Friends of the Earth – Ghana (FoE-Ghana), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) on Thursday led a discussion on the development of a “Community Based Real-Time Forest Monitoring (CRTM)” project to reduce forest sector illegalities.
The CRTM designed to enhance the role of local communities in forest monitoring and resource management would use low-cost technologies to improve the quality and availability of information on forest infraction as well as the effectiveness of the law enforcement.
The forum was on the theme: “Ensuring law enforcement, improving political will and minimising political interferences to address illegal forest operations in Ghana” and was attended by various stakeholders in the forestry sector.
Mr Enoch Gyamfi Ampadu, the Project Coordinator of the CRTM at the FoE-Ghana said the project would develop scalable models for implementing community-based real time forest monitoring “joint control” systems in two districts.
“It will be implemented in the Nkawie and Goaso Forest Districts of Ghana. Three reserves will be selected for the implementation of the project and testing of the system in each of the two districts,” Mr Ampadu said.
He noted that the project was expected to reduce the irregularities in the targeted areas and improve fulfilment of social obligations by timber operators to local communities.
Mr Ampadu indicated that the beneficiaries of the project included; forest fringe communities, forestry commission and civil society organisation in the forestry sector.
He said the project has the objective of ensuring that authorities take community based monitoring reports on forestry illegalities into account and apply relevant corrective measures to sanitise the forestry sector.
In a speech delivered on his behalf, Dr Theo Anderson, Executive Director of FoE said since its inauguration the FoE with the help of other CSOs had played active roles in contributing to shape the forest and wildlife policy in the country adding that they intended to continue pursuing that agenda.
Justice Rebecca Sittie, a Justice of the High Court, noted that although the country had numerous personnel that could deal with defaulters of the law in the forestry sector, enforcement remained a challenge.
Justice Sittie assured the forestry sector the readiness of the judiciary to assist in battling illegality in the sector saying, “the judiciary is very poised and ready to implement the forestry and the environmental laws”.
She noted that it was for the lawyers and prosecutors who had the obligation to follow the proper legal process to enable the judiciary to play its role.
Mr Chris Berko, the Director of the Timber Validation Department of the Forestry Commission said the Commission had been working out a wood procurement policy to regulate the cutting down of trees.
He said attacking illegality in the forestry sector required a multi-faceted approach than using some level of control like the operations of the rapid response team and therefore the need to inject new policy directions.
He indicated that the forestry commission was looking up to an effective collaboration between the CSOs and the military to manage the forest reserves together.
Dr Tony Aubyn, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Minerals Commission said when improper mining activities were encouraged; it could affect the country’s development agenda.
He explained that his outfit did not allow for small-scale mining in the forest reserve and that any small-scale mining activity found in the forest reserves was to be regarded as illegal and perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly.