Local communities in the country will soon be producing lumber to shore up the volume of legal lumber supply for the domestic market.
This will be achieved through the implementation of a project by Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana, that seeks to link local communities to forest concession holders to produce legal lumber under the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), African Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) and the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement Governance Trade (FLEGT) support programme.
This was made known at the launch of the Inception Workshop, of the ACP/FAO Project, which was dubbed, "Linking Local Communities and Forest Concession Holders to Produce Legal Timber for the Domestic Market," in Accra yesterday.
Dr. Attah Alhassan of the Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission, who launched the programme, said "Without a strong domestic market, our industry cannot grow. We need to look out for weaknesses in this collaboration to ensure a strong front."
Mr. Musa Mbenga, FAO Representative to Ghana, in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Atse Yapi, ex-National Forest Programme Facility Officer, FAO Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, said the project is part of the broader ACP-FLEGT support programme, known as "The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and the Global Challenges of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, by Countering Illegal Logging and Promoting Sustainable Forest Management".
He said currently, Ghana is implementing seven projects under the ACP-FLEGT Support Programme, adding that the ACP-FLEGT Support Programme has agreed to support some projects in the country that seek to reduce illegal logging and also, integrate civil society in timber harvest validation processes, with 132,248.US Dollars.
Mr Mbenga said the FAO is pleased with the enthusiasm and the commitment of the NGOs in Ghana that have been carefully selected to conduct "these projects on the ground".
He said the initial report received form Tropenbos Ghana has been of good quality "and we trust that the final report will be equally excellent".
Mr Bart Missine, First Secretary of the EU Delegation in Ghana, said from earlier research carried out by Tropenbos International and others, "we know that despite the ban on chainsaw milling for commercial purposes, chainsaw lumber accounts for more than 80 per cent of the supply to the domestic market."
He said to meet the demand from the domestic market, each year, trees with a total volume of more than 2.5 million cubic meters, were harvested.
Mr Missine said the annual allowable cut for the formal industry is two million cubic metres, adding that with no formal fees or taxes paid on that harvest, it was estimated that each year, the Government of Ghana, lost approximately 25 million Ghana cedis in potential revenue.
"We are hopeful that the current failures of the formal sector to deliver tangible benefits to local communities from commercial logging will be addressed. In the meantime however, the lack of tangible benefits means there is a strong support within such communities for chainsaw milling."
He said with more than 800,000 people relying on the informal industry, either for their direct employment or livelihood, "we do not underestimate the challenges ahead in dealing with this issue." Conventional saw-millers are at the moment not supplying enough to meet the gap between domestic supply and demand for wood.
This has partly created space for the proliferation of illegal chainsaw production, which now supplies about 84 per cent of lumber on the domestic market.
Illegal chainsaw operations are widely accepted in local communities, due to the immediate livelihood benefits people in the communities derive from the operations.
To find alternatives to illegal chainsaw milling, forest stake-holders in Ghana, under the aegis of TBI Ghana, have proposed a policy that allows artisanal millers to join selected sawmills in supplying legal lumber for the domestic market.
TBI Ghana, in conjunction with its partners, including the Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission, is therefore piloting the project to build the capacity of local communities in artisanal milling, to process lesser-used species, and convert logging residues produce by forest concession holders to usable products.