Important role of forestry in Ghana

March 2, 2013

Situated along the Gulf of Guinea, the West African country of Ghana has a total forest area of approximately 5 million hectares, which represents about 20% of its total land area, concentrated in the southern parts of the country. Only 8% of this is classified as primary forest. Though the dominant forest formation is savanna woodlands, some tropical high forest still exists, mostly in the south-western part of the country. The total remaining closed forest area contains as many as 225 types of mammals and 728 bird species, including some threatened species. What remains of Ghana's tropical high forest is highly fragmented.

By Michal Brink / Forestry Solutions / michal@abtraining.biz / www.forestrysolutions.net

ghana logz
Logging of Ghana's remaining natural forests is continuing.
eucz ghana
Typical three-year-old eucalyptus plantation now being established in degraded land.

 

Deforestation

A century ago, Ghana's tropical hardwood forest extended from about the middle of the country, southward to the sea. Moreover, nearly half the country was covered with forests, which included 680 species of trees and several varieties of mahoganies. Today, most of this has been harvested. By the early 1990s, only about one-third of the country was still forested, and not all the remaining areas had much commercial value. About 1.8 million hectares of the high forest is well conserved, as it has been classified as forest reserve. This has placed tremendous pressure on the remaining off-reserve areas of high forest, where more than half of Ghana's annual timber production takes place. Between 1990 and 2010, Ghana lost 33% of its forest cover, or around 2,5 million ha.

Over three million rural Ghanaians depend on the forest to survive. Forestry plays a significant role in the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter, furniture, natural medicine, potable water supply sources, bush meat and land for agriculture for the rural communities, thus leading to continuous deforestation. The country's high forest is thus coming under increasing pressure from these activities – most profoundly fuel wood extraction. Seventy- five percent of Ghana's energy needs are met through fuel wood and charcoal. The total annual consumption for fuel wood alone is about 700 000 tons, 30% of which is consumed in the capital, Accra.

Voluntary Partnership Agreement

A recent European Union initiative that was launched a few years ago was designed to combat illegal logging by ensuring that the timber a country exports to the European market was harvested legally. This is known as the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan. Europe's new timber regulations are intended to operate primarily through a series of voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) between the EU and a particular country at government level. Under these agreements, exporting countries license legal timber companies and track timber flows. But they also encourage environmental groups and other representatives of civil society to get involved in deciding forest policy and ensuring that those policies work for forest communities. One positive step that the government has taken was to sign a VPA under the FLEGT system. Ghana's government is also facilitating the development of activities related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a framework designed to use market incentives to encourage forest conservation and mitigate climate change. Interestingly, there are steps within the FSC to also realign its CoC system to be compliant with the requirements of FLEGT.

Plantation forestry

Additional to the above, many investors have shown an interest in expanding plantation forestry in Ghana, with very large projects currently being implemented consisting of species such as teak, eucalypts and acacia.

Published in December 2012

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