Community Enterprise Groups comprising of women and youth groups in four Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) around the Mole National Park in the Savanna Region of Ghana have been supported with a range of green enterprise processing facilities, equipment and logistics.

The support is to enhance livelihood and the living standards of the communities living close to Mole National Park, Ghana’s premier protected area.

The handing over ceremony which happened at Murugu Community in the West Gonja Municipality was attended by French and Dutch Ambassadors, Traditional Authorities from the Gonja Traditional Council, Busunu-wura, Member of Parliament (MP) for Damongo Constituency with the Regional Minister for Savanna Region designate serving as the Guest of Honour for the occasion.

The CREMAs benefitting from these interventions include Murugu-Mognori, Yazori-Kumbo, Bawena-Kpulumbu and Grubagu-Wawato CREMA all of which are located within the eastern boundary of Mole National Park. These CREMAs were set up within the framework of Collaborative Resource Management Policy which affords communities to manage and benefit from integrating wildlife and biodiversity resources in their day-to-day traditional land use practices.

The four CREMAs have subsequently committed to sustainably manage their natural resources in a manner that ensures that the environment is protected for sustainable farming and at the same time protected to support biodiversity to continuously provide ecosystem services crucial for supporting community wellbeing and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and building a resilient community.

The handing over of facilities and equipment is part of a bigger vision to support communities to harness the natural resources in their landscape, through the development of green enterprises to provide competitive long-term stream of incomes for community people in a manner that does not compromise the integrity of the environment to support future generations.

The facilities which include a full cycle circular organic shea butter processing factory with improved high-yield equipment has the capacity to directly employ 200 women, produce 1000 kg of organic shea butter in a day, and deploy waste recycling facilities in the process to reduce the use of fuel wood, and heating systems to reduce the exposure of women to smoke from the boiling and roasting processes. The processing centre is fully owned by the CREMA and will help in generating revenues to support their biodiversity conservation activities.

The occasion was also used to sign Conservation Agreements between the CREMAs, Savanna Fruits Company and A Rocha Ghana as part of committing to long-term sustainable of the partnerships and working towards sustainability. With this agreement the CREMAs have committed to protect the natural resources in exchange for Conservation Premiums paid by the company.

In addition, two organic cassava processing facilities have been established in Bawena and Murugu Communities to produce organic Cassava flour to serve local and international market. Currently over 200 farmers from more than five communities close to Mole have registered to be part of this value chain.

To complement these facilities and support the shea and cassava value chains, the partnership of A Rocha Ghana, Noe, EOS, GSA, African Tiger, PhytoDess have also facilitated the construction of 11 community satellite organic warehouses, to serve eight women cooperatives, serving over 600 women and with a total storage capacity of 400 MT. Other equipment provided to facilitate improved transport of products from farm to the warehouses and the processing center and also improve processing include 12 motorcycles, 130 tarpaulins for drying, and eight honey extractors to boost honey production in the diverse woodland habitats of Mole National Park.

Funding for these enterprises were made possible by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) USAID, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Tiger Holdings Limited (ATHL), Noe, Agro Eco and the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Direct Private Sector Support for the development of these enterprises came from Savannah Fruits Company (SFC), Evolution of Smooth (EOS), and PhytoDess.

Speaking in his welcome address during the handing over ceremony, the National Director of A Rocha Ghana, Dr Seth Appiah-Kubi, noted that the CREMAs still need support to address and regulate illegal activities such as indiscriminate tree felling for charcoal production, and rosewood harvesting.

He bemoaned the current destruction of shea trees, which is the foundation on which shea-based enterprises which supports thousands of women in the northern parts of Ghana depend. He called for legislative action to pass into law the Wildlife Resource Management Bill which has been in and out of Parliament for more than 10 years. This Act, he stressed will empower Communities to participate and also benefit from managing natural resources directly and address illegal activities like logging and charcoal which are getting out of hand.

The French Ambassador, H.E Ambassador Sophie Anne AVE, was very excited for the women, and is happy that AFD funding has yielded such wonderful results for women groups and associations. She further asked the beneficiaries to take full advantage of the interventions and improve wellbeing.

The Dutch Ambassador, Ron Striker of the Royal Netherlands Embasssy, who was happy to visit Mole and also Murugu was emphatic about the need for the community and development partners to focus on nature, environment and climate change as they are critical issues of our current generation that needs urgent attention by local and national authorities. He further stressed commitment of the Embassy to work with Ghana and partners to pursue a circular economy so as to support a clean and green environment, for the wellbeing of all Ghanaians.

Solidarity messages from Corporate partners like Evolution of Smooth (EOS), and Savannah Fruits Company (SFC), talked about how crucial these interventions will help in improving the value of natural products like Shea, and harnessing best practices to improving the lives of women in the communities, close to protected areas like Mole National Park.

Raphael Gonzales of SFC was particularly positive that if these facilities are managed to their optimal function and capacity, they can become a flagship processing facility in Ghana.

The representative for Agro Eco, who were partners in the development of the Organic Cassava value chain, highlighted their commitment to the process and to using improved farming practices and organic value chain as vehicle for improving livelihoods of cassava farmers, and at the same time improving soil which is crucial for the agrarian economies of communities neighbouring Mole National Park.

Speaking for Global Shea Alliance, Ms Wumni Osholake lamented that, “…today, increased commercial agriculture, uncontrolled bush fires, sale of shea parklands for other uses, tree cutting to produce charcoal, shorter fallow periods are leading to loss of biodiversity in the ecosystem of the parklands”. She further requested for immediate action to preserve the shea industry as a life line to the producing communities and delivers a ‘darling’ ingredient to both local and international businesses.

The Savannah Regional Minister designate, who was the Special Guest of Honour, emphasized his support for the work of the CREMAs leading to the gazetting and publication of CREMA Bye-law in the gazette.

He further reiterated the need for beneficiary communities to make good use of the facilities for improving their lives and the need to treat the environment well as it is the source of raw materials for their processing facilities.

The Member of Parliament for the Damongo Constituency who is also the Minister Designate for the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources expressed his commitment to pursue an agenda of implementing strategies and policies that will add value to the numerous natural resources we have in Ghana such as gold, bauxite, aluminium and non-timber forest products, so that these natural assets will become the catalyst for driving economic development for all Ghanaians.

The leader of the Women’s Association who are key beneficiaries, Madam Braimah Memuna, expressed gratitude for the support and further indicated the commitment of the CREMAs communities, both young and old to ensuring that the facilities are put to the best use to benefit community members. She also charged her fellow community members to work hard as CREMA members to ensure that they secure the natural resources in their communities for tomorrow’s generation as well.

The CREMAs were charged with responsibility of demonstrating that public-community-private partnerships for channeling community-based financing to support green enterprises can yield dividends for protected areas in Ghana and therefore needs attention and scaling up.

The management of A Rocha Ghana has also called for partnerships to transition other unsustainable value chains like charcoal production into green and restorative enterprises that can support livelihoods and also help to secure biodiversity and restore degraded landscapes in the region.