General News of Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Source: GNA

Project on forest governance launched

Kumasi, June 14, GNA - Ghana loses 65,000 hectares of its forest vegetation cover yearly and that has made the forest cover to decline from 8.2 million hectares to 1.6 million hectares currently. Mr A. Adjei-Yeboah, Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines who announced this, attributed the current situation to wild bushfires, excessive logging, illegal chain-sawn operations, conversion to agricultural lands, fuel-wood harvesting and surface mining.

He was launching the "Strengthening Voices for Better Choices" project of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in Kumasi on Tuesday. The project, under the IUCN's Global Forest Governance Project, is to actively implement forest governance arrangements that would facilitate and promote sustainable and equitable forest conservation and management in the country.

The four-year project, also seeks to engage the active support of government, civil society and the private sector to promote the tri-partite approach for forest governance reforms in the country. Mr Adjei-Yeboah, said Government had over the years held dialogue with key stakeholders to diagnose causes of the recurrent problems in the forestry sector and had initiated some policy reforms, to promote stakeholder participation in forest management.

He mentioned the establishment of forest governance learning groups, district and regional forest forums, validation of legal timber programme, the development of new monitoring and validation agency, civil society and support facility, as some of the initiatives taken by Government to protect the forest.

Mr Adjei-Yeboah said Government had in addition; signed the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) declaration and had commenced activities to make the action plans in the declaration become reality.

He said the project, which sought to identify the policy, legal, institutional and economic obstacles to improve forest governance, would help build the capacity of key stakeholders to implement forest governance and disseminate information at the national, regional and global levels.

Dr Dominic Cobbinah, Senior Research Scientist at the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), said there was the need to develop just and equitable approaches, which would empower local stakeholders and make a tangible contribution to livelihood improvement at the local levels. He said there was also the need for better understanding of the potential benefits and risks of decision-making process at the local levels.

Mr Wale Adeleke, Ghana Country Project Facilitator of IUCN, said under the project, they would endeavour to work with stakeholder groups whose voices were not strong enough to be heard, in order to protect forest resources.