Chainsaw milling project: eight years and more than 200 artisanal millers in Ghana

Chainsaw milling project: eight years and more than 200 artisanal millers in Ghana

Ghana - 17 August, 2017

After eight years and the conversion of more than 200 illegal chainsaw millers into artisanal millers Ghana’s Chainsaw Milling Project came to an end in 2016. The project found alternatives to chainsaw milling through a multi-stakeholder dialogue. The dialogue assessed the reasons behind illegal logging and piloted the artisanal milling concept as an alternative to chainsaw milling and as the solution to providing legal wood to the country’s domestic market.

The multi-stakeholder dialogue was the main strategy used by the project. This interactive learning platform involved all types of stakeholders within the forestry sector. It proved to be an effective tool for decision making amid diverse views and competing interests and expectations. Through the well-managed process, the project bridged the differences between competing actors (chainsaw operators and forest managers) within the domestic timber sector. The discussions provide two tangible outputs: 1) a policy for supplying legal timber to the domestic market; and 2) a public procurement policy on wood and wood products. It was also through the platform that artisanal timber milling was identified as the legal alternative to illegal chainsaw milling. In 2015 the MSD was taken over by the National Forest Forum Ghana.

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The project activities led to stronger and better organised associations of Small and Medium Forestry Enterprises. They are now able to represent themselves effectively at district, regional and national forums and in discussions on forestry issues. These groups include trader associations, artisanal milling groups, woodworker groups and agroforestry associations.

The concept of artisanal milling (ATM) was defined as small-medium scale milling of timber from specified legal sources by a trained, certified, registered and licensed Ghanaian artisan, using licensed mobile sawmilling equipment that excludes any form of chainsaw machines, capable of recovering at least 50% of dimension lumber from logs, for the domestic market only. This may be processed on site or off site.


Models of ATM, together with training modules, were developed and piloted in eight communities. A total of 257 artisanal millers have been trained. Five ATM groups are currently operating and supplying legal lumber to the domestic market.

Not all illegal chainsaw operators could be transformed into artisanal millers. Therefore, the project also piloted alternative livelihood options such as agroforestry and commercial charcoal production in four communities. The project trained four groups, made up of about 250 former chainsaw operators, in agroforestry. These groups were supported to obtain access to almost 300 hectares of degraded forest lands to develop tree plantations under the Modified Taungya System. About 60 former chainsaw operators were also trained in commercial charcoal production and provided with access to material for charcoal production.

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To continue the work already done by the project and to broaden its results, a new project is being launched in 2017: “Upscaling Artisanal Timber Milling to Improve the Supply of Legal Lumber to the Domestic Market.” This project, funded by the Food and Agricultural Organization, seeks to consolidate the artisanal timber milling concept in Ghana by piloting it in more communities and expanding its scale of implementation. Another goal is to find solutions to constraints to the adoption of artisanal milling.  

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