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CARE, Partners launch poverty reduction programme   
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CARE International, Ghana, working through its agricultural and natural resource portfolio, has launched a 15-year Forest and Natural Programme (FNRP) in Takoradi.

The programme will work with key stakeholders such as development actors within local and national government, private sector development partners and international NGOs, according to a statement issued CARE in Accra on Thursday.

Launching the programme the Deputy Mission Director of CARE, Juvenal Afurika, said the programme sought to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods of vulnerable people through sustainable management of Ghana's forests and natural resources.

The statement said during the launch, it became evident that Ghana's natural resources, upon which so much of the country's economic activity and the population's livelihood depend, were being depleted at an alarming rate.

Existing forests, estimated to be about 1.6 million hectares, would be gone within the next 23 years, if adequate measures were not put in place to stem the high deforestation rate of 65,000 hectares per annum.

The statement said the alarming situation could be attributed to the upsurge of illegal forestry activities such as mining, encroachments in forest reserves and illegal chainsaw operations.

It noted that substantial areas of Ghana's natural forest only remained in 200 forest reserves.

"However, some of these reserves remain under threat from logging and mining activities.

Prospects for economic development, sustainable rural livelihoods, and poverty reduction in Ghana are highly dependent on natural resources. This calls for serious efforts to embark on measures to conserve and restore natural resources."

The statement noted that at the heart of the matter was a national governance problem which must be addressed to ensure transparency and accountability of duty bearers at all levels.

There was also the need for policy and legal reforms to address community tenure to lift forest dependent communities from poverty, it said.

Introducing the programme, Albert Katako, the FNRP Coordinator, said Ghana's natural resource management was characterized by challenges such as natural resource policies that were not pro-poor and hardly implemented to identify challenges associated with the policy.

"In line with this, CARE will partner with other actors in the sector to advocate for pro-poor policy reforms and implementation as well as a strong legal environment to restore dignity to people whose livelihoods are directly dependent on the forest and natural resources.

"CARE believes that a strong local civil society is critical in this direction. It will therefore build the capacity of such groups in policy and legal awareness, rights and responsibilities, to help them become drivers of social change and use institutionalized platforms to demand transparent, accountable and responsible natural resource management."

Sharing his perspective on the role of traditional authorities in natural resource management, Nana Nketsia V Omanhene of Essikado in the Western Region, said existing laws must be used in the interest of community members to enable them protect their lands and its natural resources.

He observed that when communities were not in control of their natural resources, nation states continue to beg for aid since environmental standards favour external profit making companies instead of protecting rights of community members.

Source: GNA

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