The Forestry Commission (FC) has called for the proper management and regulation of the production, distribution and sale of charcoal in the country.
According to the commission, a well-regulated charcoal sector through the provision of a policy would help reduce the negative impact of the industry on the forestry sector.
“The indiscriminate felling of trees for charcoal production, the fleet of charcoal-laden trucks seen daily on our highways and the mountainous piles of charcoal dumped at some locations in our towns and cities are enough to suggest to any casual observer that charcoal production is not properly regulated in Ghana,” it said.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the FC, Mr John Allotey, made the call at a ceremony to inaugurate the Charcoal Chamber of Commerce (CCC) in Accra last Wednesday.
The chamber, made of producers, exporters, transporters and tree harvesters, is led by a seven-member executive council and seeks to bring together all actors in the industry on a common platform to enhance production and also sustain the environment.
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Charcoal is one of the main sources of fuel used by majority of households in the urban centres, making its usage the largest of the country’s energy supply and consumption.
However, Mr Allotey noted that there was no clear definition of the roles of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), as well as institutional coordination, in the harvesting of trees for charcoal production.
Additionally, he said, there was the absence of a well-established and recognised organisation for charcoal producers and exporters, training in best practices and use of technology.
He also complained that trees that were expected to produce oxygen for humans and animals were being harvested for charcoal and firewood in an unsustainable manner.
“The current threat posed by the indiscriminate harvesting of trees for charcoal production is not a threat to environmental sustainability only but also the livelihoods of the relatively large number of people who are engaged in the industry,” he said.
Mr Allotey said the establishment of the chamber would, therefore, complement the efforts of the FC and other state regulatory bodies to minimise tree depletion outside designated forest reserves which were harvested indiscriminately for charcoal production.
Currently, he said, the commission was seeking to develop a national regulatory framework for the commercial exploitation of forests at the district level and promote the establishment of commercial and small-holder wood fuel plantations.
Justifying the need for a framework to regulate the industry, a Technical Advisor at the FC, Dr Kwakye Ameyaw, said the bulk of trees used for charcoal production for both the domestic market and export was harvested as an open access resource from farmlands and fallow lands which were not under any clearly defined institutional control.
“The relatively high level of dependence of Ghana on charcoal places an obligation on the country to ensure the regulation and sustainable management of the charcoal value chain,” he emphasised.
Dr Ameyaw mentioned some of the advantages of the sector as being a job avenue and a source of income for the actors engaged in it.
He also explained that in forestry and environmental protection, tree harvesting reduced the wildfire menace by clearing combustible fire hazard materials from the forest floor and also offered protection against pathogenic infection by clearing and logging waste and debris from the forest floor.
For his part, the Chief Executive of the CCC, Mr Osafo Kuffour, said the individual efforts of actors in the charcoal industry were disjointed and disharmonised.
It was against that background, he said, that the chamber was formed to give actors in the charcoal value chain a common platform for the development of the industry, while working closely with the FC and other statutory agencies to ensure that the industry was well regulated.
The objectives of the chamber include educating and orienting its members on effective practices and principles for establishing a sustainable energy plantation and promoting the use of modern technology by members to efficiently produce charcoal and allied biomass products.