FC SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TIMBER RIGHTS FEES: FARMERS & LANDOWNERS PROPOSE

Timber rights fees of timber harvested from farms should be given to farmers and landowners instead of Forestry Commission (FC), farmers and landowners from across the country have proposed. According to them, this is because farmers and landowners are responsible for the nurturing of trees on their farms right from nursery to harvesting. The proposal was made at a Contact Group Meeting organised by Civic Response to solicit contributions and inputs of farmers and landowners from across the country into ongoing tree tenure reforms.

Tree tenure consists of a bundle of rights over trees and their produce which may be held by different people at different times. These rights include the right to own or inherit trees, the right to plant trees, the right to use trees and tree products, the right to dispose of trees and the right to exclude others from the use of trees and tree products. Tree tenure reforms have been necessitated by various studies which conclude that existing tree tenure regimes and benefit sharing in off-reserves largely serve as a disincentive to sustainable forest management as farmers do not get any monitory benefits from trees on their farms. Landowners also do not get any direct monitory benefit and so do not encourage tenant farmers to leave timber trees to grow on farms. Government does not play any role in off-reserve management of trees but rather gets direct benefit from revenue. Again, there is confusion between customary and statutory laws; landowners and farmers have their arrangements with regards to tree tenure and benefit sharing arrangements which is different from statutory laws.

The farmers and landowners, who were representing farmers and landowners from across the country, suggested that 40% out of the 50% revenue allocated to the FC should be given to them as compensation for their labour in nurturing the trees on their farms. Per the current arrangement when timber is harvested in off-reserve areas (farms), FC takes 50% of the revenue as management and regulation fees and the rest of the 50% is shared among Office of Administrator of Stool Lands, District Assemblies, Traditional Council and the stool land or skin land.

Elvis Oppong-Mensah, a Civic Response programme officer, indicated that if government accepts this recommendation, it will go a long way to motivate farmers to nurture trees on their farms.

“If farmers know that they stand to benefit from trees on their farms, there is no way they will intentionally destroy trees on their farms. Landowners will also encourage farmers to nurture trees on farms knowing that they stand to benefit from it once it’s harvested,” he said.

The meeting, which took place at Blue Royal Hotel in Larteh in the Eastern Region, was attended by a total of 72 participants out of whom 55 were males and 17 were females. Out of this number there were 33 participants representing farmers and landowners from across the country (24 males and 9 females), and 35 representing Civil Society Organisations in the natural resources and environment sector.

By: Jemima Opare-Henaku│Civic Response

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