Goziir, a community in the Nandom Municipality has been praised for its commitment towards the prevention of bushfires on its lands for more than forty years.
Speaking to the GBC, the Regent of Goziir, Jacob Yiryel explained that more than 4 decades ago, after devastating loss of properties due to bushfires, the then Chief of the area, Naa Leo Yiryel placed a ban on bush burning in the area.
The ban was adhered to because of strict punishments attached to it.
The Regent, Mr Yiryel said huge fines are imposed on adult perpetrators. These fines were then used as compensation for community members who helped in the management or quenching of the fire.
For adolescent perpetuators who could not afford the fines, they were tasked with collecting enough stones that would be sold and then the proceeds used to compensate community residents.
He said in times when the fire started from other communities and approach Goziir, “we organise ourselves and go and quench that fire. When there is fire burning in a particular place, the women come out with water; the men will come out with cutlasses and other equipment and do anything to prevent the spread of the fire”.
The Regent, Mr Yiryel added that after the demise of Naa Leo Yiryel, who implemented the ban, his son who succeeded him, Naa Simon Yiryel Aamwaa also continued in ensuring that community members adhere strictly to the dictates of the ban.
The Regent, Mr Yiryel said due to the long years of non-burning, several new tree species had grown in the area while some ‘old and forgotten’ herbs and shrubs have begun reemerging.
“Now that we have not burnt the bush for about 40 years, we have plenty new trees that are growing. The animals feed on these trees and shrubs and defecate on the ground. Because of this, we have enough manure, use less fertilizers and get very good yields,” he said.
The Regent, Mr Yiryel said in order to further sustain the ban and prevent bush fires, the Chief, Naa Simon Yiryel Aamwaa has met with the Chiefs of surrounding communities to ensure that they also enforce similar by-laws to prevent the burning of bushes.
A pito brewer and vegetable farmer at Goziir who spoke to the GBC mentioned that because of the non-bush burning, she does not need to walk long distances to get firewood to brew her pito. She added that she does not have to buy fertilizer to cultivate her vegetables since the land is very fertile and she also uses manure from the animals in the community.
Another man who spoke to the GBC, Ametus Yiryel, said despite the efforts of the community, they are still faced with a number of challenges. He said the community has been divided into 7 sections and not all the sections have functional boreholes. This means that when fire approach the community from other areas, the residents have to walk long distances to get water to quench the fire.
“The challenge is mainly water. Mostly, the fire start in the night or at dawn, sometimes 2 a.m. and the women have to struggle to get water to where the bush is burning,” he lamented.
He therefore appealed to benevolent institutions and individuals to help the community construct more functional boreholes in a 7 sections of the community. He also asked for support with protective clothing, cutlasses and other basic equipment to help in their fight against bush fires.
For his part, the Lawra Forest District Manager, Francis Brobbey, commended the community for their deliberate efforts towards the prevention of the start and spread of bushfire in and around the community.
Mr Brobbey said from the look of things, community sensitisation on the negative effects of bushfire in the community has been successful. He also commended the Chief, Naa Simon Yiryel Aamwaa, for continuing to enforce the ban his predecessor initiated.
The Lawra Forest District Manager said the situation at Goziir makes it clear that with dedicated efforts, the annual ritual of bush burning in the Northern part of the country can be managed to help the people to reap its associated benefits.
Story filed by Mark Smith.