Mr Joseph William Osei, Forest Economist, at the weekend called for improvement in forest management by integrating environmental protection, social responsibilities and economic efficiency to address climate change.
“Forest management systems must be used to improve environmental administration for effective systematic planning, supervision and monitoring to provide better access to environmentally sensitive markets.
“Forest certification provides evidence on the quality of forest management, increased transparency on the quality of forestry operations and serve as a tool for market communication,” Mr Osei stated in an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra on Saturday.
Mr Osei, who is also a Forest Certification Auditor, explained that concerns over illegal logging and the fact that the domestic market did not require certified timber products posed a greater challenge for forest management in the country.
He called for a legislation to ensure that timber products in the market were labelled stressing the need for a successful use of certification as appropriate tool to verify responsible forest management especially social and environmental concerns.
Mr Osei noted that the growing concerns of forest degradation in the country through illegal logging gave credence for legislation to protect the forest.
He explained forest certification as a process whereby an independent certification body assesses whether or not forest management conformed to a given standard.
Mr Osei said improvement in forest management required internal audits and conditions and recommendations from external assessments.
He disclosed the establishment in Ghana of a functioning multi-stakeholder National Working Group fully accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), while an updated Ghana Forest Management Standard was currently being studied for accreditation by the FSC.
He said based on current trends in forest management, over 30 forest auditors and local communities had been trained on the rights and obligations under forest management.
This has resulted in the use of local communities in deriving more benefits from Social Responsibility Agreements (SRA), he added.
Mr Osei said Ghana’s voluntary forest certification process began in 1996 when a proposal was adopted at a national stakeholder’s forum to develop standards for timber certification and products labelling.
Ms Beauty Emefa Agbavor, Communications Manager, Working Group on Forest Certification, told the GNA that a National Committee on Forest Certification have been established to pursue the certification process and a Technical Working Group have been tasked to develop options for certification in line with international standards.
Ms Agbavor said media sensitization seminar would be organised on Forest Certification and Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) to promote sustainable forest management through certification in Ghana.
Dr Ernest Asare Abeney, Director of the Working Group, said Ghana’s forest resource base, estimated at 1.6 million hectares in the 1990s, had dwindled to between 1.2 million and 800,000 hectares.
He therefore called for an efficient management of forests to reduce the risks and impacts of unwanted disturbances such as bushfires, airborne pollution and the emergence of invasive species.
He said SFM implied deliberate human intervention through policy formulation, legislation and management to safeguard the productive and protective functions of the forest.