Three Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA’s) have successfully gazetted and published Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) Bye-laws within the Mole Ecological Landscape in the northern parts of Ghana.

The reason is to empower local communities to participate and benefit from the sustainable management of natural resources in off-reserves areas.

In total, five (5) CREMAs in the Savannah Region namely, Murugu-Mognori CREMA in the West Gonja Municipality, Yazori Kumbo CREMA, Bawena-Kpulumbo CREMA, Gurubagu-Wawato CREMA, all in the North Gonja District and Jilinkon CREMA in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District were incorporated.

The CREMA concept involves the devolution of management authority to communities who have organized themselves to manage natural resources and wildlife on their land, for sustainable development. The concept recognizes wildlife management as a legitimate and complementary land use option.

A CREMA, therefore, is an area endowed with or has the potential for recruitment of natural resources where management authority has been devolved to the constituent institutions. Institutionally, it is a community-based organisation that is built on existing community decision making structures, with an executive body and a constitution that guide its activities and regulations.

Facilitation and support for stakeholder mobilisation and awareness and capacity building on the relevance of sustainably managing natural resources in off-reserves were done with support from A Rocha Ghana, NorthCode and the Collaborative Unit of the Mole National Park of the Forestry Commission of Ghana and the Wasipe and Busunu Traditional Area Councils.

The District/Municipal Assembly bye-law gives legitimacy to the constitutions of the various CREMAs. Looking at it from a community perspective, it is an arrangement that enables participatory and collective decision making for ‘common’ natural resources.

As a remit of the District/Municipal Assemblies, the bye-laws were drafted in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders including the Community Chiefs, CSOs, Assembly persons and their likes, following series of community meetings to determine the relevant provisions to be contained in the bye-law.

The Justice and Security Sub-committees of the Assembly as per their mandate comprehensively reviewed the documents before presenting to the General Assembly for approval.

The Savannah Regional Minister through the Co-ordinating Council after a careful assessment approved for the by-laws to be gazetted. This was critical to ensure that the bye-laws are fair and not in contravention of any national statutes and customary laws.

With the recent surge in over-exploitation of natural resources such as illegal logging, charcoal production, overgrazing, these bye-laws would provide communities with the needed compliance and enforcement tools to empower and strengthen efforts to implement sustainable resource management practices, within the increasing vulnerable savanna regions of Ghana

The bye laws to protect the forest reserve and other natural resources in the Northern part of Ghana is worth emulating in the Southern part as well. This is due to the high rate of destruction which is being witnessed in most of the forest reserves in the Southern sector.

What is worse, those engaging in the destruction of the forest are in most cases able to escape justice, as there is little supervision from the Forestry Department.

Communities from which these nefarious activities have been sidelined in the fight against the destruction of the forest reserves.

Thus, several areas of the reserves are completely devoid of large trees, while the roar of chainsaws is ever-present, operated with impunity.

An analysis of satellite data published earlier this year by U.S.-based World Resource Institute (WRI), found Ghana experienced the biggest relative increase in primary forest loss of all tropical countries last year.

According to the report, the loss of Ghana’s primary forest cover jumped 60 percent from 2017 to 2018 – almost entirely from its protected areas.

Trees cut down in Bia Tano Forest Reserve lie on the recently denuded ground. Credit Mongabay.

Despite denial by the government, a publication by data analytics company Satelligence, however, affirmed WRI’s findings that Ghana deforestation did indeed experience a 60 percent jump.

Some of the forest reserves noted for losing its trees are the Tano-offin at Nyinahin in the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, and Bia Tano Forest Reserve located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of Tano-Offin among others in the Western Region.

Government continue to blame low number of the officials of the Forestry Commission, for the high incidence of chainsawing both outside and inside the forest reserves.

In a story published by Mongabay on deforestation in some selected forest reserves in Ghana, Musah Abu-Juam, technical director in charge of forestry at Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources revealed, that although the government of Ghana was making an effort to improve the monitoring mechanisms in the reserves, those involved in the illegal activity often find ways to outwit these measures. He cited a case in which illegal operators tried fooling forest guards by entering a reserve during the night, cutting down trees, and making them into semi-finished doors in the forest before transporting them out before daybreak.

He also mentioned the arrest made when Forestry Commission officials discovered loggers were transporting illegal wood from a reserve by hiding it in coffins.

It is very clear that, the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources are failing to deal with the issue of illegal logging.

It is therefore important that, the central government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development adopt the Community Resource Management Area Bye-laws to enable in areas noted for having forest reserves in the country. This will definitely help in the fight against deforestation as well as empowering the local people to support the fight.

Credit: AROCHA GHANA, With additional files By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda