Expected result 2: Corruption addressed/reduced through established and strengthened constructive learning dialogue platforms for information and experience sharing
Below are the activities implemented to achieve result 2.
Activity 2.1: Establish and sustain 20 constructive dialogue platforms at the district level
Dialogue platforms for discussing FLEGT and forest governance were established in the four project regions. The information shared included FC licensing and regulatory processes, forest management, legal timber harvesting, transporting, processing and sales, taxes and fees in the forestry sector, and forest revenue allocation by the government. The platforms also enabled stakeholders to share experiences and raise sensitive issues. To ensure their continued engagement, the SCIPFLEG project team is keeping in contact with them, monitoring their activities and encouraging them to continue their positive work. This is contributing to the sustainability of the platforms.
The dialogue platforms have encouraged community members to collaborate with the district forest forums, and to engage with the network of regional forest forums and the national forest forum. The constructive discussions and exchanges between the forums at different levels are promoting complementarity and avoiding duplication of efforts, for example:
- Useful links developed between the dialogue platform in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality of the Western Region and the Tarkwa Forest Services Division. This platform and the others in the region are working together to contribute to forest governance by reporting illegal forest activities to the law enforcement agents.
- Links between the dialogue platform at Dwendwenase in the Ashanti Region, the Juaso Forestry District Office and the Ashanti Regional Forest Forum have also been established. Collaboration with the traditional leaders and the FSD resulted in the members of the Dwendwenase Constructive Dialogue Platform securing a parcel of land to establish a community tree plantation.
- The dialogue platform established in the Brong Ahafo Region is collaborating effectively with the Regional Forest Forum.
Activity 2.2: Train the media in identification and reporting corruption in the forestry sector
The training for journalists and editors covered the FLEGT VPA and good forest governance so they can support awareness raising, expose illegal and corrupt activities, and maintain pressure to ensure the FLEGT VPA and good forest governance are properly implemented. The media were ensured there are legal provisions, especially the Whistle Blowers Act (720) of 2006, in place to protect them when they expose illegal and corrupt activities. The role of the media in fighting corruption and illegal activities has gone unrecognised in the past, and they have now been encouraged to fulfil it effectively. Participants in the training programme indicated specific high risk areas that require media attention including:
- The competitive bidding process
- Gaining the requisite consent letter from farmers before harvesting trees on their farms
- Payment of compensations due to farmers when trees are harvested
- Tree counting in selected forest reserve compartments prior to logging
- Monitoring timber harvested from forest reserves
- Yield allocation by FC to loggers
- Preparation of Tree Information Forms (TIFs).
Besides exposing illegal activities, the communities and media can now support independent monitoring to ensure all paperwork is in place, checks are carried out at the right times, and responsibilities to local communities are properly fulfilled.
Trainees are putting their new knowledge and skills to good use by investigating and reporting corrupt and illegal activities in the forestry sector to good effect. Pressure on the perpetrators has already forced some to stop their illegal activities. This is a positive sign that the media will continue taking action without being prompted.
The results also send a firm signal to forestry officials and timber operators to refrain from illegal activities in the forestry sector. The government is also fulfilling its part in FLEGT implementation by providing the necessary political will to punish those who fail to comply with existing regulations.
Activity 2.3: Organise anti-corruption community forums in forest fringe communities led by selected law enforcement agencies
Forest communities have a crucial role in forest protection and combatting corruption and illegal forest activities. Communities live in the forests, right where these activities are going on. They are the eyes, ears and voices of forest protection. Without their action and leadership, there is little hope of stamping out the illegal activities. To strengthen communities’ capacities to fulfil their important roles in forest protection, anti-corruption community forums were organised in the targeted areas to improve forest fringe communities’ knowledge and understanding of:
- Illegal logging and corrupt practices in the forestry sector
- FLEGT/VPA implementation and the benefits they will gain
- How and to whom they can make complaints and also report illegal and corrupt forest practices.
During the sessions, community members were encouraged to contribute to successful VPA implementation in Ghana by:
- Reporting illegal activities to the local Forestry Commission Office
- Participating in tree enumeration, pre-felling inspections and post felling checks
- Collaborating with the District Forest Services Division to participate in monitoring logging companies’ compliance with forest laws and regulations.
The forums also educated participants on the range of unacceptable, corrupt and illegal activities that destroy the forests. A list of such activities can be found here.
Certain points from Ghana’s laws that communities may not be aware of were also made clear:
- A chainsaw owner must register it with their District or Municipal Assembly and their District Forestry Office within 14 days of acquisition.
- It is illegal to use a chainsaw for processing logs into planks, lumber, boards and beams at the felling site or anywhere else in Ghana.
- A felling permit must be obtained from the district forest office before a farmer can legally fell a naturally growing tree on his/her farm (because timber rights to naturally growing trees are vested in the President).
Over 80,000 forest fringe community members across the project regions now know what is illegal and corrupt in Ghana’s forestry sector and are reporting illegalities to the appropriate authorities when they happen. Realising the need for secure access to legal timber and other forest resources, many forest fringe communities are seeking land to plant community tree plantations, while others have decided to intersperse trees with their food crops to produce legal timber. Intentional fire setting in the forest reserves to degrade forestlands for communities’ own use has also declined and they are instead seeking permission from the forestry authorities to use already degraded forest lands for forest restoration activities.
Activity 2.4: Design and televise adverts that indicate actions that constitute corruption and the associated penalties
There is huge potential for raising awareness through the media, especially via the television, and so five episodes of video adverts with messages on corruption/illegal forest practices and their respective penalties were created and screened on Ghana Television (GTV) and United Television (UTV). Radio talk-shows were also held, hosted by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC)/Sunrise FM in Koforidua in the Eastern Region for further awareness and discussions on: Equitable forest revenue sharing; FLEGT/VPA’s contribution to ending illegal forest activities; categories of corrupt and illegal activities in the forestry sector; Ghana’s revised Forest and Wildlife Policy; the role of the media and forest fringe communities in successful VPA implementation and sustainable forest management; and penalties for corruption in the forestry sector.
The TV adverts have influenced the general public, Forest Services Division, police, parliament and the courts to intensify efforts towards reducing illegal and corrupt activities in the forestry sector. The awareness messages have also strengthened collaboration between forest communities, traditional leaders and government forest institutions. Many SMEs, artisanal timber groups, big timber companies and farmers are using the knowledge gained from the TV and radio awareness to ensure their activities are legally compliant. The general public has been reporting on illegal chainsaw activities and other forest offences, resulting in the arrest of suspects.
Activities for expected result 1 towards increasing the capacity and engagement of SMEs and artisanal timber groups for FLEGT VPA compliance
Activities for expected result 3 towards increasing partiicpation of civil society, media and forest communities in forest governance and stimulating demand for legal timber