By Konrad Kodjo Djaisi

Come September 2014, Ghana will fully implement and trade under the voluntary partnership agreement.
The voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) is a bilateral agreement between the European Union (EU) and timber exporting countries such as Ghana.

VPA aims to improve forest governance and ensure that timber imported into the EU has complied with legal requirements of the partner country — in this case, Ghana.

The EU is one of the biggest markets for timber products and the VPA forms part of a 2003 action-year plan to combat illegal logging.
The EU is the destination for 60% of Ghana?s timber exports; however, last year the share fell to 20 percent.

Ghana signed the VPA in November, 2009, since it aligns with the country?s own forest and wildlife objectives for sustainable forest management.

Although there is no obligation for Ghana to enter the VPA with the EU, once the agreement was signed it became legally binding on Ghana and the EU to trade only in timber or timber products that can be verified through a wood-tracking system as legal.

The VPA aims to improve transparency and accountability by ensuring that timber or timber products imported into the EU from Ghana have been legally acquired, harvested, transported and exported in compliance with the legal requirements in Ghana.

Adopting the VPA would enable timber companies in the country to secure access to market for timber export, and ensure that timber companies fulfil their social obligations by entering into a social responsibility agreement with communities in their operational area.
It will also minimise illegal chain-saw operations by strengthening structures for forest law enforcement.


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