The Ghana Electronic Wood Tracking System (GWTS), described as a ‘sub-component’ of the country’s timber legality assurance system, has officially entered full operation. Announcement of the switch on was made by Minister for Lands and Natural Resources Samuel Abdulai Jinapor at an event in Akyawkrom in the Ashanti Region. He said the GWTS, which has been running for a while in development mode, would contribute to Ghana meeting ‘global standards’ in timber legality assurance. In particular, he noted that it would advance the country’s implementation of its FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU.
“We are aware that one of the factors that have affected the country’s performance on the international timber market is lack of technology,” said Mr Jinapor. “Completion of this technological infrastructure positions Ghana to remain relevant on the market and forms part of the basis of our VPA, bringing us closer to concluding this aspect of our dialogue [on providing assurance of trading only in legal timber] with the EU.”
The Forestry Commission of Ghana (FC) which co-developed the GWTS, describes it as ‘an enhanced, web-enabled digitalised platform, which allows users to track wood along the supply chain from point of harvest to point of sale’. FC President John Allotey said it enabled the full disclosure of forest management and timber trade information via online dashboards, facilitating establishment of chain of custody for the domestic market and exports. Using the system, he added, any inconsistency in data entry can be rapidly identified, checked and corrected.
The FC has also established a network of 34 solar-powered district support stations for the system. Mr Jinapor also announced the simultaneous launch of the web-based E-Property Mark Registration and Renewal System. Contractors and loggers must renew their ‘property mark’ twice a year to be able to operate.
“Previously the process took an average of two months,” said Mr Allotey. “With this new application it can be completed in a day in the district of your choice, if you present all the relevant documents.”
Mr Jinapor said the launch of the tracking and e-property mark systems were part of a government agenda to bring digitisation to all aspects of national life. He also stressed government commitment to sustainably manage and develop Ghana’s forests, on which 2 million citizens depended for their livelihoods and which were a significant supplier of timber and other goods to domestic and export markets.
Ghana is in the final stages of completing implementation of the FLEGT VPA with the EU. The main hurdle identified by the latest joint assessment is the ratification of conversion of leases to Timber Utilization Contracts (TUCs). Moreover, several required forest management plans were found to be missing or outdated by the assessment. Ratification of TUCs by the new Parliament constituted in January 2021 was expected to be completed in 2021, but had to be postponed to 2022, according the 2021 IMM report on Ghana. Work on the forest management plans is also ongoing, according the IMM report.