Expected result 3: Increased participation of 30 CSOs, 30 media and 200 forest fringe communities in forest governance especially the local LAS and stimulating market demand for legal timber
Below are the activities implemented to achieve result 3.
Activity 3.1: Conduct training needs assessments aimed at building the capacity of CSOs, media and FFCs to participate in FLEGT implementation
Training needs assessments focussed on the 2012 Ghana Forest and Wildlife Policy and forest laws were conducted among CSOs, media and forest fringe communities. Information to address the identified gaps was incorporated into the training materials and methods used to enhance their capacities to fulfil their roles in FLEGT VPA implementation.
Activity 3.2: Conduct durbars among specific consumer groups in relation to FLEGT and purchase of legal timber
Durbars were organised for timber consumer groups to raise awareness of the FLEGT VPA and on how to verify legal timber prior to its purchase. The participants included schools, government ministries and departments, District and Municipal Assemblies, real estate developers, and agencies and institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Resource Management and Support Centre (RMSC), and the Public Works Department (PWD). The topics addressed include: VPA provision in Ghana’s 2012 Forest and Wildlife Policy; FLEGT VPA objectives and tenets; Wood Tracking System; Ghana’s ten Critical control points for proving the legal status of timber; Roles and functions of FC Agencies; Timber Validation Committee (TVC); Legal mandates; Timber Validation Department (TVD) Verification Plan; and Increasing the supply of legal timber.
The durbars raised interesting debates around land degradation, biodiversity loss and other negative effects of logging. Participants suggested it would be useful to have technologies such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to enhance their participation in VPA implementation. They also thought the FC should partner with other institutions and stakeholders and identify innovative ways of raising further awareness.
Participants expressed deep commitment to sharing the information with others so that demand for legal timber can soon displace illegal sources. They also pledged to promote Ghana’s timber procurement policy, which should significantly reduce illegal timber on the domestic market.
SMEs, artisanal timber millers and the other timber consumer groups support the goal that all timber and timber products for public use should be both legal and sustainable. They voiced support for the key guiding principles of Ghana’s Procurement Policy on Timber and Timber Products (see here for the principles and other information about the policy), which also asserts the importance of ready accessibility to timber and timber products, especially for rural communities.
Activity 3.3: Review, develop and produce stakeholder-specific reference materials in collaboration with Forestry Commission
A reference guide titled “Forest Laws, Illegal Forest Practices and Social Responsibility Agreements” was prepared and distributed to raise further awareness among forest fringe communities, CBOs, NGOs, the media and traditional leaders. Besides summarising the forest laws and illegal practices, the booklet also advises communities on how to ensure the timber companies agree to a fair SRA.
The reference guide has made the forest fringe communities, CSOs, NGOs and the media more knowledgeable in the laws and regulations of the forestry sector, which has enabled them to train others unable to participate in the training programmes. Support for improved forest governance has increased as a result.
Activity 3.4: Train 60 CSOs to lead civil society-led independent monitoring to support the work of the government-appointed independent monitor (IM)
To effectively contribute to the the FLEGT and good forest governance, civil society needs the right skills and tools for monitoring VPA implementation. CSOs were trained in the thematic areas and standard framework for VPA monitoring, and educated on the purpose of the FLEGT and FLEGT licensing. Specific areas that the CSOs have been trained to monitor include:
The CSO trainees are now working with relevant stakeholders at the community level and supporting communities with guidance on what to look out for in monitoring for illegal forest activities. This is helping communities to report illegal and corrupt forest activities to the authorities, which will support sustainability of the monitoring activities. Now that locally based organisations have a major role in independent monitoring, they feel some ownership over the process, and this will support the sustainability of the monitoring.
Activity 3.5: Organise training workshops to build capacity of forest fringe community representative leaders to negotiate and monitor implementation of fair Social Responsibility Agreements (SRAs)
These workshops included information about communities’ rights, and training in skills for negotiating a fair SRA, what constitutes a fair SRA, and monitoring its implementation using the SRA Implementation Checklist. This is important to help communities gain respect for their rights and a fair share of the forest benefits from local timber companies. Copies of a legitimate SRA template were given to the trainees so they can easily differentiate between genuine SRAs and the fake ones that have been given to communities by some unscrupulous timber companies in the past.
Some issues discussed extensively included illegal entry into forest reserves, destruction of forest resources by farmers extending their farms into forest reserves, and penalties for illegal activities. The facilitators were notified of a number of fire outbreaks in the forests, and follow-up enquiries revealed they had been intentionally set by community members with the hope of farming the resulting degraded forest areas.
Some of the communities that participated in the SRA training workshops went on to successfully negotiate SRAs with timber companies that were operating in nearby forest reserves.