The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) yesterday signed agreements with four institutions, including the Forestry Commission (FC), and timber processing groups to build their capacity in the management and exportation of timber.
Funding for beneficiary institutions under the agreements range between $75,000 and $300,000.
The agreements form part of the preparations for the issuance of Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences under the VPA.
The FLEGT is part of efforts by the EU to fight illegal logging and associated trade on its markets by timber supplying countries, including Ghana
It aims at reducing illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
It also supports the EU/FLEGT Action Plan that forms the former’s response to the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products.
The FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, Mr Abebe Haile Gabriel, observed that while forests were crucial, the resource was under threat from unsustainable uses, including illegal logging that caused deforestation, harmed and deprived local communities of tax revenue.
He, however, stated that the VPA was Ghana’s timber legality assurance system which created a traceability system to monitor the movement of timber to ensure that it was harvested, transported and processed to conform with the country’s laws.
Mr Gabriel, who is also the FAO Ghana Country Representative, said the signing of the agreements demonstrated “how the FAO is working closely with the Government of Ghana to ensure that all the support we can offer will have the greatest impact on the governance objectives set for the VPA”.
He commended Ghana for its efforts to address illegal logging to protect the forest sector, adding, “These actions are bringing Ghana closer to fulfilling its commitment to the implementation of the VPA, as it is helping our sector transform into a source of sustainable employment and livelihood.”
As part of efforts to ensure that the country meets the standards required by the VPA, a wood tracking system has been developed to help the FC track illegal logging activities before the timber enters the EU market.
The Chief Executive of the FC, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, said the test run of the system and the roll out of its field verification audit had exposed areas that still required efforts to ensure a credible timber legality assurance system.
The areas include field staff capacity gaps and inadequate supervision in the implementation of management standards.
He, however, gave an assurance that those shortcomings would be addressed.
“At the end of the process, we want to be confident in declaring that Ghana’s FLEGT licences are issued from wholly credible legality assurance,” he said.
The Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Ghana, Mr William Hanna, stated that strict adherence to the demands of the VPA was necessary, since European consumers wanted to pay for timber that was certified.