Environmentalists are demanding that government immediately approves the more than five-year-old Timber Procurement Policy aimed at helping save the country’s forests.
The policy which was drafted by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources requires that government agencies and state contractors use only legally harvested timber and legitimately produced timber products in undertaking government projects.
Illegal logging of timber has been on the rise in Ghana over the last century and government has struggled to curb it.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of all timber products on the Ghanaian market are from illegal sources, a situation that threatens the country’s forest.
“Illegal logging has become too difficult to fight…. It is undermining efforts of the country’s resource managers to preserve our environment,” Margaret Appiah, Projects Manager at environmental NGO Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) said at a workshop in Accra.
100 years ago, Ghana had more than 8.2 million hectares of forests but that has been depleted to about 1.6 million now. Data from the Forestry Commission says about 65,000 hectares of forests are degraded every year. As a result of this, Ghana is feeling the impact of climate change characterized by long periods of drought and heavy rains which is making is making food production a more difficult task.
The Procurement Policy on timber and timber projects was drafted by the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry with the objective of using government’s purchasing power to force illegal loggers out of business.
The draft policy document states that: “State institutions together with their contractors and sub-contractors working on public projects are required to procure only timber and timber products derived from a legally and/or sustainably harvested forest, or from legal sources for use in public projects.”
But the previous administration failed to approve it, a development Glenn Asomaning, Director of Operations at the Nature and Development Foundation says is worrying.
“Guidelines have been developed for the policy. We thought it was going to be approved by the last government. It wasn’t. This government has been in office for some months now but we have not heard anything. We don’t know when it’s going to be approved,” Mr. Asomaning explained in an interview with Joy news.
He is asking this government to prioritise the approval of the policy to help avoid further destruction of the forests.
“We believe this is a very important policy which is going to sanitise the consumption of timber by the government and therefore it needs to be passed quickly… When the policy is passed, we expect there is going to be some administrative directive to direct all government contractors to respect this policy as it is,” he added.
Mr. Asomaning says a strict application of the policy will help save government huge resources which is currently going down the drain.
“When contractors are putting in bids for government projects, they put in the price of legal timber yet most government projects are done with illegal timber. The price difference is about 50 to 100 percent. That means government is spending money and not getting value. And government is contributing to destroying the environment,” he explained.
Officials at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources have however assured the policy has not been abandoned and will soon be approved by cabinet for implementation.