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Let’s prioritise efforts to protect forest resources – Stakeholders

Accra, July 27, GNA – Stakeholders at a
National Forest Forum have asked for the implementation of programmes that
would increase on awareness on Forest Laws, Legislations and Climate Change
among  the public and critical
institutions to protect forest resources.

They said making the media, the Judiciary,
religious entities and other key stakeholders understand the issues at stake
would promote the enforcement of laws.

Rigorous sanctions, they said, must be meted
out to the perpetrators of illegal forest activities through collective efforts
of the Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Department, State prosecutors, Police
Service and Forest managers. 

The Friends of the Earth-Ghana, in partnership
with the Rainforest Foundation-UK, 
organised  the Forum to propose
robust measures to mitigate the menace of illegal forest operations across the
nation.  

In a communiqué, the more than 60 participants
said: “There should be sustained efforts for these agencies to consult with
each other to facilitate the prosecution process of forest offenders.’’

“State prosecutors should be trained on the
forest laws and regulations to ensure that the right charges are preferred
against forest offenders,” the communiqué stated. 

The event was on the theme: “Ensuring Law
Enforcement, Improving Political Will and Mnimising Political Interferences to
address illegal forest operations.”     

The 
communiqué , therefore, urged the staff of the Forestry Commission to
adhere to their professional ethics in pursuance of their duties so as to
minimise political interference in forest administration.  

“The staff must be resolute and resolve to act
and perform duties with professional standards,” they said, adding that,
mentorship programmes should be intensified to coach the staff adequately for
the job.

The 
communiqué also urged the Government to demonstrate political will in
the fight against illegal forest operations as was being done in the case of
illegal mining.

“There should be minimum political
interferences in dealing with illegal forest operations such as chainsaw
lumbering and logging,” it said.

“The conversion of forest in to agricultural
lands such as cocoa farms; and illegal mining in the forest reserves must be
addressed.”     

It called for a multi-sectoral and an inter-agency
approach to improve law enforcement and urged the Forestry Commission, Minerals
Commission and the Ghana Cocoa Board to join efforts to fight against the
utilisation of forest reserves for  cocoa
farms and illegal mines.

It also urged traditional rulers, especially
paramount chiefs who administered Social Responsibility Agreements (SRA) to
ensure that the agreements were well defined to enhance negotiation and
their  fulfilment in a more transparent
manner.  

The Forestry Commission must also inject funds
into the training of the Police Service to build its capacity to carry out
proper investigations on illegal forest operations, the stakeholders have
said.  

The communiqué also called for policy and
legal reforms in the wood sourcing and trade in the domestic market to enhance
trade in legal wood.

Mr Enoch Gyamfi Ampadu signed the Communiqué
on behalf of the Director of the FoE-Ghana.

The 
representatives from the Forestry Commission, Minerals Commission,
National Forest Forum, some Civil Society Organisations and the Ghana Police
Service attended the forum.

Others were from the  Ghana Timber Millers Organisation, Timber and
Wood Trade Associations, the Judiciary Council, the media, Ghana Cocoa Board,
Forest Fringe Communities, Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands and the
Ministry of Food and Agriculture.  

The forum formed part of the implementing
activities of the Community-Based Real Time Forest Monitoring Project, being
funded by the Department for International Development.   

The project seeks to build the capacity of
forest communities to monitor, detect and report illegal forest operations in
real time through the application of mobile phone technology. 

This would help generate data that would
contribute to decision-making processes on forest resource management and
improve detection, reporting and verification of forest infractions, which
would propel the efforts of the Forestry Commission to clamp down on illegal
forest operations.

GNA 

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