Government has given the Forestry Commission the go-ahead to bear arms, and we believe this development will greatly assist the Commission in its fight to protect the country’s forest cover, particularly the forest reserves.
Available data indicate that between 1900 and 1950, 4.2 million hectares of forests were degraded in Ghana out of a total of 8.4 that the country had at beginning of the century, giving an indication of the extent of forest degradation up until independence – and it has continued, so that today we have a small fraction of our original forest cover.
According to the annual report (FAO, 2010), 13 million hectares of forest is lost per year globally and Africa alone contributes 3.4 million hectares of this loss per year. The situation is not different in Ghana where deforestation is also quite high.
Illegal loggers make life unbearable for forest guards who protect forest reserves, because a good number of them are armed and undertake their activities in the dead of the night. Therefore, the forest guards put themselves at great risk in discharging their duties since the law previously barred them from bearing arms.
There had been efforts by foresters to have the law rescinded so that forest guards could bear arms when carrying out their duty of protecting the country’s remaining forest cover. Thankfully, the effort has paid off and they are now permitted to be armed when facing illegal loggers who are heavily armed and dangerous.
Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, CEO of the Forestry Commission, made the disclosure to commemorate this year’s International Day of Forestry in the Ashanti Region, saying that the forest guards are now empowered to apply reasonable force to clamp down on the menace of illegal logging which has assumed alarming proportions.
Considering that 6.6 million hectares of forest cover has been depleted over the years, leaving only 1.6 million hectares left for posterity, it is essential that all possible measures be taken to protect the remaining forest cover from over-exploitation.
Owusu-Afriyie announced that to reverse this trend, around 80,000 youth have been employed to help in re-forestation drives. Forests form part of the natural resources of the country and need to be protected just like any other resource – be it gold, diamonds or any other precious mineral.
The indiscriminate felling of the country’s forest cover has resulted in unreliable rainfall patterns and other negative weather variations and we need to protect the ecosystem – so, in principle, we have no problem with forest guards being armed to protect the forests.