Ghana: Soldiers Are Brutalizing Us, Juaboso Farmers Complain
OVER A 1, 000 farmers at Sefwi Juaboso community, in the Juaboso District of the Western Region say they are living in fear following what they describe as constant threat and harassment by some military personnel.
The farmers who are mainly into cocoa and food crops cultivation and live in villages including Abrokofe, Kwawkrom, Adwumam and Nsinsem claim they are being prevented from tilling a portion of the Krokusa Hills Forest which has been legitimately allocated to them by the military patrol operating under the instruction of the Forestry Commission.
The farmers are, therefore, appealing to the government to intervene on their behalf because they can no longer bear the harsh treatments being meted out to them by the two authorities.
Narrating their ordeal to newsmen in Kumasi, the chief of Kwawkrom and spokesperson of the aggrieved farmers, Nana Kofi Oppong II said the Krokusa Hills forest was acquired from their forefathers by the then colonial masters as forest reserve in 1935 and subsequently handed over to successive governments.
He said upon their personal inquiry, they realized a portion of the forest was allocated to their fathers by the colonial masters to be used for farming so they petitioned the government in 2005 requesting the release of their allotted lands since their main source of livelihood was farming.
The petition, he said, was approved by the government and some portions of the forest were given to the residents of the four communities after which the Forestry Commission was asked to cut down most of the trees as lumber.
He stated that two years after they had started farming on the land, the District Forestry division brought to their notice that some of the farmers were cultivating beyond the demarcated portion but said the issue was resolved after the intruders were asked to stop.
Notwithstanding this, Nana Kofi Sarpong said the District Forestry Officer, Mr. Clement Omare still insisted they had farmed beyond the boundaries and continued to intimidate them, and threatened to redemarcate their legitimately acquired portion of the forest.
Sensing the danger in the threat by the forestry officer, they in turn informed their solicitors, Paul Nkuah-Gyapong who filed a suit at the Sefwi-Wiawso High Court restraining the Forestry officer from carrying out with his intention to redemarcate the land.
The court presided over by His Lordship, Mr. Justice W. Kpentey ordered that representatives of both the plaintiffs and the defendants be tasked to carry out a verification exercise on the admitted farms before going ahead with the re-demarcation.
This, according to the spokesperson of the farmers, was bluntly refused by the Forestry officer and went ahead to gather a team of Military personnel in executing the re-demarcation exercise, which has seen most of their food and cash crops cut down by the Forestry Commission.
He stated that any attempt by the farmers to oppose the exercise had been met with harsh treatment from the military personnel who often threatened them at gun point.
The farmers lamented that they could no longer go to their farms to fetch food or harvest their cocoa because they had been taken over by the military officers and officials from the Forestry Commission and warned that if the government does not come to their rescue, they cannot harvest their cocoa products this season.
They indicated that several appeals to the District Chief Executive of the area, Mr. Asiedu Mensah had fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the District Forestry Officer, Mr.Clement Omare has in a telephone interview, admitted to the incident of the misunderstanding between the FC and the farmers but denied the issue of military brutalities as claimed by the disgruntled farmers.
He explained that the presence of the military personnel was only to protect the land from being invaded by the defiant farmers.