by Pamela Ofori-Boateng, AIF News Reporter
The forestry sector in Ghana contributes about 6% to GDP which provides over 100,000 people with jobs in the informal sector.In our communities about 2.5 million people depend on forest products such as mushrooms, firewood, snails and grass cutter but this same sector is faced with a number of challenges, which will weaken it if not dealt with.
Mr. Kwame Mensah, a member of Forest Watch Ghana and a coordinator of KASA initiative, stated that Ghana has lost a significant portion of its forest reserve due to weak governance and poor law enforcement in the sector. “Though we have the best laws governing the sector, its implementation is weak.” He added.
“We also have outmoded laws which do not impact on the current forestry issue that we are facing. Another challenge in this sector is the conflicting policies that fight against the Forestry Commission of Ghana in their effort to effectively manage the forest reserve. Frequent government interference does not allow the Forestry Commission to work effectively.
When it comes to sharing proceeds from the forest, the community members who takes care of the forest do not benefit. According to Social Responsibility Agreement (SRA), companies who use the forests for businesses are supposed to use 5% of their proceeds for developmental projects in the various communities i which they operate but because members of the community are not aware of this benefit most companies do not pay and sometimes when they pay it ends up in the wrong hands.
The Forestry Commission is faced with difficulties in executing their duties since the commission acts as a manager,a regulator and a law enforcer which is too much of a burden. The Forestry Commission should only work as a regulator of the Forestry Sector to make their work much easier and effective.”
Mr.Mensah said that the Forestry Commission is educating people on our Forest reserve but the commission should increase their efforts in holding educational programmes to sensitize the general public and especially people living in forest communities about their rights, responsibilities and the benefits that they are supposed to enjoy from the proceeds from the forest
“If members of the communities do not benefit directly from the resources,they are definitely going to find indirect means to benefit.We should put measures in place that will motivate community people to report deviants who indiscriminately cut trees for their personal gain.”
Mr.Kwame Mensah made these revelations on the “Africa In Focus" Show on Radio XYZ hosted by Emmanuel K.Bensah.The Forestry Commission was invited to take part in the discussions but was not able to honour the invitation.