Untitled Document

Ghana's FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) definition of Legal Timber contains principles and criteria to demonstrate legality of timber and timber products sourcing. The Legality Assurance System (LAS), Wood Tracking System (WTS), and verification protocols that will reflect the legality standards and provide proof mechanisms for verifying compliance of timber logging are under development.

The VPA explicitly recognizes certain rights and the need for social safeguards for communities affected by illegal Off-Reserve Logging (ORL). Principles 1 and 3 of the Legality Standard directly refer to and uphold community rights and benefits in the management of ORL. Likewise, Ghana's new forest policy supports the devolution of off-reserves forest management rights to communities and individuals and recognizes the need to provide these communities' members with knowledge and capacity to effectively enforce their rights and fully assume their management responsibilities.

Indeed, local communities are not always aware of their rights concerning timber allocation and logging operations in the off- reserve. Lacking adequate information about their rights, information on reasonable compensation values and stumpage fees and guidelines for effective monitoring of logging operations, affected farmers and landowners are denied ORL benefits and their ability to negotiate Social Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) to their advantage is reduced.

To reverse this situation Ghana's Forestry Commission (FC) would need to ensure that Logging Contractors (LCs) strictly comply with all prescribed legal standards related to negotiation, signing and implementation of responsible ORL agreements before any logging takes place. Moreover, timely provision of information to community members regarding the economic value of their damaged crops and other seized land assets is also paramount, together with capacity building for effective monitoring and reporting on rights' infringement, through the complaint mechanism being developed as part of the LAS verification protocols.

The proposed project advocates for a more functional VPA to enforce communities' rights and preserves their benefits in ORL. The Sustainable Forest Management Partnership (SFMP) will provide baseline studies, develop and test protocols/guidelines and make recommendations that will form measurable and concrete proof mechanisms to check compliance with the legality requirements of a functional VPA. This action is very timely as Ghana is currently developing timber legality verification protocols and complaint mechanisms as part of its LAS.

The EU FAO FLEGT Programme promotes the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan by improving forest governance, providing technical assistance, and building capacity through funding projects in eligible countries. In pursuit of these objectives, the EU FAO FLEGT Programme has agreed to support the project entitled "Improving Off-Reserve Logging in support of a functional VPA".