Ghana’s forests, and the communities that live close to them, may be about to get a lucky break as the world scrambles to find reliable methods to fight the growing threat of climate change, says a new report by The Forests Dialogue (TFD) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to a press release announcing this, despite the fact that Ghana is on course to receive up to US$ 75 million from international donors to lay the ground work for new, forest friendly strategies designed to slow global warming, some long standing challenges in the forest sector need to be addressed urgently to avoid this exciting possibility becoming another missed opportunity.
The new report which was made public on July 30, 2010, is titled “REDD Readiness Requires Radical Reform”.
It announces that although last December’s Copenhagen meeting failed to reach a binding international agreement for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases, at least there was one silver lining, where negotiators managed to outline most of the conditions necessary to begin conserving and restoring tropical forests as a key contribution to combating climate change.
The report states that this paves the way for tropical countries to receive payments in return for safeguarding their forest resources, thereby preventing additional emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This mechanism is commonly known as REDD or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.
“Ghana has been at the forefront of the REDD movement,” says Robert Bamfo, Head of Ghana ’s Forestry Commission’s Climate Change Unit, “and we are amongst the first tropical countries to be awarded significant financial support to help conserve, manage and restore our forests”.
However, despite good initial progress, if REDD in Ghana is going to fully deliver, then it will be necessary to work through some well understood challenges in Ghana’s forest sector that have proven resistant to change, it is widely believed.
According to Emelia Arthur, District Chief Executive of Shama District, “We now need to invest more in getting information out to local communities and district authorities on what REDD actually involves and find ways to address forest governance reforms that protect and advance community rights including clarifying land and tree tenure issues”.
The report stresses the urgency of putting in place an adequate framework that will allow REDD benefits to flow efficiently to communities and land‐owners.
“For REDD to work there must be contractual certainty between those whose actions safeguard trees, and the carbon they contain, and those who are willing to pay for avoided emissions”, says James Mayers, Head of the Natural Resources Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), adding; “this means that there is a pressing need to clarify and secure once and for all the rights that communities, farmers and land‐owners have with respect to naturally grown and planted trees in Ghana”.
Commenting on the same issue, Stewart Maginnis, Director of Environment and Development at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said although “Ultimately the success of REDD will hinge on whether sufficient funds flow to those who rely on forests to sustain their livelihoods, many REDD candidate countries have not even started to contemplate what constitutes a fair and efficient distributional mechanism,” adding, “Ghana now has a unique opportunity to take a lead on this matter, learning from its previous successes, and short-comings, of forest‐based revenue distribution.”
For Kwabena Nketiah, Team Leader of Tropenbos International – Ghana, however, “Partnerships between government, communities, private sector and the NGOs will be critical in addressing these long standing challenges in the forest sector” while “the good news is that Ghana already has an established track record in this respect and can easily build on the successful experience of promoting collaborative arrangements to address illegal logging.”
Raphael Yeboah, Executive Director of the Forest Services Division at Ghana’s Forestry Commission, also believes that “Armed with these recommendations, Ghana is positioning itself as an international leader by creating the conditions that will ensure REDD makes a tangible contribution to combating climate change while working for both Ghana’s people and its forests.”
More than 50 Ghanaian and international stakeholders from government, NGOs, forest communities and the private sector have been involved in preparation of the report, facilitated by TFD.
The report attempts to reflect the main points of broad agreement among the stakeholders on additional measures required to help Ghana get ready for REDD. Similar processes led by TFD and IUCN have also taken place in Brazil, Guatemala and Ecuador, with strong Ghanaian participation in each case.
By Edmund Smith-Asante