Community Forestry in Ghana
Situated along the Gulf of Guinea, the West African country of Ghana has a total forest area of approximately 22.7 million acres (9.2 million hectares), which represents about 40 percent of its total land area. Though the dominant forest formation is savanna woodlands, some tropical high forest still exists, mostly in the southwestern part of the country. The total remaining closed forest area covers some 21 million acres (8.5 million hectares) and contains as many as 225 types of mammals and 728 bird species, including seven threatened species. There's also a high degree of butterfly endemism, meaning that these species exist nowhere else in the world.
What remains of Ghana's tropical high forest is highly fragmented. Only about 4.4 million acres (1.8 million hectares) are well conserved, nearly all of which is classified as forest reserve. This puts tremendous pressure on the remaining off-reserve areas of high forest, where more than half of Ghana's annual timber production takes place. The country's closed forest is also coming under increasing pressure from fuelwood extraction (75 percent of Ghana's energy needs are met with fuelwood and charcoal) as well as agricultural conversion, particularly for cacao production. Between 1990 and 2005, Ghana's forest loss totaled 4.7 million acres (1.9 million hectares) or 1.8 percent per year -- one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.
Deforestation in Ghana is being driven by several root causes, including the lack of local participation and benefit sharing in forest management, a dearth of effective governance and policies that encourage forest conversion. The country's 1994 Forest Law signaled a positive departure from past policies, codifying collaborative forest management practices and community-based natural resource management. However, community tenure rights do not extend to the ownership of trees, which belong to the state. This has hindered the development of community-based sustainable forestry as a means to conservation and local development.
The government recognizes these challenges and has taken several positive steps to address forest governance problems, such as signing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan, an initiative designed to combat illegal logging by ensuring that the timber a country exports to the European market was harvested legally. Ghana's government is also facilitating the development of activities related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD),a framework designed to use market incentives to encourage forest conservation and mitigate climate change. There is great potential (and an equally great need) to link the goals of the VPA, which aims to combat illegal logging, with the REDD processes and foster closer collaboration between local communities and the private operators of the forest reserves.
The Rainforest Alliance's Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program is working to encourage better management of Ghana's remaining high forests and partnering with local communities to guard against illegal logging in off-reserve areas through improved governance and organizational strengthening. Through our NORAD- and USAID-supported projects, we are also helping small- and medium-sized forest enterprises implement sustainable forest management practices and develop REDD activities, and we are working to forge direct links between producers and buyers of certified forest products, with the ultimate aim of increasing income for the rural poor.
For more information, please contact your regional TREES representative.