Artisanal millers access new equipment for training and lumber processing

The Forestry Commission Training Center (FCTC) has installed a modern wood processing equipment to support the training and operations of artisanal millers.

The LT 40 Wood Mizer, purchased at a cost of 200 thousand Ghana Cedis, is supported by the EU-funded chainsaw project on ‘Securing the integration of legal and legitimate domestic timber markets into Voluntary Partnership Agreement’.

The project is implemented by Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana and partners.

TBI Programmes Director, Samuel Kwabena Nketiah, says the machine is to help upscale the training of artisanal millers who want to supply legal lumber to the domestic market.

The goal, he says, is to curtail the illegalities and conflicts associated with chainsaw milling, whilst addressing livelihood issues.

“With this machine and the whole concept, we have managed to get a replacement for illegal chainsaw milling. The other side of the project also looked at alternative livelihoods because we realized that to stop people from their livelihood activities, without giving them a substitute, will serve no purpose,” said Mr. Nketiah.

Through a series of multi-stakeholder discussions under the EU Chainsaw project, artisanal milling has been accepted as an alternative to illegal chainsaw milling for supplying legal timber for the domestic market.

The small-medium scale milling of timber from specified legal sources is capable of recovering at least 50percent of dimension lumber from logs for the domestic market only.

Director of the FCTC, Joseph Boakye, says the installed equipment would be beneficial in the training of former chainsaw operators who want to formalize to legal artisanal milling.

“We will also be interested in assisting members of DOLTA – Domestic Lumber Traders Association – who can purchase their own logs and we’ll process it for them… and those who have their own plantations, if they harvest, can bring it here and we’ll process if for them and charge reasonable prices,” he added.

The piloting of artisanal milling started in 2012 and the concept to help institute and make it operational was finalized in 2014.

The capacity of potential millers were built in the areas of group dynamics and leadership, the techniques of timber milling and business management and marketing.

Five artisanal groups in the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions have been linked with forest concession holders for legal timber to feed their mills and are producing for the domestic market.

Alexander Amoako Boadu, Director of Operations at the Forestry Services Division of the Forestry Commission, says any means to train chainsaw operators to formalize their activities is critical to deal with the challenge of illegal tree felling.

“But the bigger picture lies with the communities that we’d expect to assist us in protecting the forest because stay very close to the forests and they see those who come in and go out,” he noted.

More artisan millers are expected to be trained to join the pilot process after which the project will be institutionalized as a major means of feeding the local markets with legal lumber in the light of Ghana’s VPA implementation.

But to achieve holistic outcomes, challenges would have to be addressed in the areas of access to raw materials, elite capture of artisanal milling, abuse of system, corruption and dwindling timber resources.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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