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Calm, shady, fresh air and green beauty, these are but a few of what the beautiful, tall Mahogany trees lined up along the main street of Sandema offer you as you walk, ride or drive into the township any season.
Sandema is the capital of the Builsa North District Assembly, home of the Builsa (Bulsa) people and the seat of the Paramount Chief of the Builsa Traditional Area. With an estimated land size of 816 km2 and a population of over 56, 477 inhabitants, the area lies Westward of the Upper East Region, sharing borders with the Kassena-Nankana Municipal and West District Assemblies.
The area is blessed with diverse culture and its people celebrate the popular Feok Festival which draws thousands of visitors from all walks of life yearly. The Builsa people speak Buli and are said to be descendants of mixed ethnic groups including a Mamprusi Prince Atuga from Nalerigu, the Akana people from Kurugu in Burkina and some Koma people from Kom.
They have a proud heritage and are known to have had some of the greatest warriors who fiercely fought against the slave raiders. As a district capital, Sandema township is the centre of business where a lot of buying and selling takes place. The people are very hospitable, hardworking, and easy-going. Farming is the common occupation of the people.
The people grow food crops such as millet, rice, groundnut, Bambara beans, beans and sorghum. Its rich savannah woodland consists mostly of deciduous trees of varying sizes such as the acacia, Shea nut, baobab, etc. which also provide food for the people.
The beauty of the mahogany trees
Aside the beautiful culture, food, and the peace-loving people, another beautiful sight to behold as one moves into the Sandema town are the long line of the tall, ancient and iconic mahogany trees nicely standing on both sides of the major street.
The jealously guarded trees have wide branches sprout with thick leafy cover and branches intertwined from each side creating a nice canopy, saving travelers from the heat of the Sun, beautifying the street, and ushering them into the town with fresh air blowing gently.
If you are entering the town from Navrongo, you will be welcomed by these trees from the Bilinsa community, few metres away from the Sandema Senior High Technical School. From Wiaga, the trees will welcome you with their shade from Suwarinsa through to Abiliyeri- the town area, making one forget the bad nature of the road. The trees have become part of the town’s identity and the people have immense love for them. They will go any extent to protect them.
Road expansion will endanger the trees existence
But with a road expansion project underway, there are concerns the iconic trees will be destroyed. Earlier last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at a durbar of the Chiefs and people of the area announced the award of contract for commencement of work on roads in the district. The President placed particular emphasis on the Navrongo- Sandema- Siniesi- Fumbisi roads.
As announced, work has begun on some parts of the road. The construction will open up the area to more businesses and reduce road accidents. Now, Sandema has a price to pay – all or part of the beautiful Mahogany trees would have to go down to make way for the road infrastructure. The trees are a hurdle for the contractor which would be cleared. This is a decision most people are not very pleased with.
Residents want the road to be expanded and made fit but they, on the other side, do not want to lose the precious iconic trees they have inherited and lived with for a long time.
When GhanaWeb’s Upper East Regional Correspondent, Senyalah Castro, visited the area, he spent some time under the trees interacting with some of the town’s people.
Magdalene Achaaburu, a resident of Chuchuliga, one of the towns within the Builsa area in an interview said cutting down the trees would deprive the people of the shade and fresh air enjoyed. She said though there is the need to expand the road and fix its poor state to reduce accidents, it would be good for authorities to undertake the road project without endangering the trees. “What I suggest is that if they are even to do some extension, at least it shouldn’t be to the extent of cutting down the trees. They should know how to do it,” she suggested.
A senior citizen, who has enjoyed the shade of the trees since infancy vehemently shot down the idea of felling them, he protested that “our forefathers planted the trees for us. So if you want to cut down the tree, we won’t be happy. We want the road but the shade is very important. So as for the trees, we won’t cut them. As for the trees cutting, I won’t be happy”.
Another resident, Samuel Ayileoma said it would not be best for authorities to fell the trees considering the huge role the trees play protecting people’s houses against windstorms. He however said if authorities were still bent on getting rid of them, they should cut those on the side with a fewer number.
DCE assures the trees will not be destroyed entirely
Meanwhile, District Chief Executive (DCE) for the area, David Afoko has assured that the trees will not be entirely affected by the road expansion.
Speaking to GhanaWeb in an exclusive interview, Mr. Afoko explained that the contractor would fell the trees on only one side of street.He said authorities did not doubt the importance of the trees, stressing that the road project was also a very important infrastructure that will propel the development of the area.
He said the road had become very narrow and the town grown into a bigger, busier one necessitating the need for the expansion. The DCE added that the Mahogany trees which have been there for several decades have also grown old and sometimes pose threat to the safety of residents and travelers, a genuine concern that calls for their numbers to be reduced.
He said plans are to process the cut Mahogany trees into fine wood for sale and the revenue reinvested into planting tree seedlings in the area to make up for what would be destroyed.
The DCE was not surprised many people are against the idea but urged the people of the area to stay calm.