In a joint dialogue featuring the Forestry Commission, Minerals Commission, and the Water Resource Commission, the Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr Sulemana Nelson, revealed a grim statistic: three forestry workers lost their lives in 2023 due to the activities of illegal miners in forest reserves.
Addressing members of the National House of Chiefs during the dialogue held on January 25, Mr Nelson highlighted the dangers faced by officers carrying out their duties. He emphasized that small-scale mining is prohibited in forest reserves by law, but illegal mining, locally known as “galamsey,” has infiltrated these areas, leading to severe consequences.
Mr Nelson lamented the changing dynamics, noting that the uniform of forestry officers, once a deterrent, no longer scares off illegal miners. Perpetrators, armed and stationed around the officers, engage in lethal confrontations, resulting in tragic outcomes.
“People who encroach in forest reserves now are usually armed, and this is exposing our staff and workers to many dangers. Last year, three of our staff were gunned down and lost their lives miserably. There are a number of staff also who have been maimed in the line of duty,” he explained.
The situation poses a significant challenge to the Forestry Commission’s mandate to protect the country’s vegetative cover. Despite the risks, Mr Nelson expressed the commission’s commitment to collaborating with essential institutions, including the National House of Chiefs, to address the issue. He acknowledged the role of chiefs as custodians and owners of the land, emphasizing the importance of working together to find a resolution to the problem.