TTF News
Exploring Timber Legality in Ghana
27th January 2017

Exploring Timber Legality in Ghana

In November 2016, a trade mission of European delegates was given the opportunity to explore and examine the current progress of the VPA and the Wood Tracking System in place in Ghana. The delegation included various EU trade associations, member companies from Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK, and was co-ordinated by Mike Worrell, Head of Sustainability at the UK Timber Trade Federation.

Ghana originally signed its VPA [Voluntary Partnership Agreement] in 2009 and since then has made significant progress in implementing verification procedures and a timber tracking system.

Read about Ghana and the EU FLEGT Facility here.

Read about the Ghana – EU Voluntary Partner Agreement here.

During the week long mission, the delegation gained an overview of the Ghanaian Forestry Sector from forest to mill, visiting a Forest Reserve Concession in the Sefwi Wiawso district. The delegation also met representatives from the Forestry Commission, Civil Society organisations and representatives of Ghanaian Trade Associations and their membership. There were also mill visits to John Bitar Company and Logs and Lumber Ltd. This ensured a full overview of the entire supply chain from forest to finished product.

The week began with an overview of the Legality Assurance processes and the Wood Tracking System. Chris Beeko, Director of the Forestry Commissions Timber Validation Department, gave an overview of the various critical safeguards in place to ensure legality is maintained from the forest and sawmill and then to product export.

The Legality Assurance System [LAS] is the foundation of the VPA agreement. A key part of this is the Wood Tracking System, which has been designed to capture near real-time accounting of timber stock as it flows through the supply chain in order to validate final product export/sale. The stages of this process can be seen below:

The first stage of the wood tracking process is that all compartments within a forest concession area are mapped for species, yield and all trees are marked and their data uploaded on to digital concession maps.

1. All trees in the compartment are accounted for and physically marked.

 

2. Once all trees are marked, they are reconciled and entered into the database via handheld devices.

 

3. Selected trees are felled and then measured.

 

4. Stump and log are marked with the following information [top to bottom]: Region, Company name, Contractor number, Compartment number within concession, Tree number, Species and Reserve.

 

5. Information for the felled tree regarding measurements [volume etc] is entered into the database.

 

6. The log is then removed from the felling site.

 

The capabilities of the Forestry Commissions Wood Tracking System were fully demonstrated. The system has been entirely shifted to an online database. Data including information on standing stock, harvested stumps etc is collected and logged in the field on tablets and computers.

The data from the forest is collated and cross checked against the logs entering the log yard to examine for descrepancies.

The above image shows logs being sectioned up and stacked in the Logs and Lumber Ltd [LLL] yard.

The Ghanaian Forestry Commission have also produced a handy guide to Ghanaian timber species and their uses:

Ghana Forestry Commission – Ghana Wood Products, Timber Products – Species

As part of the process to gain full appreciation of the multi-stakeholder approach, the delegation also met with numerous Ghanaian Civil Socity and NGO representatitives to gain an understanding of their role in the formation and implementation of Ghanas VPA.

The delegates left the week with a far greater depth of knowledge of the on-the-ground processes that make up Ghanas VPA and FLEGT licensing systems and processes. What remains now is to use the impetus of this trade mission to communicate these invaluable findings to the trade in the UK and Europe in order to encourage greater trade with Ghana.