Infertile land, lack of rainfall and coupled with lack of jobs has forced man youth in the Upper West and Savannah Region into charcoal burning. Those from the Upper West said they had no jobs, the reason why many of them (youth) have migrated to the Savannah Region where they can take advantage of the booming charcoal trade to earn a living.
Even though they know the harm they are causing to the environment, they see the trade as the only means for survival.
But some of the charcoal traders and burners in the Savannah Region say they will be glad if authorities in that region including NGOs can lobby and provide them with seedlings, fast-growing plants and land so that they can grow their own trees and later harvest for charcoal.
This they believe will help control indiscriminate felling of trees in the area. They made the plea when the programme coordinator of Jaksally Development Organization questioned them about their activities of felling trees and producing charcoal.
A group of young men numbering about 20 who were found loading charcoal into two Renault Kia trucks in Yipaala, a community in Dmamongo told Mr Seidu they were all from Upper West, but because there were no fertile land and also poor rainfall compelled them to come down to Savannah areas where they could burn charcoal for a living.
Savannah Region is noted for its rich forest and as a result, many residents are been hired by some private business individuals especially those from the Southern sector to cut these economic trees for charcoal while causing desertification which in effect is affecting the rainfall pattern.
Trees are fell, cut into pieces and then use to burn charcoal on a commercial basis. On a daily basis, about 45% of vehicles that ply through Sawla-Fulfuso Road to Techiman and Tamale through Kintampo and Kumasi are all loaded with charcoal. A minimum bags of charcoal for a small Kia Renault truck is 400 bags.
This is happening under the watch of traditional authorities, district assemblies, environmental protection agencies (EPA), and Forestry Commission and the local branch of Gonjaland Youth Association who are issuing receipts and taking money from charcoal burners before they are allowed to transport these charcoal out of the area.
The situation some residents believe is supporting the high charcoal trade in the region.
Meanwhile, Hundreds of shea trees have been cut down in Tinga in the Bole – Bamboi District of the newly created Savannah Region. The trees are been cut to be used in burning charcoal and exported out of North to Accra and Kumasi for sale. The charcoal burners prefer the shea tree because it charcoal last longer.
The Savannah Region in recent times has been hit by massive logging of not just shea trees but also rosewood.
Programme Coordinator of Jaksally Development Organization an NGO which supports women in the shea business in the Savanah Region said several women have already started bearing the brunt and are complaining of the dwindling pick which is affecting their incomes and livelihood.
Mr Seidu Jeremiah said this is happening because of the failure of traditional authorities in Gonjaland to support the fight against shea tree and rosewood destruction.
He said women especially widows that have been excluded from society and are largely dependent on shea for survival.
Mr Jeremiah urged the traditional authorities to be concern about the way the environment is been endangered and how the livelihood of vulnerable people are been destroyed.
Also, reacting to the development of Radio Justice in Tamale Mr Jeremiah questioned why the Forestry Commission will issue a Conveyance Certificate for Charcoal (CCC) without seeking the source of this charcoal.
He blamed the District Assemblies, Traditional Authorities and the local branch of Gonjaland Youth Association for encouraging charcoal trade in the region as he accused them of taking money from these traders through the issuance of receipts.
Mr Jeremiah urged the Bole DCE and the Tingawura to arrest the individuals that are involved in the felling of shea trees in Tinga and allow them to process the trees into charcoal and distribute it to secondary schools in the district. This he believes will serve as a deterrent for others because they will lose their investment.
Mr Jeremiah appealed to the Regional Coordinating Director and Savannah Regional Minister Hon. Briamah Salifu to step in because the situation is getting out of hand.