The indiscriminate cutting down of trees for charcoal burning is gradually reducing in Upper East Region, Mr Asher Nkegbe, Regional Director of Environmental Protection Agency, has disclosed.
Speaking to Ghana News Agency in an interview at the weekend, he said this was made possible through the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) which is aimed at restoring the degrading environment in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions as well as offering alternative livelihoods to the people.
He said 1,639 women from nine districts in the Upper East Region where GEMP is operational have been trained in Shea butter, soap, pomade and cake production as well as mushroom farming.
Mr Nkegbe said the provision of these alternative livelihoods, has helped to reduce charcoal burning activities.
“The Agency under the GEMP in collaboration with ORGISS- Ghana, a local NGO based in Paga, mobilised 450 women who were engaged in shea butter soap and pomade making to harvest baobab fruits for sale,” he said.
He said the Savanna Fruit Company based in Tamale and Aduna Baobab Company based in United Kingdom provides ready market for baobab fruits harvested by the women.
“Other potentials of the baobab tree to the environment include the reduction of soil erosion and drought resistant. It withstands extreme stress from drought and therefore grows well in marginalised and degraded soils where other plant species cannot survive.”
He said the project has also introduced a savings-led financial model called the “Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA)”.
The concept was pioneered by Care International in 1991 in Niger under its first “Matta Masu Dubara” (woman on the move) which empowers people in the rural communities to take control of their personal finances.
Mr Nkegbe said his outfit in collaboration with ORGIIS – Ghana organised 10 days training sessions for 518 women including 68 men drawn from 14 communities, who are members of the VSLA, which helped the women groups to raise money to undertake economic ventures.
He said there are more ongoing integrated approach projects that are aimed at addressing climate change and desertification problems in the area.
A 48 year old , Mrs Hawa Issah, in Gentiga community , who is one of the beneficiaries of the GEMP Project said through the training she received and the money she borrowed from the VSLA, she had embarked upon soap making, which is more profitable than charcoal burning.
“I am now able to contribute meaningfully to the feeding of my household and also assist my husband to pay for the school fees of our three children and buy their educational materials,” she said.
Mrs Fatima Braimah, a 40 year old farmer said through the support of the livelihoods project she was able to embark upon vegetable farming, which curtailed the usual hustle she used to go through when was cutting down trees for charcoal burning. GNA