By Kevin Heath
Dr Samuel Afari Dartey, Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission of Ghana announced yesterday that since 2011 his service had lost 69 wildlife rangers and forest guards. This is an increase of 7 since the announcement last year at the launch of the new re-vamped forest service. While the number of rangers killed has fallen on previous years the killings means the rangers in Ghana are still facing high risks every time they go out on patrol.
Last years speech by Dartey gave a commitment to boost the equipment and training given to rangers to help them operate more effectively. He also promised that the rangers would also work more closely with the military to help provide more security and better protection.
At yesterday’s event, the Third Forestry Week and Greening Ghana Day celebration, he promised to boost the rapid reaction force still further to help protect and conserve the remaining forests.
He also announced plans that will see Ghana start to replant lost forests with the use of specially bred fast-growing saplings. He pointed out that 100 years ago the forests of Ghana covered over 8 million hectares, today the forest cover is just 1.8 million hectares.
Dartey also highlighted that the government viewed that forests as being an integral part of the sustainable development of the country and that protection of the forests is essential if the benefits of good forest cover are to be seen by the people.
There will also be a movement towards making the forests an integral part of the tourism industry and some of the established forests will be managed for predominantly recreational use rather than resource exploitation. New plantations will be used as a timber supply source to reduce pressure on wild forests.
Referring to the attacks on forest staff and wildlife rangers, Darley said that the number of people assigned to the Forest Commission Rapid Response Force would be increased to hep support investigations in to ranger murders and attacks. He also said the rangers will be supplied with better equipment to help them combat the criminal gangs who are plundering the forests. The commission has also trained specialist wildlife and environmental law staff to work with prosecutors to increase the conviction rates of those caught.