Women farmers in Western North transformed in forest protection by FoE/GLA project
Nsowakrom, (WN/R), Dec. 14, GNA- Lydia (not her real name) is a farmer, wife and mother of two, and resides in Nsowakrom, a forest-fringe community in the Western North Region of Ghana.
She is energetic, full of life and always happy with what she does and toils every day on her subsistence farm.
One day, she woke up to see part of her farm destroyed by a timber company felling trees on her farm and ran to the leader of the workers to complain, but was threatened.
Several farmers in forest-fringe communities in the Western North Region of Ghana often suffered at the hands of timber companies because the companies harvest timber in off-reserve areas, which are mostly farmlands.
Lydia looked at the sky and said, “I swear by God, I will get compensation for my farm from these insensitive timber merchants”.
But when she went home and told her husband her intention to fight till she got justice her husband told her “don’t make trouble”.
Lydia managed to convince her husband that it was their right under the law to get compensation following the destruction of their food crops.
She consulted other farmers in the community, and realised she was not the only victim whose farm was destroyed without compensation.
In their anger, she led them to claim compensation from the head of the company in charge of the operations when he came visiting in the community.
However, they were offered meagre amounts, which seemed more of an insult than compensation, and they objected to the offer, the officer told them to either take or leave it.
In anger, Lydia led the group of farmers to meet the local politician (Assembly man) and the community chief, but to their dismay, their leaders did not show any interest in their cause.
The farmers then learnt the opinion leaders were rather facilitating the illegal timber operations in the community.
GLA Advocacy Project
However, Lydia was fortunate to attend one of the training programmes of Friends of the Earth-Ghana, an environmentally-centered NGO, organised to build the capacity of residents in forest-fringe communities in Ghana’s forest laws.
Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) project is a partnership of Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, Tropenbos Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of foreign Affairs, and 65 civil society organisations.
Friends of the Earth, Ghana, started the implementation of the four-year project, which aimed at contributing to inclusive and sustainable governance of forest landscapes, in 2016, at the Juaboso-Bia and Atewa landscapes.
Armed with knowledge and information from the training, Lydia brought hope to the farmers that they would be compensated for their destroyed crops.
The Chief of the community passed away and a new chief was installed, and Lydia worked closely with the new chief to get the timber company to compensate the farmers.
After taking him through Ghana’s forest laws, the new chief summoned the company to respond and explain the allegations raised by the community farmers.
One early morning, Lydia heard incessant knocks at her door and she opened to find out the head of forest operations of the timber company who pleaded with her and accepted to pay excellent compensation packages to the affected farmers.
The company also promised to fix the deplorable road networks linking many of the forest-fringe communities in the area.
Lydia however refused on two grounds, first the compensation must be negotiated based on the destroyed crops, and secondly, all affected farmers in the community must be compensated as well, while the entire community witnessed the ceremony.
Eventually through the GLA advocacy project, spearheaded by Lydia at the local communities, the timber company agreed to meet the chief and the community members and together agreed a payment plan for the affected farmers.
At long last, Lydia is happy and full of joy as she has been adequately compensated together with the other affected farmers.
Currently, Lydia is a staunch advocate of forest protection and environmental sustainability, at Nsowakrom, and has mobilised women farmers protecting forest reserves in the area.
The GLA project introduced her and she has built a solid relationship with forestry officials, civil society organisations and state actors, in her bid of protecting forest reserves in the Western North Region.
Lydia said she believes rigorous public education on forest laws, would greatly empower citizens and position them well to contribute their quota towards preserving natural and forest resources as well as environmental management and sustainability.