U/E: Residents vow to resist rosewood felling; chief unhappy with Lands Minister directive

file[/caption] Community Resources Management Areas (CREMA) members in Kayaro and Nakong in the Kassena Nankana West District of the Upper East Region say they will resist any attempt by any person or company assigned by the Forestry Commission to fell rosewood trees in the area and are ready to seek redress at the law courts. CREMA members numbering about 150 last year arrested four chain saw operators and handed them over to the Navrongo police. For the past two years, illegal logging of rosewood trees in the Region has taken center stage, destroying forest reserves and driving wild life species away. These activities appear booming at Kassena Nankana West, Kassena Nankana East, Bawku West, Talensi, Builsa South, Builsa North and Nabdam districts in the Upper East Region but nothing seems to be done to stop them. Rosewood is a tropical hardwood with a tight, even grain. Rosewood is heavy and hard, but relatively easy to work with. It has a strong sweet smell, which persists over many years, even in furniture that may be hundreds of years old. Amazingly, just scratching or refinishing antique furniture will release the smell of roses. For the past two years, about two million rosewood trees from the forest reserves in the Region have been exported to China by some  wood contractors. In recent times, the contractors’ actions have been given the endorsement, according to letters 3news.com intercepted. The letters have been signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Afriyie, on August 2, 2017 and Acting Executive Director Oppon Sasu on the approval of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, who directed 25 companies to log the trees in Upper East, Upper West, Northern and Brong Ahafo regions with guidelines attached. Some of the companies are Ghanwood Limited, Attakey Limited, Membo Limited, JB Connect Limited, Royal Space, Logline Limited, Kamvis Company Limited, Musco Asante Limited and Buguma Limited, among others. The reason adduced by the Lands Ministry in granting the permit is that the trees were illegally felled by unknown people hence the need to be collected for export. But when 3news.com visited the forest, the contractors were seen using heavy machines to cut the rosewood trees and packed in 40-footer containers ready for transportation to the Tema harbour. At Nakong in the Kassena Nankana West District, a driver was seen loading the trees and according to him, his car was hired to carry the trees to Tema by  a Chinese entrepreneur  who showed him his permits. At the Kukula Forest Reserve, about three groups of chain saw operators busily cut the trees with heavy machines and also blocked the main road. After their arrests by CREMA, some narrated the circumstances that led to their involvement in the illegality. “We are just ordinary workers from the Ashanti Region and know nothing about this,” one said. “The person who is supervising us is called Ibrahim and is the in-law of the Chief of Kayaro. We came here yesterday to begin work and that’s all we know and we can’t tell you how much our boss pay us.” Their activities are endangering wild life with bush burning and the felling of the rosewood trees and shea nut trees also having its own effect. Bush burning is said to pave way for their vehicles to have access to the forest for the trees. The Executive Director for the Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability Ghana, Julius Awareja, who is so much incensed by these illegal activities, has called on the new government to as matter of urgency regulate these activities and get offenders punished. He said the rest of the rosewood trees that the community seized will be sold to provide social amenities in the area. He has called on pressure groups to stand up and fight this menace that is depleting the forest reserves in the Region. Leader of wild life conservation in the Kassena Nankana West District Derry Lambert applauded the efforts of CREMA members and Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability Ghana for their efforts to protect the forest reserve. He said due to illegal logging, a lot of the wild animals and wild life species have either run away to Burkina Faso or are dead through the bush fires. In an exclusive interview with 3news.com, Pwamebam Frank, Executive Committee Secretary of CREMA, said his group will resist any attempt by any company to enter the forest in the name of salvaging rosewood trees. He alleged that the trees are rather cut down by these contractors because no one is allowed into the forest reserve and they are only vigilantes protecting the forest reserve. The Chief of Nakong, Pe Joseph Afagarache, expressed disappointment in the Lands Minister for his approval to companies to fell rosewood trees, describing it as a cruel attempt to destroy forest reserves in the northern sector of Ghana. He has also sent a strong warning to these companies to stay away from the forest. All efforts to reach the Upper East Regional Forest Commission Director for answers were not successful. Meanwhile, the Upper West Regional Coordinating Council has rejected the directives given by the Lands Minister for the companies to cut the rosewood trees.

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By Rabiu Tanko Mohammed|3news.com|Ghana Editor’s note:This story is funded and supported by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP) as part of their project to fund journalists to carry out stories on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).]]>