|President John Mahama|
An Environmentalist with the Zasilari Ecological Farms Project (ZEFP) in the Northern Region Issifu Sulemana Jobila, is urging government to immediately institute robust measures to preempt any attempt by any individual or a syndicate to fleece resources allocated to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).
According to him, recent exposé by Investigative Journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni breaks the heart of many northerners and environmentalists like himself, considering the fact that a lot of those appointed to manage resources and programmes of SADA are “our kith and kin who should never have disappointed us or think of letting us down.”
The three regions of the north –Upper West, Upper East and Northern, according to Mr. Jobila in an interview with Savannahnews, are the most environmentally degraded and poverty stricken as compared to any part of Ghana. “Every right thinking Ghanaian at this point of our nation’s history actually believes that, this is the opportune time for northerners to be lifted up from protracted poverty and all other negativities associated with environmental degradation.
“About 90 percent of the population in Upper West Region is poor; in the Upper East the figure is 80 percent and in the Northern Region, 70 percent. Presidents Mills and Mahama saw the vision to bring accelerated development to us even in the face of unnecessary criticisms by some Ghanaians. And I believe by now some of those early critics are saying they have been vindicated”, he remarked.
Mr. Jobila cautioned that, failure by President John Dramani Mahama to purge the current system created at SADA especially ways in which contracts are being signed or partnerships are entered into by SADA and private institutions, many northerners will never forget about the huge mistakes that have already been committed since he is the appointing authority.
“People have been appointed and given set targets to meet. What a lot of citizens of the SADA zone are hearing is that, some if not all of them, are yet to meet a single target set for them. Yet they are receiving salary at the end of every month. How then do you expect citizens to believe that the nation is going through economic crisis when there is such wanton dissipation of resources allocated to an infant organisation such as SADA”, Mr. Jobila lamented.
He said his own checks on the afforestation project in the West Mamprusi District shows that it was a complete failure. “Aside Asongtaba’s failure to pay labourers they engaged, thus their refusal to cater for the trees, land tenure system is another issue that wasn’t taken seriously. In one of the beneficiary communities there was confusion over ownership of land and so, no one saw the need to take care of the trees and they died”, he observed.
|Dr. Charles Jebuni, Ag. CEO, SADA|
In January this year, President Mahama instructed the Board of SADA to in consultation with the Attorney-General, terminate a 47 million cedis guinea fowl and afforestation contracts it entered into with Asongtaba Cottage Industries.
An amount of GH¢32 million out of the overall total was allocated for the afforestation project. Several years after the contract was signed and the amount disbursed, nothing concrete according to government was achieved. It emerged through media investigations that all the seedlings bought and planted had withered.
According to a statement issued and signed by the President’s Spokesperson Ben Dotse Malor, the presidency acknowledged the necessary systems had not been put in place before the contracts were signed. The statement thus requested the "SADA Board to hold consultations with the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Local Government to work out a strategy for the proper implementation of the afforestation and tree growing project, on a decentralized basis."
On the way forward, he urged government and for that matter the incoming SADA Board to award any new contract under the afforestation programme to an institution that is tried and tested or has a track record that is there for everyone to see. “For instance, what at all is wrong with SADA giving such a job to the various District Offices of the Forestry Commission, NGOs with track records in tree planting and the Department of Parks and Garden to execute?”, he asked.
He also stressed on the need to effectively involve communities to understand why there is the need to have trees planted in their farms or deserted lands so as to ensure that the people fully embrace the idea and own it.
SADA, a government policy initiative established by an Act of Parliament (Act 805, 2010) is aimed at addressing the development gap that exists between Northern and Southern Ghana. SADA’s mandate is to accelerate the socio-economic development of the Savannah belt through strategic investment in resource development. It envisions a “Forested North” by 2030, where agricultural production is modernised and oriented towards a larger market.