Photo: Kakum National Park in Ghana, by Erik Cleves Kristensen, Flickr/cc.
Ghana is the first country in Africa to have a fully implemented VPA, which entered into force on 1 December 2009. Civil society has used the process to highlight and move towards resolving anomalies in forest law, and to bring difficult issues of tenure to the table. What remains now is for the independent assessment team, contracted in mid-2018, to be mobilised. Ghana has declared themselves ready for this assessment to commence and once this process starts, are hopeful that a decision on readiness for licensing will be reached before the end of 2019.
Ghana has around 2.6 million hectares of forest reserves dedicated to timber production, and an additional 2 million hectares of crop land that also produce timber. The country also has 500 000 hectares of unreserved forests. The forest sector is the fourth largest contributor to Ghana’s GDP.
Since 2009, Ghana has been developing the systems required for exporting Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)- licensed timber and is now ready for the final assessment of their system. A great deal of positive groundwork has been laid in the run-up to this.
Ghana’s Forestry Commission (FC) has led the development of Ghana’s electronic wood tracking system, which forms the basis of their legality assurance system. This system has improved transparency within the chain of custody by providing a ledger of information from the initial logging to exporting of timber products. The credibility of this system is enhanced by civil society-led Independent Forest Monitoring groups, which complement the FC’s law enforcement.
Ghanaian authorities and CSOs seem well prepared to enforce the VPA’s provisions. It’s important to note that CSOs participated as observers in audits carried out by the Timber Validation Department (TVD). As a result of their participation, CSOs have a better understanding of how companies are complying with law enforcement under the VPA legality definition and how detected infractions are addressed.
CSOs also collaborated with the Forestry Services Division (FSD) to implement Real Time Monitoring of the implementation of the VPA legality matrix: communities report forest infractions in real time and CSOs provide the FSD with evidence of infractions to enforce action and apply penalties.
In short, Ghana has made large strides in transparency in the last two years. On 8 November 2018 at Chatham House, Ghanaian CSOs demonstrated how their Ghana Timber Transparency Portal, a window into the legality assurance system, works. By providing information such as the type and specification of timber logged, contract, area logged, destination and vehicle transporting the timber, it provides an avenue for competent authorities and timber trade associations to access due diligence information on companies, shipment of timber and other codes. The presentation demonstrated the overall credibility and integrity of the Ghana Wood Tracking System.
Overall, local CSOs believe that the FC has shown significant acceptance of their input into the system development and that the system once implemented will further improve forest governance.
The conversion of timber leases into Timber Utilisation Contracts (needed in order to implement The Timber Resources Management Act of 1998) has reached its final stages: timber operators and the FC have concluded negotiations and reached an agreement on the basis for the calculation of the Timber Rights Fee; this has now been approved by the FC Board. Thus, the final hurdle has been cleared for timber industry members to apply for conversion of their leases.
What remains now is for the independent assessment team, contracted in mid-2018, to be mobilised. Ghana has declared themselves ready for this assessment to commence and once this process starts, are hopeful that a decision on readiness for licensing will be reached before the end of 2019.
Last updated in December 2018.
A brief history of the VPA process, from a civil society perspective
In 2015 civil society in Ghana published an assessment of the FLEGT VPA process in the country, with a focus on implementation.
A civil society counter-brief published when negotiations were concluded in 2010 provides a more detailed assessment of the negotiation process.
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