FOUR COMMUNITIES RECEIVE TRAINING ON FOREST LAWS AND SKILLS TO UNDERTAKE FOREST MONITORING
COMMUNITY FOREST MONITORINGPublished : 3 May, 2019
The Bia North Forest Reserve in Ghana’s North West Region over the past years has seen an increase in illegal activities such as illegal logging, farming, bushfires and mining (Galamsey) resulting in the decline of the forest’s resources. Efforts by government such as the signing of the FLEGT-VPA with the European Union and the establishment of the Rapid Response Team have not been enough to control these illegal activities. Also data from the Global Forest Watch (April, 25 2019 report) shows the rate of deforestation in Ghana shot up by 60% in 2018 compared to 2017. Of great concern is the fact that this loss came at a time when Ghana in November, 2017 together with Cote d’ivoire agreed to a framework for action by committing to ending deforestation in their respective countries through the Cocoa and Forest initiative.
To help combat the increasing rate of deforestation in the country, Friends of the Earth-Ghana with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands organized a three day training program for four communities fringing the Bia North Forest Reserve. The training program brought together twenty representatives from Pampramase, Kramokrom, Yerepemso and Sikafremogya who were selected by the communities and their local chiefs to receive training as community forest monitors. The monitors were taken through some of Ghana’s forest laws on logging operations in off-reserve and on reserve areas. They were also given android phones equipped with a monitoring application called TIMBY (This is My Back Yard). With this monitoring app, monitors are able to gather evidence of illegal activities in the forest through photographs, video or audio and send the collected evidence onto a dashboard for verification and analysis. The verified evidence will then be shared with the appropriate stakeholders including Forest Services Division, Timber Companies and Civil Society Organisation for the necessary action to combat corruption and deforestation in the forest sector.
The community leaders and monitors complained of increased illegal activities in the forest by some individuals and companies that have resulted in the decline of the forest’s resources. They asserted that some of these companies who are not known to them operate in the forest and at times deep in the night and also fail to negotiate Social Responsibility Agreements (SRA) with the communities or to pay negotiated compensation for crops damaged in the course of their logging operations. The community monitors were therefore grateful for such a project and promised to pass the knowledge gained to their respective communities and also share with other fringe communities where illegal activities are on the rise.
Friends of the Earth-Ghana in the coming weeks will introduce the project to cover off reserve areas where there are reported cases of illegal activities that disregards the required operational guidelines such as disregard for farmers’ consent, paying negotiated compensation and agreeing an SRA with affected communities. This is to enable communities to hold to account companies operating on their lands and also reduce illegal activities by individuals.