Communities in Ghana hold timber companies accountable

Communities in Ghana hold timber companies accountable

Ghana - 04 September, 2018

In Ghana, timber companies and timber producing communities are obliged to sign Social Responsibility Agreements (SRAs). The agreements are intended to compensate the communities for their contribution to forest resource management. The SRAs also require the timber companies to allocate 5% of their stumpage fees to development projects in the communities. However, a survey conducted by Tropenbos Ghana in 39 timber producing communities in the Western and Brong-Ahafo regions revealed that very few signed SRAs are being implemented.

The main problem is that most communities are not aware of the national SRA guidelines and are rarely involved in drafting the terms of the agreements. Paramount chiefs often act as the sole negotiators with the timber companies, even though this goes against the guidelines. There are very few SRA committees at the village level that oversee the implementation of the agreements and as a result, most timber companies get away with ignoring the SRAs. At the same time, some of the obligations for timber companies are simply unrealistic.

Tropenbos Ghana decided that it was time to train timber producing communities. The first goal was to support communities in designing SRAs with realistic obligations for both parties. The second goal was to help communities hold the timber companies accountable for complying with these obligations. TBI organised capacity-building workshops in the two regions. Community-based organisations (CBOs) enhanced peoples’ skills in SRA negotiations and in advocacy against non-fulfilment of the SRAs. Community members also learned about forest law and have started to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for monitoring the operations of mining and logging companies.

The CBOs themselves also started monitoring both public and private in the timber sector. They inspected logging licences to ensure compliance and reduce illegalities. In several cases, this has already had tangible results. Timber producing communities have managed to renegotiate existing SRAs with the timber companies and have agreed on procedures for effective implementation of the agreements.

The trainings are part of the EU-financed project “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa”, implemented by Tropenbos International.

Published in the Annual Report 2017

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