is a great disincentive to farmers to continue nurturing the trees on their farms to maturity and be denied of any direct financial benefit from the revenue that comes from the sale of these trees to loggers. According to Mr Asante, this unfair treatment has resulted in many farmers destroying the trees before they could grow to maturity.
Their demands
“We therefore demand that government should as a matter of urgency amend the relevant laws (especially Concessions Act, 1962- ACT 124) to give farmers a meaningful stake (which translate to financial benefits) in nurtured trees so that we will be well motivated to continue to keep and tender trees on our farms” he said. He said government and the Forestry Commission should prioritize all administrative arrangements; including tree registration to provide for some reasonable benefits to farmers/landowners when on-farm timber resources are extracted. Government, he further suggested, should also prioritize farmers’ interest in all national initiatives aimed at increasing tree and forest cover.