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Sada Tree Planting Controversy …Excerpts From Uds' December 2013 Report (1)
 
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28-Apr-2014  
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Alhaji Gilbert Seidu Iddi CEO of SADA
 
 
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The New Crusading GUIDE has accessed a copy of a "draft final report" on the evaluation of the SADA-ACICL Afforestation Project issued by the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University For Development Studies (UDS), Tamale. The Report dated December 2013 was as a result of a survey of 145 plantation sites within the four (4) SADA Afforestation Zones encompassing 45 political districts in 5 Regions.

The survey was spearheaded by a four-member Project Evaluation Team led by Professor S.K. Oppong with Merrs W.J. Asante, D. Tom-Dery and B.N. Baatuuwie as members. A total of four (4) coordinators, 48 project assistants and 2426 beneficiaries were enumerated in the 145 plantation sites visited.

As indicated in the Executive Summary of the Report under reference, the latter sought to validate or otherwise the activities of ACI Construction Limited as contained in the latter's Annual Report For Phase One on the "SADA Initiative On Foresting The Northern Savannah Ecological Zone(NSEZ)". The main tasks were to (1) Determine the percentage survival of planted species on various plantations; (2) Ascertain the silvicultural and management practices implemented in the plantations; (3) Determine acreages planted on various plantations and (4) Verify the performance of contractors engaged on the projects.

While highlighting the challenges and weaknesses of the Afforestation Project undertaken by ACI Construction, the Project Evaluation Team noted that "during our verification surveys, it was clear that obligations of the Implementing Organization were met according to Section 6 of the terms of the agreement between SADA and ACI Construction Limited...".

Beginning from this edition and in subsequent ones, The New Crusading GUIDE, driven by the need to serve the larger public interest and to provide an informed basis for public discourse on the SADA-ACI Construction Afforestation Programme as well as the Joint Venture Guinea Fowl Project between SADA and Asongtaba, will serialize excerpts/extracts of some relevant records such as the UDS Projection Evaluation Report and Minutes of Board of Directors of the defunct Joint Venture Company(SADA Asongtaba Guinea Fowl Production & Marketing Company Ltd.).

Please see page two of this edition for the first in the series of excerpts/extracts from the "Draft Final Report" on the Evaluation Of SADA-ACICL Afforestation Project issued in December 2013 by the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale. Unconfirmed reports reaching our news desk indicate that the same Faculty had earlier been tasked to also undertake yet another survey focused on determining the actual number of trees planted during the contract period from July 2012 to June 2013.However, our sources could not tell us the exact status of that additional survey.

If and when the details or contents of that survey come to our attention or notice, we shall publicise them for the benefit of the general public for whatever they are worth. Please stay tuned for further serialization of relevant documentation and records.

EVALUATION OF SADA-ACICL AFFORESTATION PROJECT

Draft Final Report

FACULTY OF RENEWABLE NATURAL RESOURCES, UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, TAMALE

DECEMBER 2013

*EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Planting trees is a novel idea especially in vulnerable environments like the savanna woodlands that characterize the SADA catchment area. SADA envisions a forested and green North intended to achieve climate mitigation and economic prosperity. This report validates or otherwise the activities provided in the ACI Construction Limited’s report on the status of the SADA afforestation project, which would also be used as basis for future monitoring and evaluation of the project. The main tasks were to:

*1. Determine the percentage survival of planted species on various plantations

*2. Ascertain the silvicultural and management practices implanted in the plantations

*3. Determine acreages planted on various plantations

*4. verify the performance of contractors engaged on the projects
A total of 145 plantations were surveyed in all the four afforestation zones encompassing 45 political districts in 5 regions. Eight tree species were planted in the various operational zones namely; Tectona grandis, Senna siamea, Albizia lebbeck, Khaya senegalensis, Mangifera indica, Anacardium occidentale, Eucalyptus spp. and Moringa oleifera. The average percentage survival of all the planted species in the SADA plantations were very high (85%) with the highest (88%) recorded in the Eastern Zone and the least (76%) in the Southern Zone. The Western Zone had the highest acreage of 204 ha while the Central Zone had the least of 140 ha. Management practices employed in the plantations include fencing in a few cases and construction of fire belts. Two main cultural practices were used namely; beating up the weeding. Overall ACI Construction Limited performed creditably and adhered mostly to the terms of agreement of the contract between the former and SADA.

However the project has several challenges including irregular weed control on the plantations, destruction of plantations by livestock, difficulties in recruitment, absence of fire belts, insufficient supply and untimely delivery of seedlings, insect pets infestation, irregular planting distance, inadequate supervision, irregular attendance of field assistants, worn-out tools and equipment, problems with land acquisition and ownership of plantations and poorly placed and inadequately labeled billboards.

The following recommendations are proposed for consideration:

*i. Recruitment of project and field assistants/beneficiaries should be transparent and based on competence to ensure effective and successful implementation of the afforestation project. The field assistants should be recruited from the communities in which the plantations occur to satisfy the objective of job creation and livelihood enhancement at the community level.

*ii. The number of field assistants engaged on each plantation should commensurate with the size of land under cultivation.

*iii. The project must demonstrate gender equity by ensuring that female field assistants are equally employed for the enhancement of rural livelihoods as envisaged by the proponents of the project.

*iv. The use of Eucalyptus spp should be encouraged in waterlogged areas rather than Cassia siamea. It is stressed that site-species matching must be fundamentally pursued

*v. Due process must be followed in the acquisition and documentation of land earmarked for the plantations and the ownership of the plantations must also be clearly defined.

*vi. Presently all the plantations are community-based. It is being emphasized that private individuals and corporate participation should be encouraged to fulfill the national public-private partnership agenda.

*vii. Based on the phase of development of the afforestation project, successes achieved so far and the preparedness of ACICL, it is being suggested that ACIC Limited be allowed to continue providing the technical and management support for the project until the plantations are well established.

*1.0 INTRODUCTION:
The cultivation and nurturing of fast-growing and woody trees to protect mainly water bodies and rejuvenate a rapidly depreciating forest cover across the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority’s (SADA) project area does not only mitigate climate change but also create jobs for several idle youth. Ghana in recent years has experienced a sharp decline in the forest cover which has brought in its wake several attendant environmental problems. The situation is exacerbated in the northern savannas, including the three northern regions, parts of the Volta Region and the northern part of the Brong Ahafo Region.

The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority is mandated to implement programmes and projects that will propel and sustain the socio-economic and environmental development of the SADA enclave. As part of her development agenda, SADA has embarked on an afforestation project to enhance environmental sustainability and improve the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the project area. This activity is being implemented with a strategic partner, the ACI construction company.

This document aims at validating activities listed in the ACI construction’s Limited report sent to SASA and to confirm or otherwise indicate the status of the SADA afforestation project to date.
Specifically the terms of reference for the evaluation of the project are to:

*1. Determine the percentage survival of planted species on various plantations

*2. Ascertain the silvicultural and management practices implemented in the plantations

*3. Determine acreages planted on various plantations

*4. Verify the performance of contractors engaged on the project.
The findings and recommendations provided in this report shall serve as the basis for future monitoring and evaluation of the afforestation project.

*2.0 METHODOLOGY:

*2.1 DESCRIPTION OF STUDY AREA:
The study covered the plantation of selected communities of the SADA afforestation programme area. They include communities from the Northern, Upper East and West, Brong-Ahafo and Volta regions of Ghana (Figure 1).

*2.1 FIELD STUDY:
The SADA afforestation programme area is categorized into four operational zones namely Central Zone, Eastern Zone, Western Zone and the Southern Zone (Fig.2). The Central Zone has plantations mainly in Northern region while the Western Zone has plantations in the Northern and Upper West regions. The Eastern Zone also has plantations in Northern and Upper East regions while the Southern Zone has plantations in Northern, Brong-Ahafo and Volta regions.

All afforestation sites visited were mapped using GARMIN GPSMAP 62 devise to determine the acreages planted. Three 30x30m plots were laid at random in each plantation and all plants within the plots were counted to estimate the percentage survival of the various species planted. Observations of the management and silvicultural practices were also made on the fields. A questionnaire was administered to Project Assistants and Zonal Coordinators to ascertain the management and silvicultural practices employed on these planted fields. Other information like staff strength as well as challenges militating against the implementation of the project was solicited using questionnaire.

*2.2 DESK STUDY:
Secondary data were gathered from both SADA and ACI Construction Limited. Monthly reports and others such as staff payment schedules and terms of agreement between SADA and ACI Construction Limited were obtained from the latter. SADA also provided the ACICIL’s report on the afforestation project and list of all afforestation sites.

*2.3 DATA ANALYSIS:
The seedling survival and questionnaire data were subjected to descriptive statistics such as percentages. They were also tabulated as well as constructed into graphs. The GPS data points were also tabulated with other data such as species and acreages planted. The GPS coordinates were analysed using ArcGIS software and converted into maps for all the communities surveyed.

*3.6 VERIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT OF THE PERFORMANCE OF ACICL LIMITED:
During our verification surveys, it was clear that obligations of the implementing organization were met according to the section 6 of the terms of agreement between SADA and ACI Construction Limited (Appendix 11). 145 plantation sites were visited within the four SADA afforestation zones. Various acreages of land have been acquired, prepared and seedlings planted in the four zones. A total of four (4) coordinators, 48 project assistants and 2426 beneficiaries were enumerated in the 145 plantations visited Fig 13).

Payments to beneficiaries have been made to the month ending July, 2013 (Appendix 7). The targeted employment of 5000 youth was oversubscribed by 496. These youth were employed in various capacities which included; Project assistants and Field assistants/beneficiaries. The management is composed of a Project Manager, 1 Technical Advisor, 1 Training and Research coordinator, 4 zonal coordinators, 1 media and communications coordinator, 1 Logistics officer and 2 Training and Research assistants. ACI Construction Limited also employs 4 drivers, 12 security personnel and 1 project assistant who also acts as secretary to the project manager (Appendix 8). All above obligations were met according to the section 6 of the terms of agreement between SADA and ACI Construction Limited.

The organization has four operational offices, one each in the four SADA zone that is, Tamale for the Central Zone, Zuarungu for the Eastern Zone, Wa for the Western Zone and Kintampo for the Southern Zone. Each office is headed by the zonal co-originator. The organization also has a large stock of assets ranging from pick up vehicles (seven in all for coordinators and management), motorbikes (for project assistants), Tricycles, poly tanks etc. Appendix 9a, b, c, and d illustrate the logistics of ACI Constructions Limited.

A review of the logistical framework by ACI Construction Limited for the implementation of the SADA afforestation project revealed that four out of the ten outputs were not strictly verifiable. Output 4, Nursery development was not strictly met since ACI Construction used privately established nurseries in the various zones instead of establishing its own nurseries. Outputs 8,9 and 10 were not also strictly adhered to. These outputs bother on community sensitization on factors that destroy the ecology of the environment, mitigating strategies to manage risk, and incentives for the reduction of wild fire established and other suggestions (Appendix 10).

*4.0 CHALLENGES ENCOUNTERED DURING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AFFORESTATION PROGRAMME.

Despite the attainment of very good survival levels of the planted species, the plantations face a number of challenges which should be addressed as soon as practicable in the face of the impending drought. The challenges include:

• Insect and pests infestation: Incidence of ants and termites were evident in some plantations (See Plate 10a and b).

• Irregular weed control on the plantations: A number of the plantations in the study areas were weedy (Plat 11a and b). Inquiries showed that this situation has arisen as a result of delay in the payment of allowances to the workers. Weeds can affect the general development of the seedlings as they compete for both above and below ground resources thus inhibiting growth and performance of seedlings. Weeds also serve as fuel in the plantations especially during the dry season and can easily be set a blazed. Weeds also encourage insects and rodents attacks which maydestry tree stands.

• Destruction of plantations by livestock: The destruction of planted seedlings on plantations by livestock (cattle and goats) was identified in some communities (Plate 12a and b) and poses a serious threat to the establishment of the plantations particularly during the dry season.

• Recruitment and training: The recruitment process for the project and field assistants as stipulated in the terms of agreement was not strictly adhered to and therefore resulted in recruiting individuals who were not very suitably cut for the work. Some of the Project Assistants (PAs) do not have the required skills for tree plantation establishment and development. Examples include PAs with degrees in Community Nutrition, HND in Accounting and GCE Ordinary level certificate. Even though ACICL offered basic training in plantation establishment and management they required further training to bring them up to the expected level of competency for the job.

• Absence of fire belts in some communities: A few communities have already created fire belts but most communities are intending to create them soon. If this is not done early it can lead to the destruction of seedlings by wild fires during the dry season.

• Irregular planting distance: Trees like agricultural crops require proper spacing for healthy growth and good yields (Plate 13a). However, some of the plantations were either overcrowded or poorly spaced. Overcrowding of seedling may affect the diameter, height and basal area growth of the trees in the plantations thus resulting in poor performance of the plantation. Over spacing may lead to poor plant population and subsequent waste of land resources and increased cost in weed control.

• Insufficient supply and untimely delivery of Seedlings: Some communities complained of late delivery of seedlings during planting (Plate 13b). Some received seedlings at the time the rain was about to stop (November, 2012). This did not only put a lot of burden on the field assistants but it also led to low survival of seedlings especially those planted in 2012. A few communities did not also receive the expected quantities of seedlings to cover the prepared land area.

• Inadequate supervision: Irregular supervision of field assistants in some plantations have translated into poor plantation performance as the necessary management and cultural practices are not carried out by these field workers.

• Irregular attendance of field assistants: Reports from various Project Assistants indicated that some of the field assistants did not participate in the field activities but were prompt to go for their allowances. Distance to the plantation site could be the reason for the irregular attendance. For example, all the 45 field assistants engaged at the Soalepe plantation come from Damongo, a distance of 11km which affected work schedules at that site.

• Worn-out tools and equipment for plantation maintenance: It was observed that most tools and equipment supplied to the workers are worn-out. For example, cutlass, wellington boots and clothing.

• Land acquisition and ownership of plantations: Many of the sites used for the plantations were not properly acquired and documented. In some communities, the trees were planted on the individual and family lands and this could pose a serious problem in future. In such cases, the ownership of the plantation is not well defined as the land area is not covered by any documentation. Hence, improper land acquisition and undefined ownership of plantations could generate future conflicts.

• Poorly placed and inadequately labeled billboards: Billboards produced for the plantations were not adequately labeled and their location did not properly give direction to the plantations. The purpose of the billboard is to show the observer where the SADA plantation occurs in the community (Plate 14). If this is not done, the billboard can be moved and placed anywhere and this will hinder auditing and mislead the general public.

*5.0 WHAT DID THE FINDINGS TELL US?:
The dream of SADA to ameliorate environmental degradation and mitigate climate change as well as create jobs for the unemployed youth in its operational area will not be a mirage but a reality. This is evident as plantations have been established simultaneously across all the political districts within the SADA programme area. Plantations assessed across the zones have high and diverse spatial coverage and high seedling survival percentage. This implies that cultivation and nurturing of fast-growing woody tree species along water bodies, marginal lands and on degraded lands across SADA operational zones is already in place and growing by the day and it is hoped will help combat environmental degradation, mitigate climate change as well as improve the living standards of the people in the areas through job creation.

However, the success or realization of this vision hinges on the proper management of the established plantations. Planting of the trees is just one of the steps but its management is very crucial to the success and fruition of the entire project. Plantation establishment requires more investments in human capital for a long period of time. Hence to have a forested and economically viable north, more financial, physical and human capital commitment is required as well as the elimination of other bottlenecks that may hinder the smooth implementation of the project to achieve the desired goals.

The savanna must be greened and greened in peace and in a sustainable manner. Peaceful and sustainable development of these plantations revolves around proper acquisition of land and right definition of the plantation ownership. Our survey has revealed that many of the sites used for the plantations were not properly acquired. Improper land acquisition and undefined ownership of plantations have future implications. This may lead to the abandonment of the plantations and worst of it all, conflicts.

*6.0 CONCLUSION:
Generally, the percentage survival of the seedlings was good but require good cultural and management practices such as regular weeding, beating up, pest control as well as effective monitoring to enhance the general health of the plantations. Effective control of bushfires in the dry season will be imperative to the survival of the plantations. Therefore, the creation of fire belts must be fundamental in all the plantations.

To Be Continued…
 
 
 
Source: The New Crusading Guide
 
 

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