General News of Friday, 28 July 2017
Stakeholders at a National Forest Forum have asked for the implementation of programmes that would increase awareness on Forest Laws, Legislation 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 Minimising 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 into 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.