Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), have been urged to consider the exploitation of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for economic and social development.
Mr. Andrew Y. Dokurugu, Ghana Country Manager of TREE AID Ghana, who made the call at separate functions to commission and inspect the construction of warehouses for the NTFPs at Pindaa in the Kassena-Nankana municipality, Dasabligu in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region, and Tuna in the Tuna-Sawla Kalba District of the Northern Region, stressed that it had been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the sector was a powerful tool that could be harnessed for the total transformation of the socio-economic development of rural areas.
“The forgotten and under-utilised sector has the greatest potential for the transformation of the rural economy, and the improvement of the livelihoods of the people. MMDAs, especially within Northern Ghana, which is endowed with NTFPs, must explore the sector to make a positive change,” he stressed.
He cited the sheanut products, the baobab fruits, moringa, and dawadawa, among others, which had gained grounds at both the national and the global markets, and noted that if the MMDAs and the government as a whole, could help tap such products, it would help generate foreign exchange for the country, and alleviate poverty among the rural folks.
Advancing his argument further, he cited for instance, that in 2013, TRADE AID Ghana’s partner in the Kassena-Nankana West , the Organisation for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS), a non-governmental organisation that advocates against environmental mismanagement, made a significant financial value from Baobab fruits and Sheanut, as well as employed 270 women who were in groups.
It also engaged 60 young men to load bags of baobab fruits and sheanut products into vehicle for transportation to the southern parts of the country for onward exportation.
He said the Kassena-Nankana West District Assembly also charged GH¢5 per each bag of the various products, thereby contributing to its internally generated revenue base, and entreated other MMDAs to take a clue from the Kassena-Nankana West District Assembly, to diversify their internal revenue mobilisation.
He noted that viewing the significance of the sector, TREE AID Ghana introduced the “Northern Ghana Non Timber Forest Project” which led to the establishment of the “Village Tree Enterprise Projects,” which had been building the capacity of local community groups to develop businesses from NTFPs, such as seeds, nuts, fruits, leaves, flowers and fibres. The project utilises indigenous trees which have been adapted to the arid climate of the region.
Mr. Dokurugu indicated that the project had been tried and tested in countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, among others, and had made significant impact, leading to its implementation in some communities in Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
He said it had also started making much progress in the area of the improvement of food security in households, the ability of parents to pay their children’s school fees, and the National Health Insurance , the reduction of rural-urban migration, and the efficient management of the natural resources.
He expressed optimism that with the additional warehouse, facilities for the NTFPs, and with plans advanced by his outfit to procure crashing machines, it would help improve upon the price of the products and cut down cheating when it comes to marketing.
He urged the beneficiary communities to put a comprehensive warehouse management plan in place, to help them maximise more benefits from the project.
The Budget Officer, Mr. Amadu Abubakar, who represented the Municipal Chief Executive of the Kassena-Nankana Municipal Assembly , Dr. Stanislaus Alu Kadingdi, said he was amazed about the numerous benefits attached to the NTFPs, particularly in the area of economic empowerment of the rural folks, internal revenue generation, natural resource management, and pledged to seek assistance from the TREE AID Ghana to explore the sector.
The Coordinator of ORGIIS, Mr Julius Awaregya, stated that both the Kassena-Nankana West District and the Kassena-Nankana municipality, were endowed with a lot of natural resources, particularly the NTFPs, and implored the two assemblies to enact by-laws, and to ensure the effective implementation of them to help protect and preserve the resources for future generation.