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Business News of Thursday, 24 July 2014

Source: Daily Guide

Illegal chainsaw operators make $200m annually

Illegal chainsaw milling across the country accounts for over 84 percent of Ghana’s lumber supply annually with an estimated volume of 497,000 cubic metres and a market value of over $200 million, according to the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII).

Executive Director of GII, an anti-corruption agency, Vitus A. Azeem, disclosed this on Tuesday in Accra at the launch of a regional climate change and corruption control programme dubbed: ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Governance and Finance Integrity for Africa.’

“This is making government to lose huge tax revenues annually,” he noted.

He observed that the chainsaw activities significantly contribute to deforestation in the country which “if not tackled with the seriousness that it deserves could spell doom for the country.”

According to him, Ghana’s total forest cover, which stood at 8.2 million hectares at the turn of the 20th century, has decreased to 1.6 million hectares.

The current rate of deforestation in the country, the Director noted, is calculated at about 65,000 hectares per annum of which one of the major causes is illegal chainsaw milling.”

Board Chair for GII, Moses Aristophanes Kwame Gyasi, stated that Ghana has not made any meaningful strides in bringing an end to illegal chainsaw operations because of the corruption and poor governance issues in the country.

He noted that corruption was becoming rampant in every sector of the economy and the absence of structures and systems in place to check and correct wrongdoings leads to an increase in the chainsaw operations.

The Project

Proposed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the aim of REDD+ is to incentivize the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, as well as the conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

The project received funding from the European Commission and other donors to implement this three-year project in other African countries such as Cameroon and Zambia, with outreach to the Congo Basin, Central Africa Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The primary goals of REDD+ are to strengthen citizens’ engagement to increase the demand for transparency and accountability in the project’s governance and finance policy development and monitoring to empower potential victims and witnesses of corruption and fraud and to strengthen national, regional and global anti-corruption policies and practices.

Kwame Agyei, an official of the Forestry Commission, claimed in a presentation to highlight REDD+’s importance in Ghana that the transparency of the project would be regulated by international mechanism with global checks and balances.

In a presentation about the funding of REDD+, Dr. Rebecca Ashley Asare said, “Specifically, the donors, who funded the project are Japan and the European Commission and other stakeholders such as private businesses, local communities, the media and farmers.”