Ghana’s forest reserves provide invaluable ecosystem services to communities, and contribute significantly to the national economy. But these forests are rapidly deteriorating due to illegal logging, expansion of agriculture, mining and urbanization. Involving forest fringe communities is critical for sustainable and accountable forest resource management.
The EU NSA project has trained over 500 community forest monitors in advocacy and policy, conflict resolution, and reporting and addressing forest illegalities. To avoid duplicity, the project built on existing systems such as the three-tier ForestLink monitoring tool developed by Rainforest Foundation UK to gather data on infractions at community level, and to aggregate this to inform stakeholder engagement, advocacy and corrective action.
Community forest monitors were trained on restoration, tree tenure systems, the importance of using only legal timber, and the REDD+ benefit-sharing framework. A third were also equipped with smartphones and the ForestLink real-time monitoring app to raise alerts on illegal farming, logging, mining, timber transport, land acquisition, bushfires, etc., for follow-up by the Forestry Commission. Tropenbos Ghana and NDF also trained over 50 communities, CBOs, small enterprises and traditional leaders to understand rights and equip them with skills to negotiate social responsibility agreements, through forums such as town hall meetings and exchange visits. Such dialogue led to the settlement of disputes between forest fringe communities, logging companies, the Forestry Commission and District Assembly officials.
Clement Wulnye, Certification Manager of John Bitar Company Ltd., noted that the project impacted positively through public forums, with community members now having a better understanding of the role of the company in social responsibility agreements. Having CSOs as impartial and intermediary third parties between logging companies and communities led to increased transparency, trust and cooperation. By participating in discussions, forest fringe communities also gained an understanding of the invaluable ecosystem services that their forests provide, leading to an increased commitment to managing their forests more sustainably. Partner CSOs plan to continue engaging communities on sustainable forest management and the Cocoa and Forestry Initiative, for example.
Speaking at a meeting in May 2019, Assistant Forest District Manager of Sefwi Wiawso, Mr Appiah, pledged the commitment of the Forestry Commission in upholding good financial management practices to ensure equitable distribution of funds from logging proceeds. This, he emphasised, will encourage community members to adopt good environmental practices to sustain the forest and natural resources. Daniel Kofi Abu, EU NSA Programme Coordinator in Ghana, concurred that such meetings have helped citizens understand how public funds are disbursed, and that community members want to safeguard remaining forests. Participatory resource management depends on ongoing dialogue, to jointly confront new challenges as they arise, and this includes innovative means to sustain community forest monitoring systems.
Adapted from: "Forest fringe communities in Ghana receive their rightful benefits" by Abena Woode, David Young, Mustapha Seidu, Mercy Owusu-Ansah, Doreen Asumah Yeboah, and Daniel Kofi Abu
Project financed by European Union - The opinions and views expressed are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the opinions and views of the European Union.