The government of Ghana is steadily following through with its promise to distribute 50,000 gas cylinders and other accessories to citizens living in rural communities where access to fuel for domestic purposes is largely limited to wood and charcoal.
This policy by the administration of President John Dramani Mahama is intended to reduce the alarming rate of deforestation and provide a cleaner, healthier and safer form of cooking fuel for rural women.
Dubbed “The Rural LPG Promotion Programme”, it is also expected to improve and increase access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in rural areas from the 13% in 2012 to 15% by the end of 2016.
“The goal of the policy is to reverse the detrimental effect of the continuous burning of more than 13 million tonnes of firewood annually and reduce respiratory diseases acquired from the use of firewood” Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah said this known when he presented 6,000 gas cylinders and accessories such as stoves and regulators to the Savelugu-Nanton Municipality, Saboba and Gushiegu Districts at Savelugu in the Northern Region.
Ghana’s forests coverage according to the Forestry Commission in the early part of the 20th Century was estimated at 8.2 million hectares. This has reduced to less than 1.6 million hectares at an annual rate of loss of 65,000 hectares. The annual forest depletion is also quantified to be 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Compared to Southern Ghana, the Northern part of the country is however the most degraded area. For instance, the 1952 Forest Inventory Record of Ghana indicated that the total tree cover in the entire north was 41,600 km2, representing 46% of its total land area. By 1996 approximately 40% of the woodland was estimated to have been exposed to acute soil erosion and other forms of human activities. Thus, about 38,000 hectares of tree cover are lost yearly in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions.
The increasing lost of vegetative and forest cover through human activities such as bush burning and indiscriminate felling of trees affect agriculture, human health, forests and game reserves, water resources. Such activities lead to increasing weather temperatures/heat wave, torrential rains/flood, drought, outbreak of epidemics (CSM), influx of pests and among others due to the unpredictable nature of the weather (climate change).
To ensure that beneficiary districts have constant supply of LPG and to prevent users from going back to the use of firewood, Mr. Buah said the ministry would also partner with LPG marketing companies and local dealers to set up of mini-refill gas plants in rural areas.
He urged local dealers and businessmen to take advantage of business opportunities provided and expand the LPG business to the reach of people in remote areas in the districts by setting up mini-refill gas sale outlets.
“The nation currently has a sufficient supply of LPG and the operation of the Gas Processing Plant will ensure a constant flow of LPG for all Ghanaians especially when the new oil fields come on-stream”, Mr. Buah stressed.
The Member of Parliament for Savelugu Constituency Hajia Mary Salifu Boforo and First Deputy Majority Chief Whip of Ghana’s Parliament, lauded the initiative by the government and urged women in her constituency to embrace the use of gas and stove for cooking.
She also appealed to the Ministry of Petroleum to partner with the Ghana National Fire Service in the beneficiary districts to continuously roll out and sustain educational programmes on the safe use of the gas cylinders and cooking stoves.
Meanwhile so far, about six districts across the country have benefited from the programme including Nzema East, Ellembelle and Jomoro Districts in the Western Region of Ghana.