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According to the World Bank, Ghana's population was 28.2 million in 2016, of which 24.2% earn less than $1.25 per day (last assessment in 2012) and 47% are rural. Gross National Income per capita was $1,380 in 2016, a significant fall from $1730 in 2013. According to OECD, GDP growth is estimated to have slowed for the fifth consecutive year, from 3.9% in 2015 to 3.3% in 2016 as a result of the implementation of tight fiscal and monetary policies in the context of an IMF Extended Credit Facility (ECF) programme, and technical issues related to oil production. Growth is projected to recover to 7.1% and 8.0% in 2017 and 2018 respectively assuming timely resolution of these technical issues. The forest sector is the fourth largest contributor to Ghana's GDP, according to the EU FLEGT Facility.

Forest area

Ghana's land area is 23.9 million hectares, of which 9.34 million hectares were forested in 2015. Between 1990 and 2015, the area of primary forest in Ghana was stable at 395,000 hectares, the area of “other naturally regenerated forest” increased from 8.18 million hectares to 8.62 million hectares, and the area of planted forest increased from 50,000 hectares to 325,000 hectares (FAO Forest Resource Assessment - FRA 2015).

Around 8 million hectares of the land located in the south are categorized as a high-forest zone that comprises several forest types: wet evergreen, moist semi-deciduous (southeast & northwest), dry semi- deciduous (inner zone), dry semi-deciduous fire zone, upland evergreen, southern marginal and southern outlier.

The semi-deciduous and evergreen forests have traditionally constituted the main timber-producing areas. The main species in the semi-deciduous forests are: Triplochiton scleroxylon (wawa), Mansonia altissima (mansonia), Nesogordonia papaverifera (danta) and Khaya ivorensis (mahogany) while in the evergreen forests the main species are Guarea cedrata (guarea), Tieghemella heckelii (makore), Tarrietia utilis (niangon) and Uapaca spp. (assam).

While the total area classified as forest increased in Ghana between 1990 and 2015, there was a significant decline in forest condition during this period. Significant portions of the Timber Production Areas were further degraded and officially designated as “Convalescence Areas”, while others were converted to plantations (Conversion Areas) by government and the private sector.

A rising proportion of timber supply in Ghana is expected to derive from plantations in the future. A government review in February-March 2012 identified 3.1 million hectares of potential lands suitable for forest plantation establishment including 135,000 hectares in reserves within the high-forest zone, 283,000 hectares in reserves in the savannah region, and 2.68 million hectares in off-reserve areas.

Forest industry

According to FAO, the formal forestry sector employed 37,000 people in Ghana in 2011, around 0.3% of the work force. 8,000 were employed in roundwood production, 27,000 in wood processing and 1,000 in pulp and paper. The formal sector is responsible for providing livelihood to around 100,000 people, but many more earn some form of income from the forests. In 2011, the sector contributed $1,287 million of gross value added, 3.5% of national GDP, including $1,025 million in roundwood production, $249 million in wood processing, and $13 million in pulp and paper.

Forest regulation and management

In Ghana, forests are owned by communities vested in traditional authorities, held in trust for them by the state, and logged by private contractors, according to ITTO’s latest Status of Tropical Forest Management report dated 2011.

The legal framework for forest regulation in Ghana is complex, comprising of 14 parent acts and regulations, many of them complemented by additional amending texts. This legal framework does not stand alone and should be seen together with international legal obligations, policy texts and procedural manuals.

Within the legal framework, a hierarchy applies between the different norms in which the Constitution is at the top - no regulatory text can contradict the Constitution - with the Acts at a secondary level and the implementing regulations below the Acts. There is duplication and sometimes contradiction within the legal framework leading to proposals at various times for reform and consolidation within a single unifying forest law.

The Ghana Forestry Commission, an agency of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is responsible for the regulation of utilisation of forest and wildlife resources, the conservation and management of those resources and the coordination of related policies.

In 1994, Ghana adopted the Forestry and Wildlife policy, which provides the basis for managing Ghana’s permanent forest estate, among other things.

According to ITTO, under Ghana’s forest management system, there are two types of permits for production forest utilisation: competitive bidding and administrative permits (Timber Utilization Permits (TUPs) and Salvage Felling Permits (SFPs)).

According to PEFC, in 2003 Ghana established a National Working Group to serve as the technical wing for the development of a credible forest certification standard in the country. Four years later, and in collaboration with local and international stakeholders, the working group finalized the national standard for forest management certification. Following this, the working group began the process to develop a Ghanaian National Forest Certification System in line with PEFC requirements with support from the 2015 PEFC Collaboration Fund.The Working Group on Forest Certification became a PEFC National member in June 2016. Aspects of the national certification system needing development for full PEFC endorsement include Group Certification requirements, a Chain of Custody Standard and procedural documents to ultimately support governance and administration of the national system.

In December 2017, there were two valid FSC forest certificates issued in Ghana covering 11,500 hectares of forest and six valid FSC chain of custody certificates.

VPA process

Ghana has been engaged in the EU FLEGT VPA process since 2007, with the start of negotiations. The VPA was agreed in 2008 and signed in November 2009; it entered into force as early as December 2009.

A Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism was established under the Agreement to facilitate the implementation of the VPA, provide recommendations for capacity building, and assess the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the Agreement.

By December 2017, Ghana was closest to finalising VPA implementation among all implementing countries in Africa. A Wood Tracking System (WTS) and the protocols for assessing legal compliance have been developed. Legislative reforms, legal timber promotion and domestic market development and institutional reforms of the Forestry Commission have been other fundamental components of the implementation process. A shipment test of FLEGT-licensed timber was initiated in September 2017. In early November 2017, long-awaited new legislation dealing with the conversion of several timber harvesting concessions to Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUCs), among other things, had passed parliament. This meant that a number of administrative and technical processes that were stalled due to the absence of this law could be implemented. A readiness assessment for licensing is planned to take place in 2018.

Timber production and export

Ghana’s capacity to supply tropical wood products from natural forests to the EU market has been diminishing in recent years. Levels of harvesting have for long exceeded long-term sustainable levels, particularly outside the forest reserves, and availability of good quality hardwood logs from natural forest is now declining.

On the other hand, production from plantations is beginning to increase and, due to Ghana’s relatively accessible location and stable economic and political environment, Ghana has progressed further than most other African countries to develop wood processing facilities. The country supplies mainly sawnwood, including kiln dried, and veneers to the EU market.

Ghana imposed an export ban on all logs except those from plantations in 1994. Export levies on sawn wood are also adjusted by species and the degree of processing to encourage greater use of lesser-known species and processing before export. Rosewood harvesting and export from Ghana was prohibited in July 2014.

According to ITTO, total industrial roundwood production in Ghana in 2015 was 2.61 million m3, up from 2.4 million m3 in 2014. Roundwood production increased consistently in the previous decade, from 1.85 million m3 in 2006. Sawnwood production was 534,000 m3 in 2015, up from 521,000 m3 in 2014 and consistent with the level a decade earlier. About 262,000 m3 of veneer was produced in 2015, compared with 301,000 m3 in 2004. About 180,000 m3 of plywood was produced in 2015, rising from a low of 163,000 m3 in 2010, but well below 213,000 m3 recorded in 2008.  

World-wide timber products exports from Ghana declined significantly in the decade between 2004 and 2013, from 455,180 m3 to 271,760 m3. However, exports picked up to nearly 400,000 m3 in 2016, driven by increasing sales to Asia.

Europe has lost importance as an export market for Ghana, while Asia has become more important. In 2004, the EU was the single most important recipient of Ghanaian timber products, accounting for almost 50% of export volume. However, in 2016, only 11% of Ghana’s timber export volume went to the EU, while the Asia/Far East region accounted for 73%. Of the remainder in 2016, 11% went to other African countries, 3% to the Americas, and 2% to the Middle East.

In 2016, the dominant exported species (in terms of volume) were teak (32%), rosewood (25%), wawa (9%), papao (7%),  and ceiba (7%).  

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