Forestry Commission refutes BBC documentary on rosewood exportation

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The Forestry Commission has rubbished a BBC documentary, which accused
officials of engaging in rosewood exportation despite ban.

According to the statement, the claims in the documentary were false.

On the claims that the
former Executive Director of Wildlife Division, Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah enagaged in
the act were denied.

‘’Meanwhile, Nana Kofi Adu – Nsiah, the
former Executive Director of Wildlife Division, has vehemently denied any
involvement with illegal operators and has also denied collecting any bribe or
a “percentage of the sale” from any illegal dealer.  Nana Kofi AduNsiah
has thrown a challenge to anyone who has proof of his involvement in any
illegalities to come forward and prove that. Nevertheless, Forestry Commission
will institute investigations into the allegations against all its staff
mentioned in the report.’’

Read the Forestry Commission’s report
below:

The attention of the Forestry Commission
has been drawn to a publication by the BBC, which has gone viral on all media
landscapes. Forestry Commission wishes to clear the air on the issues raised in
the publication.

Introduction

Rosewood is one of the tree species found
in the transition zone and Northern parts of Ghana. It was primarily used for
charcoal production and fuelwood for rural households. The leaves are also an
important source of livestock fodder for traditional pastoral communities.

Rosewood Export Trade in Ghana

Rosewood export started in Ghana in 2004,
with an initial export volume of only 18m3in that year . The export volume and
value have increased since 2009 when the Government granted permit to five (5)
companies to remove all trees, including economic trees in the reservoir, to
make way for the construction of the Bui Dam. China is the dominant importer of
Ghanaian rosewood, representing over 90% of total exports.

Ban on Salvaging Rosewood

Various governments in the past (both New
Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress) have recognised the need
to apply a ban on rosewood as a measure to control the exploitation.

Despite all these efforts, the ban did not
yield the expected results and hence, on 12th March, 2019, the Ministry of
Lands and Natural Resources was compelled once again to impose a ban on the
harvesting, transportation and export of rosewood.

Since the ban came into force, the
Ministry has not issued any new salvage permits to any company or group of
individuals.

Salvage Permit Acquisition and Rosewood
Export Processes

•          
The Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources issues Salvage Permit for
companies to salvage rosewood trees that had already been felled (lying logs)
and the Forest Services Division (FSD) provides guidelines to the permit
holder.

•          
The District Manager of FSD then inspects rosewood gathered and records
volumes. The Manager then issues a Log Measurement and Conveyance Certificate
(LMCC) to cover the salvaged rosewood.

•          
The Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) inspects loaded containers of
rosewood and reconciles volume against volume allocated by the Ministry and
issues the necessary export permits.

•          
Upon sighting all the required permits from FSD and TIDD, the Executive
Director of Wildlife Division issues CITES Permits to cover the consignment for
shipping.

Denial of Connivance With Illegal Dealers

Meanwhile, Nana Kofi Adu – Nsiah, the
former Executive Director of Wildlife Division, has vehemently denied any
involvement with illegal operators and has also denied collecting any bribe or
a “percentage of the sale” from any illegal dealer.  Nana Kofi AduNsiah
has thrown a challenge to anyone who has proof of his involvement in any
illegalities to come forward and prove that. Nevertheless, Forestry Commission
will institute investigations into the allegations against all its staff
mentioned in the report.

Aftermath of the Ban

With the ban in place, confiscated
consignments go through transparent auction processes after which CITES Permits
are issued to cover the logs for export.

Rosewood Exports in the Last Six Years

The said report by BBC indicated that 6
million rosewood trees have been exported to China from 2012 to 2018, while
bans have been in place in Ghana.  However, officially published records
from Forestry Commission(Report on Export of Timber and Wood Products)indicates
that from 2012 to May 2019,a total of 300,368.94 m3of rosewood products has
been exported, with a roundwood equivalent of 385,845.50m3, which translates
into 257,230 trees approximately, and not 6million trees. It should also be
noted that the ban had been lifted from time to time during this period.

It must, however, be noted that before
January 2017, rosewood was not covered under CITES. So all the volumes that
were shipped or traded before then, did not demand CITES Permits before export.
Rosewood was placed in Appendix II under CITES after the 17th Meeting of the
Conference of Parties on CITES(COP 17) in South Africa.

The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)

The report Appears to cast a slur at
Ghana’s efforts at improving forest governance under the Voluntary Partnership
Agreement (VPA). The decision and implementation of the Legality Assurance
System (LAS) under the VPA has been transparently done with the participation
of all stakeholders throughout the process. Governance bottlenecks have
received particular attention on credible multi-stakeholder platforms that have
been used to deliver the elements of the agreement.

The requisite safeguards have been
discussed with stakeholders and will be included in the technical system in
order to ensure that no weaknesses are introduced when rosewood trade is
eventually covered by the tracking system under the VPA.

With a shared governance vision among all
stakeholders, Ghana remains on course to deliver a credible FLEGT License.

Efforts at Addressing Rosewood
Exploitation

•          
Ghana is currently hosting the Africa Union / ECOWAS Commission Regional Policy
Dialogue on Rosewoodwith a view to finding solutions to the rosewood menace in
the sub-region and the African continent( 29th -31st July 2019).

•          
Ghana has worked conscientiously over the last ten years and is on course to
issue timber legality license (FLEGT Licenses) under the Voluntary Partnership
Agreement (FLEGT / VPA) with the European Union (EU) to ensure that only
legally produced timber is exported into the European Union and other
international markets as well as on  the domestic market.

•          
The ban on rosewood is still in force and the Ministry of Lands and Natural
Resources has suspended the issuance of salvage permits including conveyance
permits on rosewood. The issuance and processing of CITES permits for the
export of Rosewood has also been suspended.

•          
A policy on tree tenure and Benefit Sharing for trees outside the forest is
being discussed which will motivate farmers to resist the illegal exploitation
of rosewood and other tree resources on their farms and stop speculative
felling by illegal operators.

•          
There is an inter-sectoral collaboration among some agencies to effectively
implement the ban on rosewood.

•           The Forestry Commission has been establishing model rosewood plantations since 2015.

By: Rashid Obodai Provencal

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