Forestry Commission asked to stop issuance of permits in forest reserves

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has asked the Forestry Commission to stop the issuance of mining permits and all permits in forest reserves to reduce fragmentation of compartment in the reserves.

Mr Musah Abu-Juam, the Technical Director in Charge of Forestry at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, speaking on behalf of the Minister, said the move was necessary as issuance of all permits continued to fragment the compartments.

He made this known at a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) impact monitoring validation workshop organised by Civic Response, a non-governmental organization in Accra.

The project, with support from the European Union (EU) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was on the theme; “Assessing the Impact of VPA Implementation in Ghana.”

Mr Abu-Juam said the move, when successful, would see the end to requests for permits as they were “gradually coming”.

He stated that the change in ministers and administrators over the years, had led to some challenges in the implementation of the VPA, however, data collection was very necessary thus, the Ministry would support every aspect of the process to ensure success.

Mr Abu-Juam noted that the Ministry had started working with the procurement authority to allow legal timber to be used for government projects and called on the Forestry Commission to support small scale operators in that regard to enable them to put legal timber on the market.

The Technical Director urged stakeholders to explore other means of funding the data collection process of the project in the future as the EU and FAO will not always be around to provide such supports.

Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a bilateral timber-trade agreement between the European Union and Ghana, a timber-exporting country.

Signed in 2009, the VPA enjoins Ghana to improve forest governance and law enforcement, which aims to address illegal logging.

Its objective is to collect data on VPA stakeholder deliberative process, livelihood and forest conditions to feed Ghana’s VPA impact monitoring framework.

Under the VPA, the partner country agrees to export only legal timber products to the EU.

Mr Roberto Schiliro, Team Leader Infrastructure and Sustainable Development, European Union, expressed the EU’s commitment to the agreement, thus, the high expectation by the EU market of Ghana’s FLEGT licensed timber.

He said the EU had inched closer to FLEGT licensing for far too long and that concerted tripartite dialogue of civil society organizations, industry and government was needed to address all outstanding issues leading to licensing.

Mr Schiliro encouraged stakeholders in the sector to continue to work closely together, to better the lives of communities whose livelihood was dependent on biodiversity conservation.

Mr Benjamin M. Adjei, Assistant FAO Representative to Ghana, speaking at the event, urged stakeholders to find ways to craft their messages to the political hierarchy.

He noted that the political will was there but how to craft and make it binding on politicians was what was needed, saying, “We should come forward and deliberate on how this can be achieved.”

Mr Albert Katako, the Head of Programme, Civic Response, asked that while the active involvement of civil society organizations should be encouraged, traditional authorities, the custodians of stool lands must be given a role to play in the implementation and monitoring of VPA.

He said there was the need to improve and enforce laws on timber extraction to reduce illegality.

Source: GNA

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