Government in March announced it has re-ignited the war on illegal logging of the expensive rosewood species. This followed the airing of a Joy news Hotline documentary, Killing Our Roses that put a spotlight on the illegal business. The documentary highlighted how despite a 2014 ban on the harvesting and export of rosewood, the illegal trade had continued without consequences. The documentary also highlighted how rural communities and specifically farmers’ livelihoods were being destroyed as a result of the illegal trade.
Days after the documentary aired, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh on Tuesday 12th March 2019 addressed a media briefing announced an expanded scope of the ban. He announced the revocation of existing salvage permits and directed forestry commission to work with the security agencies to deal with anyone who continues harvesting rosewood. “The Ministry not only continues to enforce the ban on the harvesting of rosewood but has also suspended the issuance of salvage permits, including conveyance permits on rosewood. Our rapid response teams are on the ground to clamp down on illegal harvesting of rosewood,” he explained.
“I wish to state that harvesting of rosewood is illegal in any part of the country. Similarly, transportation and export of rosewood is suspended with immediate effect. Note that salvage permits were issued only for the evacuation of lying logs. Any fresh harvesting of rosewood is illegal and must be reported for the immediate arrest of the culprits,” he said.
“The Forestry Commission is hereby directed to suspend the issuance and processing of CITES permit for the export of rosewood. The rosewood menace has become a national security threat and I appeal to the (security agencies and public) to support the ministry in our efforts to manage the exploitation of natural resources in this country,” the minister told the media.
Since then, a lot has happened. A Chinese national Helen Huang was arrested in the Northern region for transporting four containers of rosewood. She alleged the police had demanded ¢200 bribe from here and she was arrested after she refused to pay. But Helen has since jumped bail and reportedly left the country.
The Kalakpa Youth Club in a recent media statement claimed there has been continuous harvesting of rosewood in the Kalakpa Forest Reserve at Abutia in the Volta Region. “Even though the Forestry Commission is supposed to be responsible for the sustainable management of resources in our protected areas, what we see in Kalakpa is a shameful dereliction of this duty,” Director of the Kalakpa Club, Horlali Haligah said.
The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in the last week of May 2019 intercepted five 20-footer containers loaded with rosewood at Afienya. It was being transported from Dambai to the Tema Port for export. Residents of Damongo also recently raised red flags over the continuous operation of a rosewood processing firm, BrivyWelss in the area, despite the government ban. In response, the Savanna regional minister Salifu Adam Braimah ordered the closure of the firm on 10th May.
Member of Parliament for Builsa South Dr Clement Apaak who has been on a campaign demanding an end to the illegal rosewood trade recently lamented in a statement that the ban has not been effective enough.
“After several years of advocacy, it's sad to say that the fight to save the Rosewood tree is not close to being won…Clearly, the ban is ineffective and now state agencies, rather than putting in the efforts to prevent the illegal logging of Rosewood are fighting over who takes custody of impounded rosewood,” Dr Apaak claimed.
“But, all these embarrassing occurrences could have been prevented if the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources had put out the exact details of the ban; which state institutions, agencies and or personnel are in charge of enforcement,” he said.
“If Government had issued a communique outlining how the renewed ban is being enforced, the citizens of Ghana and community members in the source areas could have been clear on their roles and would be in a position to help in the fight against illegal logging, haulage and export of Rosewood,” Dr Apaak added.
“Is it not shocking that a rosewood pillager, a Chinese national, Helen Wang, is at large after being arrested? Where are the containers confiscated from her? How many containers have been impounded since the renewed ban, what has happened to the containers and what actions have been taken against the owners of the vehicles, the owners of the stolen wood and the associated companies?” he quizzed.
But Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources Benito Owusu Bio says the recent arrests is evidence the ban is being enforced. He wants the public to support its efforts to bring perpetrators to book. “We need public support. The chiefs and everybody,” he told Joy News in an interview.