By: Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh
Ghana's Forestry Commission (FC) has revealed that a Review Committee is being set up for upward review of the country's Timber Rights Fee (TRF), popularly known as timber fees meant for the state. Since 2005, the commission has not revised the TRF, necessitating the review.
TRF is rent that timber companies pay for their concessions annually. When the TRF is reviewed upwards, more revenue will be earned from the numerous timber companies operating in Ghana.
Also, timber companies will be billed to pay high timber fees to the state, to undertake development projects and programmes for the benefit of the 24 million people in the country.
The Corporate Manager, Public Relations of the Forestry Commission, Mr. Robert Wilson, disclosed this to the Business Chronicle in Accra, yesterday.
However, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Ghana, hinted that the country lost in excess of millions of Ghanaian cedis to timber companies, due to the non-revision of the TRF.
The Executive Director of CIKOD, Mr. Willie Laate, added that: 'If we had charged the right fees, the timber sector could have created more jobs' for the teeming unemployed youth in the country'.
Furthermore, a report entitled 'Making the Forest Sector Transparent', which is an annual transparency report card 2010, was conducted by CIKOD with funding from the UKaid, from the Department for International Development.
The report covered six districts in the Western and Brong-Ahafo regions, and revealed that 80% of people in the two regions are neither aware of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), nor the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed between Ghana and the European Union (EU) in 2009. This agreement is aimed at ensuring that only legal timber enters the EU market.
However, Mr. Wilson said civil society groups, forest-fringe communities and timber industry players are well informed about the VPA and it objectives.
He added that a workshop was recently held in Bajwase in the Central Region, early this month, to further educate people of the forest-fringe communities and other stakeholders on VPA.
Mr. Wilson stressed that: 'On the broader VPA governance structure, there has been comprehensive VPA Communication Programmes, which has been operational since 2008, to sensitize the public about the eventual signing of the agreement.'
This Programme of Communication Strategy, he indicated, was regularly updated at Multi-stakeholder Implementation Committee level. The update is done with stakeholder inputs from civil society groups, forest-related NGOs, timber industry players, forest regulators and policy makers.
Touching on REDD, Mr. Robert Wilson stated that: 'During the development of Ghana's REDD+ Preparation Proposal (R-PP) document between April and December 2009, series of stakeholder engagement workshops were organised to explain the concept of REDD+ to the stakeholder groups'.
Through a stakeholder mapping exercise, further consultations and workshops were held to democratize and discuss the anticipated output of the REDD+ process, he noted.
The muti-stakeholder National REDD+ Working Group, responsible for coordinating the activities of REDD+ in Ghana is represented by the Ghana Timber Millers Association and Ghana Timber Association, which is complementing the communicating strategy of the FC.
These timber trade associations are a link between the National Working Group and their membership, while further stakeholder engagement and consultation workshops were organised in Western, Brong Ahafo, Volta, Ashanti and Upper East regions recently.