Bushfires threaten development of region
From Clement Boateng
The Acting Regional Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Asher Nkegbe, has noted that the diverse and interactive nature of causes of bushfires calls for a concerted approach in curbing the menace.
He said it was impossible to find a “single panacea, when it comes to the provision of solutions” to the bushfire menace, due to the varied nature of its driving forces, indicating that the agency, to this effect, was prepared to bring on board whoever had an antidote to this environmental plight.
The Acting Regional EPA Director, who said this at a workshop held in Wa for traditional authorities on the bushfire menace in Northern Ghana, disclosed that the agency had sustained and extended the non-burning concept initiated by the Nandom Paramountcy at the Goziiri community in the mid 80s, to over fifteen communities in the region.
He consequently, recognised chiefs as key stakeholders in the combat against bushfires.
Mr. Nkegbe announced that the EPA, in collaboration with her partners, was implementing a CIDA five-year Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) in the Upper West Region, which is located in a fragile ecological belt of Ghana.
The goal of the project is to strengthen Ghanaian institutions and the rural communities to enable them reverse land degradation trends in the three northern regions of Ghana, to enable them adopt sustainable land management practices to improve food security and reduce poverty.
He however, noted that the successful implementation of the GEMP would depend on how successful bushfires were contained in the region.
Bushfires occur widely and are very pervasive and extensive. It affects the composition and density if vegetation, frustrates our efforts at sustainable development, and threatens our future survival, by contributing immensely to desertification and general environmental degradation.
Mr. Nkegbe gladly informed the participants that the region had, to date, and in pursuit of realising the GEMP objectives, successfully completed the first phase of the programme.
Some of the activities of the first phase of the project include formation of forty-two women’s groups to ensure that gender was mainstreamed into the programme, radio programmes, and the conducting of socio-economic baseline studies for all the thirty pilot communities to establish benchmark conditions, to facilitate monitoring of change in land resources.
On his part, the Deputy Regional Minister, Mr. Kale Caesar, noted that issues bordering on the environment were of paramount importance to the region, further indicating that the majority of the people depended on the environment, through agriculture, animal rearing fishing among others, for their sustenance and survival.
He suggested the need to compulsorily plough firebreaks around block farm allocations, likewise other major agricultural investments.
Why burn the bush for rats, rabbits, and grasscutters, if we can rear them and other animals all year long? Is bush burning an option for a region which is already poverty stricken? Must we be reminded that bush burning has a direct bearing on climate change, where recently we experienced severe harmattan in the mornings and unbearable heat in the evenings? These were critical questions raised by the Deputy Minister.
Mr. Kale consequently called on key stakeholders like chiefs, religious leaders and assembly members, to liaise to ensure the collective responsibility of prescribing deterring punishments in the quest to make a bush burning history.
He said bushfires have had a toll on the developmental agenda, announcing that the government would not hesitate to partner any entity in the direction of combating the menace of bushfires.
The Paramount Chief of the Nandom Traditional Area, Na Dr. Puore Puobe Chiir VII, who chaired the occasion, inspired his colleague chiefs to emulate the steps of his Paramountcy to make their traditional areas bush burning free zones.
He entreated the EPA and her partners to organise a field trip for the traditional leaders to Burkina Faso to expose them to experience of challenges of desertification practically, and hoped that their attitudes towards the combat of bushfires, which remains a major cause of desertification, would be changed.
To complement the efforts of the Ministry of Science, Environment and Technology and the EPA in sensitising the people of Upper West Region on the dangerous effects of bushfires, Madam Chana Abdul Razak of the Ghana’s Most Beautiful fame, a native of the region, has been made the ambassador of the bushfire campaign.
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