The effects of bush fires on rural livelihoods and on the eco-system in Ghana are increasingly becoming extensive resulting in the destruction of property worth millions of Ghana Cedis.
Dr Albert Brown Gaisie, Chief Fire Officer, announced this at the launch of the 2015/16 National Bush Fire Prevention Campaign at Agona Nyakrom in the Central Region.
The ceremony, on the theme: ”Sustaining the Environment Through Bush Fire Campaign,” was organized by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) in collaboration with the Agona West Municipal Assembly, as part of sustained efforts to sensitize the citizenry on the need to avoid burning the vegetation.
This is because over the years bush burning has become one of the challenging environmental concerns in the country as it has become an annual ritual for the people.
Dr Gaisie indicated that the Service had been able to train 12,197 volunteers within the year, to help reduce the incidence of bush fires this season.
He observed that hunters, herdsmen, farmers and cigarettes smokers, were to be blamed for most uncontrolled and indiscriminate bush burning, which were deliberately started during the dry season, as farmers and hunters usually did so to facilitate access to forest by both men and animals.
He charged chiefs within communities not to compromise with bush burners who deliberately set the bush on fire, but rather report them to the Police for their instant arrests, citing it to be a crime known as arson.
He said in the forest region fire was practically the cheapest means of clearing land for planting, and burning was therefore used as a means of clearing the land as it was believed that when the vegetation was burnt, large quantities of nutrient-rich-ashes were deposited on the top soil for crop and plant use.
Dr Gaisie noted that with the effects of climate change having its toll on us, it was the hope of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) that corporate Ghana would pool resources together for the Bush fire Volunteers to help serve as aids, facilitators and catalysts against the occurrence of fire outbreaks.
He urged Members of Parliament to take a look at the Control and Prevention of Bush Fire Act, PNDC Law 229 of 1990, and ensure that some aspect of the law was reviewed to conform to present circumstances.
President John Mahama in a message read on his behalf by Hon. Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr, Deputy Central Regional Minister, said judging by the annual devastation caused by bush fires, there wass the urgent need for all stakeholders to come together and proffer long lasting strategies to end this perennial problem.
President Mahama, noted that since bush burning was part of our practices, he would suggest to stakeholders to find solutions to this phenomenon, by earmarking some areas and do controlled bush burning, so that nomadic farmers would have fresh grass to graze their livestock, thus putting to rest the issue of farmers starting bush fires for fresh grass for their animals.
“The nation not to lose sight of the incidents of 1992/93 in which the cocoa and timber sectors of the economy were hard hit by bush fires, control and prevention of bush fires is therefore very important to ensure that we are able to sustain our cocoa production, which is a major foreign exchange earner for the state and it should therefore be that prevention and control of bushfires is a sure recipe for reducing poverty of our farmers”, he said.
He urged the citizenry to do all in their power to guard against bush fires, especially in the Northern Regions, if we were to avoid the Sahara Desert which was fast spreading southwards.
‘’It should be better if we put in mechanisms such as embarking on re-forestation or tree planting to ensure that the spread of the desert is prevented from advancing close to our national territory”, he added.
Mr Samuel Oppong, Agona West Municipal Chief Executive, said by law, the burning of bush was a crime, but the problem had been the individuality of developed countries and the community based arrangement of our structures.
”Everybody seems to know everybody but within other jurisdiction, the law is strictly on individual, so if it is you, it is you but in developing countries our family system works against the area of enforcement,” he added.
He said if the fundamental systems which were communal, legal and social, worked together, it would help achieve this goal and if possible, government must re-structure the educational system so that right from pre-school students would be taught some safety measures.
Volunteers were presented with crocodile matchets, Wellington Boots and Overalls to aid their work as well as Citations to acknowledge them in their quest to help fight against bush burning. GNA