Plans are underway to resettle the Gbele Community located in the Gbele Game Reserve in the Sissala West District of the Upper West Region, to a new community which has been created outside the reserve for them.
The relocation has become necessary following request by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the animal sanctuary and develop it further into a more sustained tourist centre, devoid of rampant human encroachment.
The new community, New Gbele which contains 120 houses on a 13-hectare land has been provided with a mosque, 300 hectares of land for farming, dug outs for water, a school and a clinic with support from the government of Ghana, the District Assembly and the Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLWM) project.
This came to light when the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ms Patricia Appiagyei and the Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Science and Technology, Mr Yaw Frimpong Addo, paid a two-day working visit to the area with some other beneficiary communities of the SLWM in the Daffiama/Busie/Issa District to inspect the construction of dugouts on Wednesday.
The Manager for the Reserve, Nana Owusu Ansah, explained that although the value of the land the people had decided to give could not be fully compensated, they would be given some amount of money to pacify them and ensure that they were resettled successfully in the new community.
He intimated that GH₵250,000 had been received to start the process last year and that the people would be taken to their new community in the first quarter of 2020, adding that “we intend to allow them harvest their produce for the year and when the dry season sets in they would get enough time to move”.
He also commended the SLWM for providing the reserve with 13 Irish crossings on streams in the facility to enhance movement of vehicles and also an observation tower where the reserve guards could stand to have a better view and monitor the facility.
Ms Appiagyei hinted that the visit which coincided with the World Desertification Day was also meant to interact with some members of the various communities to seek their consensus on how to do away with indiscriminate burning of bush and maintaining the country’s enviable vegetation cover.
“Under the SLWM, dugouts development is a collaborative effort with particular support from the beneficiary community. In this regard, we know community members come together to assist in the construction of the dugouts hence this would also foster unity and communal living”, she explained.
Ms Appaigyei said the project also sought to bring women together and share ideas on basic production and trade skills like shea butter production and sale with the aim of eradicating poverty and boosting the local economy.
The Deputy Minister commended the community members of Gbele for collaborating with government and accepting to resettle in the new community.
The Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee, Mr Addo added that the project which was a combination of modern and indigenous methods had been accepted by the indigenes as it would enable them to undertake farming throughout the year, irrespective of the season.
FROM LYDIA DARLINGTON FORDJOUR, GBELE