The European Union (EU) Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT), published in 2003, sets out a range of measures for the EU to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests. The FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) signed between the EU and partner countries aim to ensure that all timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources. The VPAs also support partner countries to stop illegal logging and corruption by improving regulation, legal compliance and good governance in their forest sectors.
FoE-Ghana’s project ‘Strengthening Civil Society, Informal and Private Sector Participation in Forest Law Enforcement and Governance’ (SCIPFLEG) has been contributing to FLEGT VPA implementation in Ghana through a range of activities aimed at stopping illegal and corrupt forest practices and supporting compliance with Ghana’s forest laws and policies.
Illegal logging and corruption have posed huge challenges to sustainable and legal forest management and use in Ghana. They have threatened our forests by cutting them at levels that vastly exceed sustainable rates. Measures to mitigate illegal and corrupt forest practices have been limited, while civil society and forest communities have been largely ignored in forest management and decision making, which has militated against their support in the fight against corruption and illegal forest practices.
The project has been fully inclusive of actors at all levels, most especially forest communities and civil society, to ensure their meaningful participation in all project activities. Other participants in project activities have been drawn from stakeholders along the full length of the forest production and timber supply chain.
You can read more about the project background, location, aim, objectives and expected results here.
We used a mix of awareness raising, training in skills, sharing experiences, establishing discussion forums, and disseminating information. Stakeholders have been drawn from along the full length of the timber production and supply chain from local forest communities to timber processors and traders. Bringing all these stakeholders together for awareness raising and training has also helped develop good communications between stakeholders in forest management and use. Below are links to the activities we carried out to achieve each result.
Activities for expected result 1 towards increasing the capacity and engagement of SMEs and artisanal timber groups for FLEGT VPA compliance
Activities for expected result 2 towards sharing information and experiences for addressing corruption in the forestry sector
Activities for expected result 3 towards increasing particpation of civil society, media and forest communities in forest governance and stimulating demand for legal timber
All the expected results have been achieved and there have been some particularly successful outcomes. We trained 114 SMEs and 133 artisanal timber millers and they are all now complying with the FLEGT/VPA and Ghana’s forest laws. The logging companies are adhering to tree felling regulations, recording tree and log information, and meeting SRA and fiscal obligations. The timber processors are receiving logs only at legitimate sites, maintaining an internal wood control system, and meeting their fiscal obligations. The trained SMEs and artisanal timber millers are able to determine all sources of commercial processed timber and products acquired for both domestic and export markets.
Through the project, 77 trained CSOs, 56 media practitioners from 32 media houses and over 200 forest fringe communities have increased their participation in forest governance in Ghana through monitoring and reporting illegal activities and promoting demand for legal timber. Their new knowledge has empowered them to play an effective watchdog role in forest monitoring.
The project has also given rise to a forest media network for investigating and exposing corruption and other illegal practices in the forestry sector, and media trainees are using their newly acquired knowledge in the field. For example, the April 2016 exposure of illegal logging of Rosewood in the Mole National Park in northern Ghana was investigated by a team that included one of the project’s trainees. And in the Brong Ahafo Region, illegal logging activities and other unacceptable practices are also being investigated by media practitioners trained by the project. Other trained media personnel have initiated radio talk-shows dedicated to forestry issues.
Another very positive and unexpected result has been that some of the project communities, such as the Banka community in the Juaso area and the nearby Dwendwenase community, both in the Ashanti Region, have gained building materials through successful negotiation of SRAs with timber companies. These materials are being used for building and repairing community projects.
A statement made by a participant during one of the training sessions indicated there has been much progress in curbing illegal logging: “The distribution of the project T-Shirts and stickers to us have gone a long way in helping to curb a number of illegal forestry activities The community members see us as working with the forestry commission especially when we all put on our T-Shirts. As a result of this, many illegal operators have fled from our communities with the fear of being arrested and handed over to the forest authorities. In view of this development we think it will be good for the forestry authorities to officially give us some form of identification cards as this will further deter would-be illegal operators. Without authorisation and mandate from the forestry officials, helping to protect the forests will be difficult, if not impossible.”
In every region where the project team consulted communities on the project’s activities, they indicated that opening the socio-political space for discussions of such sensitive issues is a positive development. It supports transparency and accountability and thus is contributing to good forest governance. We believe this will also contribute to the benefits brought by this project and ultimately to the successful implementation of Ghana’s FLEGT VPA.