Civil society tracks progress of VPA in legal lumber trade

Civil society groups in the forestry sector have been reflecting on progress of Ghana’s the forest governance reform at the meeting in Kumasi.

Ghana has, in the past two years, been developing a system for the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union for the trade in legal timber.

Illegal lumber is the bane of the country timber industry – the forest cover has reduced significantly over the past four decades and the remaining are heavily degraded.

The VPA is to help improve transparency and accountability by ensuring that timber products exported to the EU from Ghana have been legally acquired, harvested, transported and exported in compliance with the legal requirements.

According to interest groups at the Kumasi meeting, there have been some improvements since the Partnership was signed four years ago.

Program Officer at Civic Response, Samuel Mensah Mawutor says reflections from participants point to transparency by district forestry offices in working with civil society groups.

‘They are easily able to obtain information related to logging activities, royalties, revenues at the local level and that is very good because if people want to be part of a process, transparency is very critical,’ he stated.

There is also increased public engagement and community reach out on the VPA system.

Mr. Mawutor however says there are setbacks with the decentralization of the forestry services, stating that ‘the top hierarchy in the districts is a bit removed from forest management.’

The CSOs believe increased district level engagement would strengthen monitoring system at the community level and ensure revenue from forest resources for greater benefits.

‘Communities who have seen timber extracted from their areas do not see any benefits coming to them, but if district assemblies will take particular interest in forest management and do development projects with these royalties, then communities would increasingly be conscious of benefits from forest and they are inclined to protect it the more,’ noted Mr. Mawutor.

The civil society meeting is to deepen engagements on the implementation of the VPA for a review process with the EU.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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