ACCRA, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- In Ghana, the national reforestation program has rescued a number of young people from joblessness.
The country has started seeing positive signs of progress since the Youth in Afforestation Program started in 2018, according to Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission.
"All together, we employed about 60,000 young men and women for the afforestation program," the CEO disclosed when he accompanied the media to the field recently to verify proof of work by the temporary youth workers of the commission.
Owusu-Afriyie added this year the commission planted about 10 million trees and if that is expected to be replicated over the next three years.
While the young employees planted trees on 8,000 hectares of land, the entire national reforestation program, which include what the regular staff of the Forestry Commission and the private sector, accounted for 26 million trees planted on 24,000 hectares over the past year.
Government spends at least 20 million Ghana cedis (about 3.84 million US dollars) monthly on the allowances of these temporary young workers alone, with the CEO arguing that the expenditure was justifiable due to the enormous benefits Ghana stood to reap in future.
"We are talking about 20 million Ghana cedis a month because of the sheer numbers. But you cannot quantify the jobs that they have done in monetary terms."
"Trees have value and the value that the country will derive can not be quantified in any monetary terms. So the benefit that the entire country will obtain in the next 10 years to 20 years is what I am looking forward to and that is what gives us joy and hope to continue to soldier on," he added.
The CEO lauded the young employees for their performance so far.
Part of the work of the Youth in Afforestation involves planting of trees within the buffer zones of the country's water bodies.
At Tomefa, near the Weija Dam at south-western end of the capital, Esther Oppong-Agyei, head supervisor of the forest plantation staff, said the personnel sometimes had to spend their own money in watering the tender trees on the 13 hectares of stretch of land to ensure they survived the harsh weather condition of the dry season.
"We came here in the middle of June, given a two-year contract, and we are in the ninth month. With the help of the government, giving us logistics, the work has been effective," she told the media.
Among the employees were field assistants, assistant supervisors, and supervisors. The supervisor pointed out that the field work was not easy, but with the morale, they have achieved a lot.
Tree planting along the Densu River at Tomefa is an intervention which, according to Paul Kwame Senahia, Chairman of the Densu Lake Protection Committee, was a timely intervention to prevent the danger of the lake drying up in the near future.
The Weija Lake has been experiencing pollution from cow dung, human feces, agriculture waste and other household wastes as a result of encroachment.
"The lake is so polluted because of encroachment. The buffer zone is supposed to be 300 meters from the river bank but people have encroached on the buffer zone."
"If we do not do tree planting, the encroachment will come up to the lake and it will cause a lot of pollution to the water. So we appreciate what the government and Forestry Commission are doing," the official stated.
In addition to Tomefa, tree planting has been going on in other areas, including Joma Agbozume in the Ablekuma District and the Achimota forest Eco-Tourism center where species like Mahogany, Ofram and Acacia are planted.
Speaking to the media in the Achimota forest, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu-Bio lauded the initiative and the hard work by the youth employees.
"This is going a long way to help in terms of decreasing the deforestation rate that we are seeing in the country. We are all witness to current harsh climate conditions that we are experiencing," the deputy minister commented.
He argued that if the country had started this tree planting years back, the deforestation would have been reversed entirely.
"So this is a good beginning and we only need to continue to encourage Forestry Commission for the good work that they are doing. I have been very pleased to see this here," the official added.