Domestic lumber market need education to protect forests in Ghana

Tropenbos International Ghana has launched a set of communication and training materials on the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) to educate stakeholders on the importance and necessary preparation for compliance to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

The System is to monitor, control and verify management and use of Ghana’s forest resources to ensure only legal products are produced, sold and exported from Ghana.

Programmes Director of TBI Ghana, Samuel Kwabena Nketiah, says the materials are to particularly inform small and medium forest enterprises in the domestic timber industry on the TLAS component of Ghana’s VPA.

Ghana is among few countries to have added the domestic lumber market in the VPA with the European Union, which was signed in November 2009.

But attempts to restructure the domestic market have been challenging.

According to Rev. Samuel Fugah of the Anloga Carpenters Union, artisanal millers are best placed to supply the local lumber market.

“The smallscale millers can rightly supply the adequate lumber to the domestic market,” he stated. “If that is not done, then it means we’re building castles in the sky; so we should concentrate on the SMEs now, give them the necessary machinery to make sure that they get the access to the raw materials”.

Tropenbos International Ghana and partners, including the Forestry Commission, have devised innovative ways to address the dilemma of supplying legal lumber to the domestic market.

Interest groups, including the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, have endorsed the policy to eliminate illegal chainsaw operations and ensure sustainable supper of legal lumber.

Deputy Sector Minister, Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, says through the VPA, government has committed to trading in only legal wood both in the domestic market and for export.

She believes this will lead to equitable distribution of the benefits of forest resources.

Mr. Kwabena Nketiah, however, says the policy to protect interest of small-scale millers is yet to be activated.

“Definitely we have come very far but as you might realize policy processes are quite slow, so we are yet to get the full accent and promulgation of some of the policy instruments that we have together developed with the Ministry, even though there is a general government buy-in, making it official for wide scale adoption is still yet to be realized,” he said.

Ghana loses an estimated Gh₵25million annually in stumpage revenue from trees illegally harvested by chainsaw operators – illegal tree sales by farmers to operators are equivalent to about 38 percent of the amount.

There are plans to implement a wood tracking system in Ghana to ensure only legally acquired timber is exported under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing regime.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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