When dignitaries gathered on Friday, 9 June 2023, to observe the Green Ghana Day at Paga, a northern town on Ghana’s border with Burkina Faso, they were wearing big smiles.
But behind them stood aloof a group of angry people who identified themselves to newsmen as employees of the Youth in Afforestation Programme stationed at Paga.
They are the foot soldiers of the Forestry Commission, helping in tree planting and growing activities inside and outside forest reserves.
They complained to reporters at the event that government had failed to pay the allowances due them for the work done since June, 2022.
The scene of the ceremony was mostly green as many were in green outfits to fit the occasion. The protesting foot soldiers were in their forestry green uniforms, too. Their dresses deepened the green tone of the scenery. But, to express their fury over the allowance delay, they also wore red bands on the green, making the event look like a Christmas in June.
Although they are foot soldiers, they lacked boots to match their uniforms. They were in ordinary footwear, some of which looked old and worn. Their leader, Dramani Ayongo Kofi, said they were 60 in number.
“You can see that they are in uniform. But having the red shows that they want to show their displeasure because they are angry. And a hungry man is an angry man. Since last year May they were paid, up to date they’ve not been paid their allowance,” he said.
“We have been working every day. Once the media are around, we want to send our message through the media to the authorities to remind them that we are still hungry, our pockets are dry. We don’t have money to buy fuel to go to sites, the forest reserves. We are pleading.”
‘It’s so sad’― Forestry Commission reacts
The distressed employees said they had engaged authorities a number of times on the issue prior to the open protest, but the only response they always got was an assurance that their allowance arrears were being ironed out.
“We want government to pay our allowances and also give us logistics. Look at what we are wearing,” said their leader, pointing a finger downwards. “We don’t have wellington boots. No safety boots. Our allowance as field assistants is Gh¢400 ($35) each.”
The aggrieved personnel are in Kassena-Nankana West District, one of the four political districts of the Forestry Commission. The other areas are Kassena-Nankana Municipality, Builsa North Municipality and Builsa South District.
When newsmen contacted the district manager in charge of the four political districts, Emmanuel Owusu, on the workers’ complaints, he described their situation as a sad one.
“Their case is so sad. This is what I will say. I cannot speak for government. But you know government has constraints― financial constraints. We all know. At first, their moneys used to come. But nowadays, I don’t know.
“Their support for this activity has diminished because they are not being paid. Government should assist them so that their little allowances they get it. They are helping us a lot. But because their money is not coming, they now feel reluctant,” he remarked.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org