Consequences of the legal timber trade for Ghana’s local population

To ensure that legal timber exploitation does not have negative consequences for community livelihoods, CDI and partners are completing studies, reviewing policies and training local officials to manage forestry industries.

Mapping the consequences

An international agreement on trade in legally produced timber concluded by the European Union and Ghana is intended to combat supplies of illegally logged timber from Ghana. Wageningen UR is studying the consequences of this agreement for the livelihood of local communities.

The European Union intends to tackle the problem of illegally logged timber by concluding voluntary partnership agreements with timber-exporting countries. The agreements are intended to promote legally logged timber and encourage sustainable forestry management. The European Union is currently making preparations to accept solely legally produced Ghanaian timber and wood products in the EU market. These changes have an impact on both the major timber companies and families in Ghana’s rural areas. Although the agreement formally recognises that it may have consequences for the livelihood of local populations the parties to the agreement have devoted little attention to this issue to date.The Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR has been called in to provide an insight into the illegal loggers’ reasons for their activities. CDI reviewed opportunities to improve the administration in the sector and increase the expertise of Ghanaian organisations so as to arrive at a more nuanced logging policy.

Logging in Ghana

Ghana’s forests are disappearing rapidly, primarily due to logging, commercial logging for export and the domestic market. About 80% of this logging is illegal. A large number of people work in the timber trade, of which 135,000 to 200,000 are estimated to be active in the illegal logging segment. Although illegal logging without permits or supervision is robbing this African country of its forests, at the same time it provides an important source of income for thousands of rural families. The Dutch and Ghanaian researchers working on this three-year project are examining the potential effects of the agreement on the local source of income. The objectives of the project include the submission of policy recommendations to the EU, the Dutch government and the Ghanaian stakeholders.

Improved dialogue

The researchers are working on an improved dialogue between those affected by the agreement and policy-makers in eight Ghanaian councils. These councils are located in the High Forest Zone, the area where most illegal timber is logged. These dialogues are, in cooperation with Tropenbos International, being interpreted in terms of policy dialogues at a national level. Wageningen researchers have now trained 15 local intermediaries who are employed by Ghana’s forestry service and chair meetings of stakeholder groups at local and national level. The researchers are also, in cooperation with the timber industry, government, traditional leaders, representatives from local communities, social organisations and donors, reviewing the social guarantees that will need to be reflected in the new illegal logging regulations. A comparable project will be initiated in Indonesia to place the ultimate results from Ghana in a broader context.