Ghana is piloting an artisanal milling concept to increase domestic lumber supplies, combat illegal logging and promote sustainable forest management.

Tropenbos International Ghana is collaborating with its partners to build partnerships between artisanal milling groups and forest concession holders.

An initial agreement has been signed between millers in Sankore and Akrodie and a sawmill company, Logs and Lumber Limited (LLL) for supply of logs harvested in the Goaso Forest Reserve in the Brong Ahafo Region.

The Asunafo North Municipal Artisanal Millers Association is enthused at the initiative.

“Getting the resource – the wood – to mill is a problem; you either have to steal or not use the appropriate channel… so it is a very good opportunity for us to get the resource, sawn and fill the domestic market “, stated Richard Agyenim Boateng, Secretary to the Association.

About 84 percent of local lumber supply is from chainsaw milling, an illegal activity that contributes to the loss of $18million in stumpage revenue to stakeholders.

But whilst saw millers focus on the export markets, chainsaw operators serve domestic lumber and employs about 130,000 people.

Ghana’s new domestic lumber supply policy is aimed at addressing the unmet local demand for lumber, in line with the country’s commitments under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPN) with the European Union.

Artisanal milling is therefore an important component of a national policy to discourage illegal chains activities.

According to Samuel Kwabena Nketiah, Programmes Director at Tropenbos, the supply of timber resources to artisanal millers is a major step in sanitizing the forestry sector.

He observed a high number of chainsaw operators are willing to transform to artisanal milling.

Six groups have so far been legally registered for artisanal milling with about 640 chainsaw operators in 13 pilot communities reached with an intervention under the European Commission’s programme on tropical forests and other forests in developing countries.

The successful pilot of the LLL-artisanal millers’ agreement will inform the upscale of the initiative, said Mr. Nketiah.

However, high cost of artisanal milling equipment is a major challenge to the artisans.

The Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of the Forestry Commission has donated two portable bandsaw mills to support the initiative.