On Friday May 11, 2012, Tropenbos International Ghana inaugurated the maiden District Forest Forum in the Kumawu Forest District of the Ashanti Region. The forum was established as part of the implementation of the Governance Initiative for Rights and Accountability in Forest Management (GIRAF) under the auspices of Forest Watch Ghana. GIRAF aims to improve public awareness and the enforcement of forest laws and good forest governance through capacity building of grassroots and the promotion of multi-stakeholder dialogue and decision making process.
The establishment of the Kumawu Forest Forum was preceded by series of activities that led to the formation of community forest fora within six forest fringe communities of the district. Decentralising forest forums to the community level is one of the novelties of the GIRAF project. It helps rally community support and participation in forest decision making and implementation at the grassroots. It also creates space for the discussion of locally burning forestry issues which otherwise could have been ignored.
The inauguration of the maiden Forest Forum was attended by representatives of the six community forest fora, Community Forestry Committees , Unit Committees, Traditional Authorities, heads of Forest Services Division, National Disaster Management Organisation and the National Commission for Civic Education. The forum created space for participants to jointly reflect on and rank burning forestry issues in the district. In order of importance, participants enumerated the following as crucial issues confronting the Kumawu Forest District: (1) Occurrence of bushfires (2) Illegal chainsaw milling (3) Inadequate protection of watershed (4) Destruction of farmlands by timber contractors without paying compensation (5) Refusal of farmers to fully adhere to terms of the Modified Taungya System. The forum allowed stakeholders to interact with duty bearers and had most of their questions and concerns addressed.
In recent past, TBI Ghana has established a similar forum in the Juaso Forest District and revamped an existing one in the Nkawie Forest District under the GIRAF initiative. The Programme continues to partner civil society and other relevant actors to build local capacity in support of good forest governance for sustainable forest management.