The enthusiasm and commitment of the target groups, project management team and the partners ensured good results for the second year, further supporting FLEGT implementation in Ghana. The activities we undertook with the various target groups are outlined below.
Details of activities
- Train 60 SMEs on how to comply with the FLEGT/Legality Assurance System (LAS) and EU Due Diligence requirements; and train 120 artisanal timber groups on how to comply with FLEGT/LAS and legal timber requirements for the domestic market
The objective is to promote visibility and increase demand of legally produced timber by improving knowledge and legal compliance among SMEs and Artisanal Timber Millers. Participants were educated on the FLEGT/VPA requirements, timber legality issues, and the 2012 Forest and Wildlife Policy.
The FLEGT/VPA’s Ghana Legality Assurance System (GhLAS) has 5 key elements:
- A legality standard defining the legal requirements
- A national Wood Tracking System (WTS) to monitor movements of timber and timber products from the forest to the point of sale or export
- Verification of compliance with the legality standard and requirements of the WTS
- Issuance of FLEGT licenses to cover EU-bound timber
- Independent audit of the LAS implementation.
The GhLAS has seven (7) principles: source of timber; timber rights allocation; timber harvesting operations; transportation; processing; trade; and fiscal obligations. The Legal compliance is checked by the Timber Validation Department (TVD).
Key issues raised by trainees
Of great concern is that the forestry officials sometimes disclose the identity of informants to the illegal operators, endangering the informants’ lives. Trainees therefore requested that law enforcement agents and forestry officials take an oath of secrecy to ensure proper protection of informants. Exposure of illegal and corrupt activities depends on proper protection. They also revealed that illegal operators are not prosecuted, so there is no deterrent to repeating their actions. Participants asked if they could form a taskforce to help curb illegal activities and so protect the forests. The response was positive, but with a caution that they have no authority to dispose of seized illegal timber.
Some queried the difference between a Vendors’ License and the FLEGT license. They were told that, if timber products are to be exported to the EU, the exporter must have a FLEGT license, while exporting to any other country requires an Export Permit. To obtain a FLEGT license, SMEs must register with the Registrar Generals Department and the Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) and then ensure full compliance with Ghana’s forest laws, after which they can apply for a FLEGT license.
Some participants thought that registering with the Registrar Generals Department gave them the right to log the forest. They were informed, however, that they can only log when they have met certain requirements, one of which is to gain a Property Mark and then register as a logger. Ensuring their timber products are fully legal is also important if they want to supply wood for development activities in the country. This is a requirement of Ghana’s new Procurement Policy on Timber and Timber Products for the Domestic Market that aims to use government’s purchasing power to promote legal and sustainable timber and timber products, and is also part of the FLEGT/VPA.
Artisanal Millers asked if they are entitled to Timber Utilization Permits (TUP) to get raw materials for production. However they do not qualify because they are commercial. The Timber Utilization Contract (TUC) is a way of obtaining legal raw materials by commercial enterprises, so they should check their MOUs.
Outcomes from the training sessions
At least 65 percent of the trained SME workers are using their new knowledge to source legal timber and record the sources of wood they purchase. Proper records have improved timber product verification in the wood tracking and wood-supply chains. The trained SME workers are also co-operating with the Forestry Commission on FLEGT/VPA implementation.
The SMEs and artisanal millers have collaborated with the Forest Services Division and others to curb illegal forest activities, and have provided information to the forestry officials about illegal operators leading to arrests in some Regions. When the millers were made aware of the large supplies of illegal wood produced by the chainsaw operators, they encouraged them to join registered artisanal millers groups and stop their illegal activities. The millers see many opportunities for developing local markets for legal timber and are particularly interested in new timber procurement policy. They hope to win government contracts supplying timber for school buildings, clinics and hospitals. Thus they have intensified their efforts to establish plantations for legal wood supplies, and also suggested it would be useful to have a national association of artisanal millers so they can collectively source legal timber.
- Establish and sustain 20 constructive dialogue platforms at the district level
Five constructive dialogue platforms were established in the second year and eight in the first. The information and experiences shared were on the FLEGT/VPA implementation processes in Ghana, particularly at the forest fringe community and district levels, and included forest management, licensing and regulation; timber harvest, transport and sale; payment of taxes and fees; and allocation of forest revenues.
Outcomes from the dialogue platforms
The constructive dialogue platforms have linked to the network of regional forest forums and the national forest forum so that information from the community level can easily be shared to the district, regional and national levels. The project target groups (i.e. domestic market actors, private sector operators, NGOs and forest fringe communities) have gained useful quality information from diverse stakeholders involved in these constructive dialogue platforms.
- Train the media to identify and report corruption in the forestry sector
The media were trained to identify corrupt and illegal practices in the forestry sector, and are now aware that exposing them is vital to the sustainability of the forest sector. They also learned the various types of corruption including: illegal logging of various forms; timber smuggling; practices that lead to reducing taxes and other fees; and illegal timber processing. The Whistle Blowers Act 720 was introduced as the legal provision to protect their safety when they expose wrongdoing.
The trainer lamented that media coverage of environmental issues declined between 2004 and 2012, and only improved thereafter. The discussion blamed the journalists for a lack of interest in forestry issues. But some retaliated saying they fear that certain stories (e.g. exposure of illegal activities) may have a negative impact on their respective publications, while others said that coverage depended on the management policies of their organization. The participants were relieved to know they are protected by the Whistle Blowers Act, and pledged commitment to exposing corrupt and illegal practices and to contributing to successful VPA implementation in Ghana.
Outcomes of the media training
As a result of one of the project’s radio programmes on GBC/Sunrise FM in Koforidua, two men believed to be key members of a notorious gang of illegal chainsaw operators who were plundering portions of the Asukawkaw Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region were arrested (see Ghanaian Times, 28th October 2015). A chainsaw was also impounded, but the three suspects who had been using it unfortunately got away.
- Organize Anti-corruption community forums in forest fringe communities led by selected law enforcement agencies
Eight forest fringe community (FFC) anti-corruption forums were organized in each of the four project regions focusing on:
- Illegal and corrupt practices in the forestry sector
- FLEGT/VPA and the benefits to communities
- Channels of complaint and reporting of illegal or corrupt forest practices.
The FFCs were made aware of some of the benefits they’ll get from the FLEGT/VPA including:
- Timber Companies’ obligations to fulfill a Social Responsibility Agreements (SRA) with FFCs to ensure communities get a fair share of their forest’s benefits; they will not receive FLEGT licenses to export timber until they have fulfilled these agreements
- Communities’ rights in terms of the social and cultural values will be respected by the timber companies
- Farmers whose crops are destroyed will receive appropriate compensation.
Community members were educated on corrupt and illegal activities that destroy the forest, including:
- Illegal occupation of forest lands
- Illegal transportation of timber
- Under-declaration of tree volumes
- Under-invoicing by timber companies
- Timber smuggling and illegal trade
- Illegal Commercial NTFP exploitation in forest reserves
- Felling more trees than the approved yield
- Swapping tree numbers.
The participants were all interested to know how they can get legal lumber for construction purposes when their communities that don’t have sawmills and chainsaws are banned for cutting and processing trees into lumber. They were informed they need to contact their local forestry office when they need timber: the Timber Utilisation Permit (TUP) from the Forest Services Division gives them access to lumber for construction and development projects.
Another point raised frequently was the lack of rewards to communities for reporting illegal activities and resulting in seized timber. They also expressed concern that the identities of those who expose illegal activities are not protected by the forestry officials, so people prefer to remain silent than face retribution from the illegal operators. The facilitators agreed this has been a problem, but they also shared examples of informants who have benefited immensely from reporting illegal and corrupt practices.
For the reporting procedure, communities were informed they should first report offences to the Forest Guards, because they live in the communities. If no further action is taken, then the next steps should be: inform the Technical Officer in-charge of the range, followed by the Assistant District Manager, then the District Manager and, in extreme cases, the Regional Forest Manager. The Customer Services Officer is also available for all complaints. If, after all these, nothing is done, then the media can be informed.
Forest communities learned about several different types of corruption and vowed to do what they can to fight them. They are affected by ‘grand corruption’, which involves large bribes paid to top government officials and politicians. While it is difficult for them to do anything at this level, they are determined to act on ‘petty corruption’ such as bribes to junior public officers. Other participants determined to combat ‘collusive corruption’, such as officials allowing illegal logging or other unlawful activities. As a community contribution to combating corruption, community-based timber task forces have been formed in some forest fringe communities with particular reference to:
- Timber supply chain (how forests are managed, and timber is harvested, transported, processed and sold)
- Revenue chain (The process through which taxes and fees are collected and revenues are allocated by government).
- Design and televise adverts indicating actions that constitute corruption and the associated penalties
A series of talk-shows on radio, together with footage, images and dialogue from the field were used to design television adverts for raising awareness of corruption in the forestry sector and the associated penalties. United Television (UTV) and Ghana Television (GTV) were selected for showing the adverts because of their wide geographical coverage and the multiple languages they use.
The radio talk-shows and TV adverts have raised broad awareness of the causes and consequences of corruption and other unacceptable practices in the forestry sector, and people have expressed a willingness to help fight corruption and illegal forest practices in Ghana’s forestry sector.
- Conduct durbars among specific consumer groups in relation to FLEGT and purchase of legal timber
Two durbars were organized in each of the four Project Regions involving traditional leaders, representatives of Government ministries, departments and Agencies such as the Forestry Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, NADMO, District Assemblies, estate developers and timber organizations/associations (Ghana Timber Association, GTMO, SSTMA, WAG, FAWAG and DOLTA). The objectives of the durbars were:
- To raise awareness of VPA/FLEGT requirements among timber consumer groups
- To improve knowledge on how to ensure timber purchased for developmental purposes is from legal sources.
The participants were all made aware of the importance of their participation in the VPA/FLEGT to ensure its successful implementation. They also learned about Ghana’s Procurement Policy on Timber and Timber Products for the Domestic Market.
- Train 60 CSOs to lead society-led independent monitoring to support the government appointed Independent Monitor (IM)
Forty-two CSOs were trained to work collaboratively with local stakeholders to define monitoring indicators focused on the framework and thematic areas for FLEGT/VPA implementation in Ghana. The civil society model for VPA monitoring has the following steps:
- Establish the scope of monitoring and evaluation
- Identify performance questions and indicators
- Assign responsibilities
- Determine financial resources
- Collect and analyse information
- Interpret results and communicate to VPA operators and
- Share lessons learnt from evaluations.
The areas of VPA monitoring include:
- Supply of legally verified timber to the domestic market
- Effective implementation of the Legality Assurance System
- Implementation of procurement policy on timber for the domestic market
- Compliance to all VPA related legislations
- Conformance to indicators set for verification of timber in the LAS.
Regular monitoring will be crucial to help us know whether or not the VPA is achieving its expected impacts. Since this training, there have been collaborations between some of the CSOs and FoE-Ghana to reach more communities and help address illegal logging and corruption in the forestry sector.
- Organize training workshops to build capacity of FFC representative leaders to negotiate and monitor implementation of fair SRAs
Seven training workshops for 27 forest fringe communities were organized on “Key skills and principles in effective SRA negotiation” with two main objectives:
- To build the capacity of Forest Fringe Communities (FFCs) to negotiate an effective and fair SRA; and
- To build the capacity of FFCs in monitoring the implementation of their SRA by understanding the key components of the SRA Implementation Checklist.
They were trained in the eight pillars of effective negotiation. The SRA Implementation Checklist was also discussed as the basis for monitoring SRA implementation. It emerged in most of the workshops that the forestry officers do not help communities in monitoring SRA implementation, resulting in confrontations with contractors. Thus there is an urgent need for the Forestry Commission to show commitment to protecting the rights of these communities.
The training has resulted in communities demanding their rights to SRA entitlements from timber companies active in their local forests. Furthermore, potential conflict between a community in Juaso District and the paramountcy was averted when the community was able to get proper clarification about SRA entitlements.
Assessment of the project so far
In all, 45 SMEs, 43 Artisanal Millers, 20 media and 42 CSO participants have been trained and are currently engaged in FLEGT/VPA processes. All the target groups showed much enthusiasm for the trainings. GBC/Sunrise FM suggested we work with them to organise a durbar for ministries, state departments, traditional rulers and communities to discuss challenges in forest management and in purchasing legal timber for development projects. The durbar was broadcast live on GBC/Sunrise FM to around 2 million listeners who learned about FLEGT/VPA and legal timber/lumber purchasing processes. This together with the regular radio programmes resulted in communities’ inquiries to the Eastern Region Forest Office and FoE-Ghana on how to obtain legal timber for communities.
Project trainees including community members in the Eastern Region and artisanal millers and SME operators in the Ashanti Region have collaborated with district forest officers to arrest illegal operators in their respective regions. As the millers and SMEs act to put an end to illegal timber and seek ways of accessing legal timber, they have shown interest in establishing their own plantations to provide legal timber for their future production. They have also expressed commitment to co-operating with the FC on the Procurement Policy on Timber and Timber Products for the Domestic Market. The various ministries, state departments, traditional rulers and district assemblies involved in the project realise the need for them to participate in forest protection and, whereas before had not even given it consideration, have now expressed commitment to purchasing lumber from legal sources for their development projects.
The media network established by media houses participating in the CiSoPFLEG project will also act for the SCIPFLEG project and, as well as raising awareness, is committed to exposing illegal and corrupt activities, investigating promptly, and reporting alleged corruption and illegalities in the forestry sector.
The presiding member of the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region has invited a group of the SRA trainees to attend assembly meetings and educate the members on SRA negotiation and community monitoring. Communities now feel a little more confident of government support to ensure their rights are not ignored by timber companies. Conflicts have also been averted between communities and timber companies because of the improved understanding of the SRAs.
The district level dialogue platforms are now an important link between forest fringe community forums and district/regional forest forums, improving information sharing on FLEGT/VPA and other emerging issues and challenges in the forestry sector. Subsequent collaboration between communities and forest services officials has helped communities appreciate their own important role in forest protection.
Participating CSO members are committed to collaborating with other forest sector institutions to address forest governance challenges and support the independent forest monitors. To this end, they have intensified their education activities in local communities. Some local CSOs, such as the Rural Environmental Care Association (RECA) in Tarkwa, have linked with FoE-Ghana to carry out project activities. Given the very local natural of RECA and other CSOs, these links will be very beneficial for the sustainability of the project’s activities.