W/R: Five forest and wildlife reserves under serious threat

Five forest and wildlife reserves, which serves as tourist attraction centers in the Sefwi Wiawso area in Western Region, continue to be under threat due to illegal farming, chainsaw operations among others. The threat persist despite the joint military and police timber monitoring team formed to curtail the menace. The five forest reserves, which continue to be at the mercy of the human illegal activities are the Sui River North, Suhuma North, Tano Suhien North, Muro North and Santo Mang North in the Wiawso District Forest. The depleted forest and wildlife reserves are about 21.917 hectares. Some farmers in Ahibenso and other communities in the area have destroyed the forest reserves and planted cocoa and food crops. Officials from the Sefwi Wiawso District forest have consequently led a combined team of forest guards to destroy ten acres of illegal farms in the area. The action was the second phase of an exercise dubbed “operation, arrest, destroy” to weed out illegal farmers from the reserves. Similar exercise was conducted in some years back but was halted, giving the farmers the opportunity to expand their illegal farms. Speaking in an interview with TV3, the Sefwi Wiawso District Forest manager, Wilson Owusu Asare, expressed worry about the rate at which the forests were being depleted and called for concerted efforts from chiefs, opinion leaders, stakeholders and forest fringe communities to save the situation. He said after clearing the farms, people would be employed from the fringe communities to plant trees in the reserves under the government’s national plantation development programme. “This time around we will sustain the exercise to ensure that all illegal farmers are flushed out from the reserves’’, he said. He added that, farmers caught farming in any part of the reserves would be arrested and prosecuted. Mr Wilson said there is “no admitted farm” in the reserves, which means that the farmers were operating in the area illegally. He said 25 people have been arrested and prosecuted in the course of the exercise . But he expressed worry about the fines imposed on the people arrested. He appealed to the court to increase fines for the illegal farmers to serve as deterrent to other farmers in the area to stop engaging in farming activities in the reserves.

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By Benjamin Aidoo |TV3|3news.com]]>