President-Forest Industries Association (FIAG), Richard Nsenkyire, has sounded an alarm over the perilous state of the nation’s forest resources – attributing the looming crisis to escalating operations of unscrupulous mining activities.
Mr. Nsenkyire expressed fear that the country’s forests, including wildlife, are at stake due to the relentless and uncontrolled destruction. His concerns come on the back of mining companies being allowed to mine in forest reserves, backed by Legislative Instrument (L.I. 2462) which permits mining in forest reserves.
What is also worsening the situation, he added, are the activities of illegal miners and farmers – besides the destruction being caused to the resource base by bushfires.
“Presently, timber companies are grappling with diminishing raw material supply, from one million cubic metres (m3) to 500,000 m3 – leaving these companies in a precarious position,” he said.
Speaking at FIAG’s annual general meeting (AGM) held at the Forestry Commission Training Centre (FCTC) at Achiawkrom in the Ashanti Region, Mr. Nsenkyire highlighted a concerning trend of diminishing log production in off-reserve areas reaching unsustainable levels.
The root cause, he noted, lies in the lack of adequate incentives for farmers to retain timber trees on their lands; hence perpetuating a vicious cycle of dwindling resources.
He noted several other challenges including a low rate of investments in commercial plantations by local landowners due to inadequate incentives; large volumes of plantation logs still going for export in round logs – depriving local processors of raw material, among others being confronted by forest industry.
FIAG is a group of trade and business associations in Ghana’s private forestry sector. Their objectives include improving corporate performance, presenting a united front on industry-related issues and aiding the country’s socio-economic development.
Within the 11-member associations, individual firms employ over 300,000 people in various business areas: including plantation development, logging, milling, manufacturing, haulage and equipment services, sales and marketing, and capacity building.
To effectively handle these challenges confronting the industry, Mr. Nsenkyire appealed for government to revoke the legislative instrument that has enabled mining firms to mine in forest reserves; and entreated the Forestry Commission to intensify their patrols in forest reserves.
Furthermore, he called on all stakeholders – especially the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Ministry of Trade and Industry – to grant audiences for FIAG to engage them in finding solutions.
The 1st AGM of FIAG was held under the theme ‘Perspectives of the Forestry Sector in Green Economy Development for Ghana’.
CEO-Forestry Commission, John Allotey, on behalf of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Abu Jinapor, acknowledged the forestry sector’s pivotal role in the country’s sustainable development.
“Forests are not only vital ecosystems that support biodiversity, but are also integral to the overall health and well-being of our environment. This theme underscores the importance of aligning our forestry practices with principles of a green economy, which is essential for achieving long-term ecological balance and ensuring that we mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
He said given the commitment to fostering a green economy, “We recognise the urgent necessity of safeguarding and efficiently managing our forest resources, and engaging in an aggressive reforestation and afforestation scheme that contributes to global efforts against the adverse impacts of climate change.
“The forestry sector stands as a vanguard in our collective climate action endeavours, and the fight against climate change cannot be won without forest and nature-based solutions which remain the greatest reservoirs for carbon sequestration,” he added.
He announced that the ministry, through the Ghana Forest Investment Programme, has begun the process of disbursing a US$7million loan for small- and medium-scale tree-growers at concessionary interest rates to boost investments in forest plantations as a commercial entity.
“I implore you to take advantage of this loan scheme to increase the raw material base of the dwindling timber industry,” he stated.
He noted that illegal logging and mining are hindering Ghana’s efforts toward building a green economy and practicing sustainable forestry. Government, he said, has deployed task forces to monitor hotspots and streamline small-scale mining while arresting and prosecuting those involved in illegal mining.
Also, he disclosed that Ghana plans to issue the VPA FLEGT licence in 2024 – which will enable legal timber trade with the EU and promote sustainable forestry management.
To this end, he added, 148 Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUCs) have been submitted to parliament for ratification, and the announcement of Ghana’s readiness to issue the licence is expected to be made at COP28 in Dubai next month.