Ghana government calls on citizens to resist rosewood felling as ban is enforced

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has called on Ghanaians to resist the illegal harvesting of rosewood in the country.

The Minister, Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, speaking to the media at a press briefing Monday March 11, 2019 said the illegal harvesting of rosewood should be resisted by the general public.

“The Regional and District Coordinating Councils, the Traditional Authorities and other state and non-state institutions should join the fight against illegal harvesting of fresh logs as it was the case in the fight against Galamsey,” he said.

The Minister noted that the opinion leaders who are advocating for the ban on rosewood harvesting know the individual community members level involved in the illegal felling. “They should therefore assist us by fighting it at the community,” he added.

There has been a rise in rosewood felling in the country, mostly for export to China and India. The uncontrolled felling, mostly in the northern parts of the country, potentially endanger the fragile ecology of the area and threatens food security.

The Minister further pointed out that the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) and the District Security Council (DISEC) also have the authority to stop the harvesting and transportation of rosewood within their respective Regions and Districts.

“I would like to state that many Youth Groups are directly involved in the harvesting of the trees especially outside forest reserves and sell to permit holders. Most of the felling is aided by landowners and some known opinion leaders who are the same people on social media advocating for the ban. They condone and connive with illegal operators to harvest these trees,” he said.

While the Minister did not reference any work of journalists who have covered the issue, some journalists have reported on and investigated the rosewood conundrum. In January 2019 for instance, published a four-month investigation into the felling of rosewood in the Upper West Region of the country. The region is the poorest, as seven out of every 10 people in that region are poor. The activities of the loggers have notably affected farming activities reducing rainfall volumes and crop yield, the investigation found.

From the Minister’s briefing, there appears to be a ban in place in the entire country, which is being flouted.

The Minister gave a chronology of events, actions and decisions surrounding the rosewood matter. He said in 2012, the Ministry’s attention was drawn to the incidences of indiscriminate harvesting of the species by charcoal producers, farmers and illegal operators. According to him, in response, the harvesting and export of rosewood was temporarily suspended on August 31, 2012 by the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mike Hammah.

The ban was publicly announced, he said and all rosewood contractors with valid permits were given three months grace period to evacuate their lying logs before the suspension became effective.

But barely two months of the announcement of the ban, it was lifted on October 5, 2012 by the same Minister. The suspension, Mr. Chiremeh said was as a result of the development of guidelines to streamline rosewood operations.

He however indicated that all the earlier suspensions of rosewood harvesting operations exempted five companies operating in the Bui Dam Reservoir areas to create safe fairways and to prevent accidents during lake transport.

The following, he said are the companies: Boakyewaah Timbers, Kanbonse, Sidakon, Adu Tutu & sons and Time Concept.

On February 21, 2014, two companies were granted three month permits to lift rosewood. These companies were Meyiri Company and Commodities Procurement limited, the Minister said.

Despite all the efforts by authorities, there was still continuous abuse on rosewood, compelling the then Minister of the sector, Inusah Fuseini to reaffirm Cabinet’s decision to ban the harvesting, transportation, processing and exporting of rosewood on July 15, 2014.

“All the existing permits of the seven companies permitted by the office of the President were revoked,” the Minister said.

On the June 18, 2015, another Minister, Nii Osah Mills granted additional permits to six companies to process and export lying rosewood. These companies were Interlink Limited, Rayaad and Wood Limited, Dero Limited, Kofi Vinyo & Company Limited, Jowak Limited, Savanna Investment Limited and Brasoma Company Limited, he said.

According to the Minister, as a short term measure to prevent the logs from losing their economic value through bushfires and harsh environmental conditions, some companies were granted approval to salvage the lying logs.

He added that as a medium term measure to control further harvesting of rosewood, arrangements were made in collaboration with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Civil Society Organizations to introduce a quota system that will regulate how much rosewood was exploited at a given period.

Citing records from the Forestry Commission, he says as at 2017, a total volume of 56,190m3 was salvaged and a corresponding revenue of GH¢148, 814,846 accrued.

“Similarly in 2018, a total volume of 42,561m3 was salvaged and a corresponding revenue of GH¢122, 946, 151 accrued. From January 2019 to date, a total volume of 8,378 m3 was salvaged and a corresponding revenue of GH¢25,119, 884 accrued,” he said.

He gave the assurance that the Ministry not only continue to enforce the ban on the harvesting of rosewood but has also suspended the issuance of salvage permits including conveyance permits on rosewood.

“Our rapid response team are on the ground to clamp down on illegal harvesting of rosewood. On a long-term basis, a policy on Tree Tenure and Benefit Sharing for trees outside the forest is being discussed which will motivate farmers to resist the illegal exploitation of rosewood and other tree resources on their farms and stop speculative felling by illegal operators,” he said.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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