The Government has instituted two approaches as part of efforts to combat the increasing spate of illegal logging, mining, farming and other illegal activities in forest reserves and wildlife protected areas.
Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, said the first approach was the continued capacity building of the Rapid Response Teams established by the Forestry Commission.
He said the Commission had so far resourced and deployed 18 Rapid Response Teams to hotspots of illegal activities in Forest Districts and wildlife protected areas.
He said these were mobile units that had received military training and were arms-bearing teams within the Forestry Commission.
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said this in his address during the Ministry’s turn at the meet the press series in Accra.
He gave an overview on the current status of implementation of programmes and projects being pursued by his Ministry within the National Medium-Term Development Policy Framework (20182021) and other National and International Strategic Plans such as the Sector Medium Term Plans (2018-2021), the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) and the African Union Agenda (2063).
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh in the past six months, their operations culminated in the arrest of 181 suspects and seizure of 98,566 pieces of assorted lumber and 44 chainsaw machines.
Others are 34 dredging machines popularly known as “Chanfan” used for illegal mining on river beds in some forest reserves were also destroyed.
He said this compares with the arrest of 185 suspects and seizure of over 53,600 pieces of assorted lumber and one 158 chainsaw machines in 2017.
He said the strategy of this approach was to be able to combat illegal activities at the field or forest level as well as the transport routes/roads.
The Minister said the second approach adopted towards fighting illegal logging is through the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which Ghana entered into with the European Union in November 2009.
He said under this agreement, all timber consignments were to be issued with Timber Legality Licenses.
He noted that these Timber Legality Licenses, which were known under the agreement as Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licenses, could only be issued after consignments going to the market have been proven to come from a legal source.
“The strategy behind this arrangement is to ensure that those who engage in illegalities will not have access to the market, whether local or international,” he said.
“In other words, the message is, ‘you may be able to steal the timber but you cannot sell it’.”
He said: “I am proud to announce that in November 2017, the Legislative Instrument that gives effect to this new regime was passed by Parliament. This is the Timber Resources Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017 (LI 2254).”
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said the technical and administrative systems to fully implement this agreement were nearly done and Ghana is in consultation with the EU, as arranged under the agreement, to assess and finalize the processes that would see Ghana trading under Timber Legality Licenses.
He said trial shipments had already been conducted to The Netherlands, Germany and Spain.