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NGO urges Forestry Commission to stop granting exploitation licenses, permits

Accra, July 26, GNA – Vision 2050 Forestry
(VFL), a non-governmental advocacy body, has called on the Forestry Commission
(FC) to stop the granting of exploitation licenses, permits and conveyance
certificates to preserve the country’s forests cover.

It says deforestation is changing weather
pattern, drying up rivers and reducing agricultural output and that the FC must
confront illegal logging seriously as it threatened livelihood and existence of
rural communities.

Dr Frank Frempong, Chief Executive Officer of
Vision 2050 Forestry, said the FC must be at the forefront in restoring the
country’s forests.

According to VTF, Ghana’s tropical forest
cover has decreased from 8.6 million hectares at the beginning of the 1900s to
about 1.6 million hectares in 1990, and the deforestation rate is high – nearly
65,000 hectares per year.

He said the government’s inability to provide
all the financial resources needed for the afforestation and reforestation
projects called for the attraction of private capital inflow into the sector.

In this direction, he said the legal framework
must be amended to allow for more private participation.

“In view of the magnitude of the harm humans
have collectively caused the planet earth, we require climate friendly ideas to
drastically reduce or reverse the trend.

“Private financing of greenhouse emission
reduction projects, both domestic and international, can play a critical role
in mitigating risk and leveraging greater private investment in climate
projects,” he said.

Dr Frempong said VTF had invested $ 120
million to grow 200 million trees nationwide and suggested that demand for wood
by the current generation could be met by culling only five per cent every
year.

He noted that VFL had so far engaged 300,000
farm managers in 850 communities across the country to oversee its planted
trees. In the past 20 years, funding of the projects has been privately
sourced. 

Dr Frempong said it was surprising that a
number of logging concessions had been granted in forest reserves, and gold
exploitation and mining leases have been granted in the country’s forest
reserves to mining companies.

“The result is that Ghana has been transformed
in the last 100 years from a lush forest country a low-forest cover country,
and now our children, water bodies and wildlife are at risk,” he said.

He said the FC in playing the contradictory
role of facilitator of timber exploitation had undermined its own prospects for
success in forest conservation.

“The existing enforcement capacity is weak,
leading to poor governance within the sector with a widespread disregard for
forest rules and regulations,” Dr Frempong said.  

The first forest policy was established in
1947 and actively encouraged the clearing and conversion of forests to
agricultural land use.  

Some examples are Forests Ordinances 1927,
Forest Policy 1947, Trees and Timber Decree 1974, Tropical Forest Action Plan
1989, Forest Commission Act 1997, Forest Protection Decree 1974, Forestry
Commission Law 1993. 

In the 1980s, Ghana largely increased the
national investments in logging equipment to service national deficit by
wood-based exports. 

Consequently, Ghana’s forests were put under
excessive exploitation, illegal harvesting was rampant and there was neglect
for established harvesting procedures in the mid-1990s.

In addition, forestry institutions became
demoralised and inefficient because of continued underfunding.  

The forestry policy was revised in line with
Ghana’s 1992 constitution and approved in 1994 as the forest and wildlife
Policy.

This policy provided opportunities for
integrated forest management and for the first time gave right to Ghanaians to
have access to the natural resources for maintaining their livelihoods.

The policy focuses on collaboration between
the government and private entities.

However, the policy did not produce the
expected effects as strategies were not developed by which the objectives of
this policy could be realised. 

In addition, the government’s focus was still
on commercial exploitation of timber to service Ghana’s growing external debts:
consequently the deforestation continued.

In 1996, a working group drawn from
government, the private sector and communities developed the forestry sector
development master plan 1996-2020 to guide the implementation of the 1994
policy.

GNA

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