Civic Response: Communique

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 2014 NATIONAL FOREST FORUM
HELD AT THE INSTITUTE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STUDIES, ACCRA FROM TUESDAY NOVEMBER 18 TO FRIDAY NOVEMBER 21, 2014,

PREAMBLE

  1. One hundred and sixty-seven (167) stakeholders of Ghana’s forest sector comprising representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs); industry; traditional authorities; forest sector agencies, and the media, and representatives of local communities from forty-three (43) administrative districts in nine (9) out of Ghana’s ten (10) regions have participated in the 2014 National Forest Forum convened by the Civic Response from November 18 to 21, 2014 at the Institute of Local Government Studies, Madina-Accra.
  2. The 2014 National Forest Forum was funded by the European Union (EU) through the Governance Initiative for Rights and Accountability in Forest Management (GIRAF II) and FERN’s Implementing FLEGT: Promoting Good Governance in the Forest Sector Projects; UKaid through the Strengthening African Forest Governance (SAFG) project; and DANIDA through the Yen Sore The forum acknowledges the progress made with the forest sector reform agenda and commends the efforts of government towards improving forest governance through a number of programmes including preparatory work for the development of a master plan for the implementation of the forest and wildlife policy (2012); significant steps towards the realisation of Ghana’s Timber Legality Assurance System; and attempts to protect Ghana’s ecologically sensitive regions by placing a ban on the exploitation and export of rosewood.

Having deliberated on current trends in Ghana’s forest sector, particularly the concerns of local communities, 2014 National Forest Forum puts forth the following:

Rosewood Exploitation and Export

  1. The high rate of logging of rosewood and other species in Ghana’s ecologically fragile zones is a threat to resource sustainability and the cohesion of communities in those The attempts by the Forestry Commission and the District Assemblies which seek to salvage some gains from this destruction are misplaced. The forum welcomes the l ban on rosewood exploitation and export seeking to redress the widespread abuse. We recommend that the presidential ban be sustained until comprehensive measures are developed to address issues of the permit abuse; resource sustainability and benefit sharing arrangements which support communities in the resource areas. Also the Forestry Commission, District Assemblies and civil society organisations must sensitise traditional authorities and citizens in areas endowed with rosewood to monitor, report and take action to protect their vulnerable environment.

Forest Plantations

  1. The forum recognises the numerous challenges that currently confront forest plantation efforts in These include the slow pace of realization of benefits under the Modified Taungya System(MTS) forest plantations; the inequity in benefit sharing from private plantations on public lands; and the low levels of the human resource required by the Forestry Commission to support forest plantations. At the same time, there is evidence of good plantations stands which have been developed by local communities.

We welcome efforts by government to develop a twenty-five year forest plantations development strategy to address the wood deficit and the rapid loss of Ghana’s forest cover and the process to subject it to wide stakeholder consultations.

However, we are concerned about the shift from community-led forest plantation schemes which has a greater potential to increase food security and improve the incomes and livelihoods of rural communities, to private forest plantations.

We demand that as a matter of urgency, the registration and documentation processes for farmers under the Modified Taungya system be concluded to clarify the distribution of benefits from harvesting stands and to help farmers to realize their investment returns. We recommend a review of the gross disparity in benefit sharing arrangement in private forest plantations undertaken in degraded forest reserves.

Charcoal & wood fuel production 

  1. The forum acknowledges the heavy national dependence on wood fuels and charcoal for various purposes and the fact that the current state of extraction of wood fuel is unsustainable and a threat to forest resources in the off-reserve We are however concerned about the lack of regulation of its production and the failure and lack of initiative by government to take up the regulation.

We urge the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) and the Forestry Commission to, as a matter of national priority, take the initiative to collaborate with the Energy Commission to develop a policy to regulate the production and use of charcoal in Ghana. We further urge the review of district assembly by-laws on charcoal production to reflect environmental objectives in addition to the resource mobilization. Being mindful of climate change and the need to harness our national carbon sequestration potential, we strongly recommend the scaling up of good pilot initiatives for producing alternatives to forests for wood fuels and charcoal including the promotion of bamboo and rattan.

Disbursement and Use of Royalties

  1. We commend the efforts by the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL) to regularly publish the reports on disbursement of royalties to traditional authorities, stools and district We also applaud the efforts of the Extractive industry Transparency Initiative.

We are however concerned about the percentages in the disbursement arrangement which misleads the public on real revenues accruing to district assemblies and traditional institutions from royalties.

We are also concerned about the misuse, misapplication and abuse of royalties from natural resource rents accrued to district assemblies and to traditional institutions which do not directly benefi  forest fringe communities.

We have observed that revenues from royalties to district assemblies are treated as Internally Generated Funds (IGF). We demand that these funds be invested well-labelled development projects in line with the priorities of communities whose forests generate the revenues.

We also recommend the development of clear guidelines for the use of royalties by the districts, stools, skins and families who receive royalties.

Access to farmlands for farming

  1. We are concerned about the increasing challenge of access to land and encroachment on forest resources from We are also aware of the social tension and livelihood insecurity created by the lack of access to arable land by local communities that fringe forest reserves.

We therefore call for a national dialogue to discuss the challenges of land access for communities to develop responses that protect the integrity of our forests while securing the livelihoods of communities that depend on those lands for their livelihood.

Tree and Land Tenure

  1. We welcome  efforts  by  government  to  review  the  tree  tenure  and  benefit  sharing arrangements to provide greater incentive for protection and nurturing of However tree tenure challenges cannot be resolved without a focus on Ghana’s land tenure arrangements.

In furtherance of the reform efforts, government should, in the spirit of good forest governance give greater opportunity for community ownership and management of forest resources by ceding the ownership of forest resources in off-reserve  areas  to communities.

The process of registering planted trees should be made community-friendly.

Small Scale Mining

  1. We are concerned about the destruction of forests including protected areas for both small scale and large scale We are also concerned about the disregard for law, the culture of impunity and complicity of high profile persons in illegal mining activities. Furthermore we find the policy inconsistency and weak coordination between the mining

and forests unacceptable. We also find the indirect national support to illegal mining through the purchases of the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) rather disturbing.

We therefore recommend the passing of a mining policy that reflects national development objectives as well as the expectations of local communities. We also recommend the opening of a national debate on developing a type of Legality Assurance Scheme to guide the extraction, sale and export of only legally produced gold in Ghana.

Access to Lumber for the Domestic Market

  1. We acknowledge the progress made in ensuring legality compliance in the timber However the challenge of timber price disparity on the domestic market, the high local demand for timber; and the lack of legal sources of wood for the domestic market are yet to be resolved.

We recommend the quick implementation of the Domestic Market Policy including the provision for district wood depots; and support for the re-organization of the domestic market to guarantee trade in legal lumber.

Land grabbing for large-scale Plantations

  1. We have observed the social insecurities that have arisen from the creation of land banks, large-scale tree plantations and land-based commercial investments particularly in the Western, Central and Brong Ahafo

We reiterate the call for a land use plan to manage the competing land uses; and also, thorough consultations in line with the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the affected local people.

Nomadic herdsmen

  1. We have observed with increasing concern that the long unaddressed social, environmental and security challenges posed by the free-range activities of nomadic herdsmen which negatively impact the livelihoods of

We recommend a review of Ghana’s approach to implementing the ECOWAS protocols; and urge MMDAs to be more proactive in developing guidelines to guide the activities of herdsmen.

We commit, as participants of the 2014 National Forest Forum, to collaborate with government and its agencies to secure a more sustainable environment towards national development.

Friday, November 21, 2014

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