The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission has inaugurated the comprehensive new Gbele community resettlement project to the excitement of the people whose living conditions are now better off than before.
New Gbele community is now comprised of 119 room units for 27 households with toilet facilities and electrical fittings; a 100 capacity mosque; 300 hectares of farmland; and additional 13 hectares of land for future development.
The Division also secured an indenture for the 313 hectares of land donated by Dasima Community and paid relocation and transport allowances to the 168 adults of Gbele community to facilitate easy relocation to the new site.
In addition to what had been provided, a dugout was also constructed for use by the new Gbele community under the Sustainable Land and Water Management Project (SLWMP) to address the water needs of the people in the new site.
Mr John Allotey, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Luri Kanton, Director in charge of Operations, pointed out that the resettlement of the community out of the park was necessary to protect the ecological integrity of the Gbele Resource Reserve, which was threatened by increasing population of the Gbele community.
He said though the idea to resettle the community was conceived in the 1980s, it was not until 2007, when the Center for Development Studies of the University of Cape Coast was contracted under the Northern Biodiversity Conservation Project (NDCP) to undertake a study in the Gbele community and provide modalities on how the community could be properly resettled.
After the consultants submitted their report, which indicated the need for a comprehensive resettlement programme for the community, the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission then proceeded to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sissala West District Assembly in October 2013, to undertake various activities and infrastructural development that would fulfill all the modalities spelt out in the resettlement programme, which then ushered in actual constructional works in August 2014, Mr Allotey said.
The Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission admonished the people to help with the protection of the Gbele Resource Reserve, which was a national asset with lots of benefits, encouraging them to stay away from poaching, illegal felling of trees and all other illegalities which would cause pressure on the Reserve.
"I also encourage members of this new community to be "watchmen" for the Forestry Commission and the nation at large by reporting any activity suspected to be illegal to the security forces or the nearest Forestry Commission office for action to be taken against the potential offenders," he said.
Dr Nana Owusu-Ansah, the Park Manager, noted that old Gbele community, which resided in an area less than one square kilometer with an estimated population of about 362, was established before the Gbele Resource Reserve was gazetted in 1975 as the only gazetted Wildlife Protection Area in the Upper West Region.
He noted that though the resettlement programme passed through certain difficulties, the Wildlife Division together with other stakeholders had been able to accomplish the task, adding that the community as of now qualified as an Open Defecation Free (ODF) community and must be accorded that courtesy together with the benefits.