The Forestry Commission has engaged more than 7,000 farmers under the modified ‘Tuangya System’ to reforest two depleted forests in the Western and Ashanti regions.
The forests are the Nkawie Forest Reserve in the Ashanti Region and the Sui Forest Reserve at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region.
The farmers have so far planted over 30,000 improved varieties of timber species which they have interspersed with food crops such as plantain, cassava, tomatoes and pepper.
The Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, announced this when he led some officers of the commission to visit selected forest reserves to inspect some ongoing activities to reclaim degraded areas.
Large portions of the forest reserves were depleted by wildfires and the activities of illegal chainsaw operators.
The commission, Mr Owusu-Afriyie explained, assigned the depleted areas to local farmers to cultivate food crops and realise their proceeds.
However, they were given the improved timber species to plant and charged with the responsibility to nurture them.
After four years, the farmers will move to other depleted areas and start the process again.
The trees are harvested after 15 years and sold, with 40 per cent of the proceeds going to the farmers, another 40 per cent to the commission, 15 per cent to the landowners, with the remaining five per cent kept for the development of adjoining (host) communities.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in the Sui Forest Reserve, Mr Owusu-Afriyie noted that the improved Tuangya system, used between 2002 and 2009, provided lucrative livelihoods for thousands of farmers, while helping to reclaim large tracts of depleted forest cover.
He described the system as a game-changer for the rural poor people who got access to very fertile land to plant their crops on a large scale and interplanted them with the trees provided by the commission.
Mr Owusu-Afriyie indicated that the commission would employ 15,000 people from January next year, in collaboration with the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), to undertake a mass planting exercise to augment the work of the Tuangya system around the country.
He said the commission had been given the green light by the Ministry of Finance to engage 400 graduates, adding that a set of 200 people who completed their national service and a year’s contract had been engaged.
The Secretary to the Nkawie Modified Tuangya Farmers, Mr Osei Kwadwo, commended the Forestry Commission for releasing the land to the farmers, saying it had helped them generate revenue.
He said because yields from the rich fertile land were very good, the farmers were able to generate enough revenue, which some had invested in houses, their children’s education and tricycles to cart their foodstuffs to the market.