To support local forest communities in Sefwi Debiso in Ghana’s Bia East District, Western North Region, to monitor the forest for illegal and corrupt activities, the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) project is training community members to become Community Forest Monitors. The trainees were selected by the communities and, while the TIMBY activities trained them in the more technical aspects of using the TIMBY app, the monitors were further trained in Ghana’s forest laws, specifically the Timber Resources Management and Legality Licensing Regulations (L.I. 2254), under the main GLA project.
The training focused on:
- Identification of lands suitable for timber rights
- Seeking consent for timber rights allocations on stool and private lands
- Land for small scale timber rights
- Allocating timber rights
- Social Responsibility Agreements (SRAs)
- Marking of logs and stumps
- Registration and use of chainsaws
- Disposal of residual logs
- Compensation to farmers
- Restricted timber species
- Timber operations and transport of timber products from a contract area
- Permit systems and regimes
- Unacceptable forest practices.
The presentation led to some further discussions as highlighted below.
- Some trainees felt they should be given ID cards and guns for protection. FoE-Ghana explained that, in the past, monitors have misused their official ID given them by the Forestry Commission (FC) by conniving with the illegal operators and extorting personal benefits. The trainees were encouraged to be honest and reliable in their duties to ensure the forest is well protected.
- Trainees queried how they deal with lumber being illegally transported outside the permitted hours of 6am to 6pm. They were advised that, to ensure their safety, the best action is to inform the FC and/or FoE-Ghana, and definitely not confront them.
- Trainees raised the continuing problem of timber companies illegally felling trees on their farms and not paying any compensation for the loss of the tree or destruction of their crops. FoE-Ghana advised them to continue protecting the trees on their farms because of the benefits they bring, and also that Tree Tenure and Benefit Sharing reforms being pushed for by civil society, including the GLA partners, are still under discussion.
- Security during their monitoring exercises was also a concern raised. They were advised that their identities will not be known to the forest authorities, and also that they should keep their alerts of forest infractions confidential from communities and should report anonymously to the authorities.
- The trainees were also keen to know how they can get lumber for individual and community use, and were informed they can get a Timber Utilisation Permit by applying to the local forestry office. They were also advised not to cut trees on their farms, as all naturally growing trees are vested in the President and it would be illegal to cut them down unless they have permission from the FC.
At the end of the training, the trainees expressed their willingness and enthusiasm to contribute to sustainable forest management. For FoE-Ghana’s part, we ensured they will receive more training and further support to build them up to become very competent and effective forest monitors.