Ghana’s forest has been dwindling rapidly at such an alarming rate over the last few years. A 2019 report by Global Forest Watch indicates that there was a 60% increase in forest loss in Ghana between 2017 and 2018. According to the report, this is the highest in the world followed by Togo at a rate of 26%. Nevertheless, the loss of Ghana’s forest did not start only recently. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), between 1990 and 2010 Ghana lost an average of 125,400 ha or 1.68% per year.
The data from FAO indicates that in total, between 1990 and 2010, Ghana lost 33.7% of its forest cover, which is around 2,508,000 ha.
Forest loss has always been a cause for concern for environmentalists and other well-meaning Ghanaians. For this reason, the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, and the Forestry Commission, civil society, and other stakeholders have been working assiduously to curtail forest loss in the country.
For instance in 2009, Ghana signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union. This is a legally binding trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and developing countries that export timber to the EU. The Agreement aims at ensuring that all timber and timber products exported to the EU market complies with laws of the exporting country. As part of efforts towards Ghana’s VPA implementation, Ghana has developed a wood tracking system, christened the Ghana Wood Tracking System (GWTS), meant to track the chain of custody to prove legality of timber logging, harvesting, and fulfilment of social and fiscal obligations by timber companies. Also, the Ghana Timber Transparency Portal has been developed by Civic Response and the Forestry Commission under the auspices of the FAO–EU FLEGT programme with the aim of providing transparency in timber trade in Ghana. In 2017, Ghana passed LI2254 to provide legislative backing for transparency in the forestry sector.
In addition to these, the civil society groups in the forestry sector took steps to ensure the involvement of communities in the management of forests, as well as monitoring forest illegalities as part of the strategies for curtailing illegalities in forests and, subsequently, forest loss in the country. This was to augment the efforts of the Forestry Commission, as some illegalities seem to happen on the Commission’s blind side. Civic Response is among Civil Society Organisations (CSO) which set the pace for forest monitoring in Ghana, starting the process in 2017 under the Civil Society-led Independent Forest Monitoring (CSIFM) Ghana project with support from FAO-EU FLEGT Programme. Civic Response later partnered with Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), in 2019, to deepen CSIFM/Real Time Monitoring (RTM) by expanding the geographical coverage of RTM, as well as institutionalizing RTM process under the Embedding community real time monitoring to sustain livelihoods and forests in Central and West Africa project. This project aims at building the capacity of forest-fringed communities to be actively involved in forest monitoring so as to assert their rights and hold duty bearers accountable. Under this project, communities are firstly trained in forest law so they will become conscious of their rights and responsibilities and assert them while being conscious of the rights and responsibilities of the other forest stakeholders. The project also deploys the use of a mobile application (Collectaur) linked to the Forestlink system for real time monitoring, which enables communities to report forest infractions via SMS, videos, and photos.
So far under this project, Civic Response has given over 700 people from 75 communities across 15 districts in eight (8) regions (Western North, Ashanti, Eastern, Central, Oti, Volta, Bono, and Ahafo) training in forest laws, monitoring, and advocacy. Out of these, 75 people have also been given further training and equipped with mobile devices to report forest infractions, which are verified and then followed up with corrective actions.
In so doing, Civic Response is helping to address the problem of deforestation in Ghana, one step at a time. This has been made possible with funding support from UKAid.
The Embedding community real time monitoring to sustain livelihoods and forests in Central and West Africa project is being implemented with funding from DFID UKAid. The ForestLink system has been developed by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and deployed by Civic Response in Ghana, with financial support from the UK government (DFID).
By: Jemima Opare-Henaku│Civic Response