Shea Network Ghana (SNG) has raised concerns about what it describes as “Wanton destruction of shea trees under the government’s rural self-help electrification project currently on-going in some districts in the Northern Region.”
A press statement issued by SNG signed by its National Coordinator, Mr Zakaria Iddi, and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday said “SNG has noted with disappointment how community members have been mobilised to cut down a number of shea trees to pave way for the erection of electricity poles in two communities (Sensena and Tedrope) in the North Gonja District with permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
The statement said “This action if not checked has the potential to worsen economic lives of the rural people, especially women as well as discouraging climate resilience campaigns, violations of international protocols on conservation and biodiversity efforts.”
It said “Much as we think rural communities need electricity, we are solid in our disposition that to destroy shea trees to erect electricity poles will have adverse effects on the incomes of the rural women, endanger tree species as well as reinforce poverty.”
It said better alternatives to deliver electricity must be sought rather than destroy the shea trees, adding, “This is not the first time communities in the north are being hooked to the national grid”.
The statement spoke about the socio-economic importance of shea in the lives of especially women in the savannah zone as well as its contributions to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and urged “Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI), and COCOBOD to add their voices to this call especially when MOTI had announced on May 8, 2014 of its plans to inject some five million Ghana cedis in the next two years into the sector.”
It said “SNG and its donors, the BUSAC Fund, have over the last two years invested about 200,000 Ghana cedis in campaigning for shea conservation in the savannah regions and will be adversely affected if our efforts go unappreciated by government institutions and local communities.”
It said “We see the current practice as a direct sabotage of our efforts to economically empower our rural communities where poverty is record high as well as conserve the climate.”
The statement said “As part of our mandate, we wish to request the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in granting permit to include guidelines that seek to protect economic trees, while we call on the Ministry of Power to include compensations for rural women affected by these destructions in drafting future projects.”
It asked “Government to amend the Economic Plants Protection Act to include shea so that such destruction will attract economic compensation just like Cocoa, which is currently the only crop listed under the Act.”
It also reminded government of the need to implement the draft sub-sector policy that proposed the establishment of a shea board for a more sustainable development and growth of the sector.
SNG is a multi-stakeholder non-profit organization with members at all levels of the shea value chain seeking to influence policy and provide solutions to industry wide challenges for a growing and coordinated shea sector.
Mr Jafaru Musah Adam, Programme Officer of EPA in the Northern Region told GNA that EPA had not granted permit for shea trees to be cut down to erect electricity poles in the communities in the North Gonja District.
Mr Adam said the EPA expected that environmental impact assessment be carried out before undertaking such an exercise so as not to affect the environment.