Mr Albert Katako, Head of Programmes, Civic Response
Mr Albert Katako, Head of Programmes, Civic Response

Halt special permits for timber - Lands Ministry

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (ML&NR) has directed the Forestry Commission to halt the issuance of special felling permits for timber as it is illegal under the current law, the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Hitherto, special permits were issued in the interim to people involved in the timber trade before they receive a Timber Utilisation Contract (TUC).  

However, the Technical Director in charge of Forestry at the ML&NR, Mr Musah Abu-Juam, who disclosed the above, said Ghana signed up to the VPA basically to help to sanitise the system.

Consequently, the new directive will help reverse the decline of the forests and address deforestation and forest degradation.   

Speaking at a validation workshop on ‘VPA Impact on livelihoods’ in Accra, he explained that Ghana had witnessed a dwindling in forests through illegal logging since 2009.

“The motivation for illegal logging is profit. Most of our timber go to the European Union (EU), so when they hinted a stop to all illegal timber, we signed up to the VPA. Even domestically if we are able to get only legal timber out of our forests, it’s important,” he said.

He said a tracking system, the Ghana Legal Timber Assurance System, was also in place to ensure that timber entering the supply chain originated from legal sources and also timber flows were controlled throughout the whole supply chain.

“It is designed to monitor and track compliance of operators along the chain of custody of timber from the forest gate to the point of export or on the domestic market,” he said.


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Protecting livelihoods

Ghana signed the VPA with the EU to trade in legal timber in both the domestic and export market.

Stakeholders acknowledged the fact that VPA implementation may have impacts on forestry, livelihoods and timber industry, hence the need to collect baseline information to enable VPA impact assessment during the course of VPA implementation.

In a presentation, the Director, Timber Validation Department at the Forestry Commission, Mr Chris Beeko, said adequate measures should be put in place to ensure that no stakeholder was disadvantaged in the country’s quest to enforce compliance on legal timber trade.

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He said the VPA between Ghana and the EU was all about law enforcement and governance of timber trade.

He recalled that Ghana had been trying over the past 11 years since it signed the agreement to put systems in place that would help to assure markets and other stakeholders that it was able to fulfill all legal requirements before timber consignments were lifted to trade.

However, in doing so, certain gaps have been identified in implementation, including some stakeholders being disadvantaged.

“So, in couching the agreement, I think it has become important to make sure that as we fully implement the laws and we also make sure that nobody is being disadvantaged,” he said.

He explained that the basis of all the actions Ghana was taking was to prepare the ground to attest to the market and other stakeholders her conformity to the Forest Law Enforcement.

“So, you see that it has nothing to do with importing any ideas from anywhere- we just position ourselves. The VPA is based on implementing the laws fully that Ghana has set out to govern trade in timber,” he said.

VPA Impact

The validation workshop was organised by Civic Response on the VPA Impact Monitoring Project that sought to identify the impact of the implementation of the VPA on the various stakeholders.

The project was in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the EU, UKAID and ResourceTrust.

Speaking in an interview, the Head of Programmes, Civic Response, Mr Albert Katako, said the VPA aimed to drastically reduce or eliminate illegal logging in Ghana for the domestic and export market so that Ghana would mainly deal with legal timber in both markets.  

“Beyond that, it’s also going to bring about a transformation in our forest governance sector. So, in 2009 the VPA was ratified by Parliament and so it has become part of Ghana’s law and so we are required to enforce it,” he said.

Like every project, Mr Katako said the VPA Impact Monitoring Project encountered challenges with data collection in terms of quality.

The project recommended that the consultative and participatory environment created prior to and during the VPA’s development should be sustained to get stakeholders continuous buy-in for the VPA’s implementation.

“While the active involvement of CSOs should be encouraged, traditional authorities, the custodians of the stool lands must be given a role to play in the implementation and monitoring of the VPA. There is the need to improve and enforce laws on timber extraction to reduce illegality,” it recommended.

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