Farmers in forest reserve areas are being introduced to tree farming as an additional livelihood venture under a project by the Forestry Commission.
Nearly 150 farmers in three districts of the Ashanti Region have been earmarked to benefit from a 258, 000 euro grant from the Food and Business Applied Research Fund of the Netherlands.
Beneficiaries will cultivate African black pepper and grains of paradise as well as undertake bee keeping in their forest plantations as part of the three year project which will run until 2019.
The Modified Taunga System is a co-management strategy between the Forestry Commission and smallholder farmers to restore degraded forest cover to address timber deficit, among others.
Farmers have total control over farm produce under the project.
It is also to improve food and income security of farmers who are taking part in reforestation schemes.
“One of the things that we have done in the past as Forestry Commission was to involve farmers in plantation establishments to include food crops in the cultivation but what we didn’t realize was that after 3 or 4-years, the tree canopy will close and thereby will discourage the cultivation of food crops.
We were not getting the commitment of the farmers to be on the same land to protect the plantation from fires and illegal logging”, Project Coordinator, Edward Obiaw revealed.
Seedlings of non-timber forest products will be supplied as a stop-gap between the periods when farmers can start benefiting from tree plantations.
Project Coordinator, Edward Obiaw, told an inception workshop for consortiums and other partners at Akyawkrom in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipality the project has the capacity to secure livelihood of farmers.
“What this project is bringing on board is that we want to have another livelihood venture like Black Pepper which will do well under the shade for a number of years before we start harvesting the timber of which the farmer also gets benefits.
There is going to be some income generating activity for farmers to get a lot of money before we start harvesting the timber”.
The Forestry Commission has formed a consortium led by the Resource Management Support Center with University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, Rural Development Youth Association and University of Amsterdam..
The project is being supported by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products.
It will support research and field work of masters in science students of University of Energy and Natural Resources in Ghana and their counterparts in University of Amsterdam.
Meanwhile, Dr. Miriam Ros-Tonen of the University of Amsterdam has called for collaboration between all stakeholders to address complex natural resource management issues.