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Government urged to review forestry laws to ensure sanity

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Participants at an international workshop on timber legality and local livelihoods, has called on the Government to review existing forestry laws and policies to ensure sanity in the industry.

According to them, the Forestry Commission (FC) had failed woefully to enforce laws on chainsaw milling in the country, hence government’s decision to enter into the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme, was a step in the right direction.

The two-day workshop was organized jointly by Tropenbos International Ghana and the FC for stakeholders to brainstorm on the impact of the VPA on livelihoods and propose social safeguards to help to mitigate the effects.

It brought together about 80 participants including researchers, academia, policy makers, civil society as well as players in the timber industry, and forest managers.

The VPA enjoins members to export only verified legal timber products to the European Union to help to ensure sustainable forest management and therefore against illegal chainsaw milling and other practices that could deplete the forest.

The participants expressed concern that Government failed to put the necessary policy and legislation in place before signing the agreement, which they perceived could compound the plight of the rural poor without the necessary interventions.

It is estimated that about 97,000 people in the chainsaw milling business risk losing their jobs while 65,000 others whose livelihood are connected to the forest will lose it when the VPA becomes fully operational.

This is because chainsaw operators produce about 84 per cent of lumber for the local market with an estimated volume of 497,000 cubic meters and a market value of GH¢279 million.

Consequently, the participants called for appropriate alternative livelihood projects to be put in place for chainsaw millers and those connected to the wood industry likely to be affected as a result of the limited supply, with its attendant high cost when the VPA come into force to forestall further compounding the plight of the rural poor.

They suggested among others that projects such as wood farming and cottage industries should be considered.

Mr .K. S Nketsiah, Director of Tropenbos International Ghana, called for multi sectoral dialogue on the issue to facilitate appropriate social safeguards to help to eliminate conflicts when the VPA was fully implemented.

Observers from the DR Congo, Cameroun, Liberia and Netherlands participated in the workshop.

Source: GNA

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