EcoCare Ghana, an environmental protection non-governmental organisation, has inaugurated fire volunteer squads in 15 fire-prone communities in three districts to combat forest fires during the current harmattan season.
The volunteers are made up of 180 young people trained to fight fire in order to protect the environment and farm produce against destruction by fire in the transition landscape.
The beneficiary communities are Techiman South in the Bono East Region and Offinso South Municipality and Offinso North District, both in the Ashanti Region.
Twelve young people from each of the 15 beneficiary communities were trained on how to combat bushfires to save lives and investments.
The trainees were taken through vigorous firefighting techniques, detection of fire, how to create fire belts, natural and artificial causes of fire, measures of controlling bush fire, causes and spread of fire, and the tools and equipment needed to combat bushfires, among others.
EcoCare Ghana and Tropenbos Ghana organised the training which was facilitated by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and the Forestry Commission, and co-funded by the European Union.
In addition, the two organisations presented fire safety equipment to the 180 fire volunteers to enable them to fight fire when the need arise.
They included Wellington boots, machetes, safety wear, reflectors, goggles, gloves, among other fighting items.
The aim of the organisations is to protect about 600,000 trees planted in the transitional land scape under the Land Scape and Environmental Agility Across the Nation (LEAN) project, which aims at supporting national efforts to conserve biodiversity.
According to EcoCare Ghana, preparation was underway to produce 600,000 indigenous seedlings this year for this year's Green Ghana Day.
The Managing Campaigner of EcoCare Ghana, Obed Owusu-Addai, said the transitional zone was noted to be fire-prone, thus leading to massive depletion of forest reserves, destruction of farm produce and other forest investments.
He said during the past two years, EcoCare Ghana and its partners had planted more than 1.2 million indigenous trees.
Mr Owusu-Addai said last year alone, a total of 600,000 seedlings were distributed during the Green Ghana Day and in order to protect the trees, it was crucial to train and equip volunteers to enable them to protect the huge investment.
He said this year, EcoCare and its partners had planned to plant more than 600,000 seedlings, explaining that wildfire was a major threat to the huge investment.
Mr Owusu-Addai said as part of the LEAN project, the organisations had decided to roll out alternative livelihood empowerment programmes in the project implementing communities to improve the lives of farmers.
He mentioned bee making, snail rearing, fish farming, pig farming and mushroom production as some of the alternative livelihood empowerment programmes to be rolled out this year.
State of trees planted
The Deputy Bono East Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission, Rev. Jonathan Obour Wiredu, told the Daily Graphic that about 70 per cent of the 1.399 million trees planted under the Green Ghana initiative in the region last year survived.
“Trees planted under the Green Ghana initiative are in good condition", he said and expressed the hope that all stakeholders would assist in measures to prevent bushfires from destroying the investment.
Rev. Wiredu explained that over the years the region had experienced a series of bushfires, which had negatively affected forest reserves.
He said it was unfortunate that bushfires had destroyed a greater number of trees in the area, adding that the introduction of cashew and mango farming had reduced the situation.
Rev. Wiredu said the establishment of the fire volunteer squad would help protect trees planted under the various forestry programmes, including the Green Ghana initiative.