Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy of GHANA

"The best friend of earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth." - Frank Lloyd Wright

After over 40 years of implementing the 1948 Forest policy which had led to a trend towards what some early forest researchers had called the “timberisation” of forestry, there was the need for a new direction in managing Ghana's forest resources. How did it happen? Let's continue with our journey............

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ghana’s forests were under excessive exploitation, illegal harvesting led by chain saw operators was flourishing excessively and prescribed harvesting procedures were being flouted with impunity. Worst of all, forestry institutions had become demoralized and inefficient because of continued underfunding. Concerns and agitations from major stakeholders and growing global interests in forest loss culminated in the revision of the old forest policy and eventually, the new Forest and Wildlife policy in 1994 (MLF, 1994).

The overall aim of the Forest and Wildlife Policy, 1994, is conservation and sustainable development of the nation's forest and wildlife for maintenance of environmental quality and perpetual flow of benefits to all parts of society. The two fold aim of environmental quality and sustainable benefits had the following specific objectives:

i) Management and improvement of Ghana's permanent forest estate for preservation of soil and water, conservation of biological diversity, environmental stability and sustainable production of domestic and commercial products;

ii) Promotion of efficient forest-based industries, in secondary and tertiary processing, to use timber and other products from forests and wildlife and satisfy domestic and international demand with competitively priced products;

iii) Promotion of public awareness and involvement of rural people in forest and wildlife conservation to maintain life-sustaining systems, preserve scenic areas and enhance potential for recreation, tourism and income generating opportunities.

iv) Promotion of research-based and technology-led forestry and wildlife management to ensure forest sustainability, socio-economic growth and environmental stability;

v) Development of effective capacity and competence at district, regional and national levels for sustainable management of forest and wildlife.

This is 2011 so Ghana has been guided by the 1994 policy for about 17 years. There are issues to think about and the major ones are:

1. How has this policy contributed in the conservation and sustainable development of the nation's forest and wildlife for maintenance of environmental quality and perpetual flow of benefits to all parts of society?
2. Is it time for reviewing the policy or we need to wait for about 40 years.
3. Is the current Forest and Wildlife Policy still relevant in the climate change era?

"Clear cutting of our forests should be illegal, selective harvesting should be employed." - Catherine Pulisfer


  1. Dr. Gyampoh,

    Your article stimulates deep thinking and thanks for the exposure about Ghana's forests policies.

    The nation faces significant energy and climate challenges from forest activities.

    Some Proposals:

    1. Various stakeholders should be convened for an open and constructive dialogue about sustainability issues related to forests policies/development. Through this dialogue:
    a. The perceived failures or gaps in the existing policies guiding forests development can be identified.

    2. Forests certification is one possible option since the concept of certification has an adaptive management regulations built on it.

    3. Local, regional and national level planning might be applied for addressing specific complexities/issues at different scales.

    4. Long term research efforts are necessary to help determine the consequencies of climate change for forest management; more research is needed.

    "The groves were God's first temples"....William Cullen Bryant, A Forest Hymn

    Rita Somuah

  2. Hello Rita,
    That's great input. Keep it coming. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Dr. Gyampoh,

    The word "forest" itself is a complicated one. Is forest only primary forest, secondary forest as well, or can it be forested lands that are also farmed or logged? Fairhead and Leach discuss the need to first figure out what exactly people talk about when they used words like "fores" or "nature." The possible impacts on policy associated with what is or isn't considered forest are profound. But that is a theoretical point, and theoretical points are always hard to grapple with.

    I farm on land that shares a boundary with the Forest Reserve. Unfortunately, I always here chainsaws ripping into the ceiba trees and trucks loaded with old growth forest rumbling away to the Jasikan saw mill. What happens when I take this issue to the Forestry Commission or the MP? Nothing. The almighty dollar and corruption have crippled most efforts to preserve forests - not just in Ghana, either. What good are laws and policies if they are not enforced? It is going to take behavioral changes to address a lot these concerns. Perhaps what needs to happen is a broader public advocacy campaign to remind people about the benefits of forests. That would be my biggest suggestion towards a revamping of Forest and Wildlife Policy.

    I like all of Rita's suggestions. In addition to my advocacy suggestion, I would emphasize the role of research and the need for local contexts. With so much cultural and ethnic diversity in Ghana, there are bound to be thousands of ways of seeing the forests!


  4. Dear Douglas,
    You have raised very critical issues. What is a forest and what isn't a forest is really important in such debates. One's definition of what a forest is affects how the person treats "forests". Ghana has a definition of forests that I understand is being reviewed again. Below, I reproduce a letter I cited on Ghana's national definition of what constitues a forest. Please read:

    Our Ref. GO 65/229/01 6 November 2007

    The Executive Secretary
    UNFCCC Secretariat,
    P. O. Box 260 124,
    53153 Bonn
    Fax + 49228815 1999 /

    Dear Sir,


    Recognizing the potential contribution of afforestation/reforestation Clean Development
    Mechanism project activities to Ghana's sustainable development, the Government of Ghana;under the auspices of the Forestry Commission of the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines; called for a stakeholders' meeting to re-assess and re-define the national definition of forest which had been submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

    The meeting sought to assess the applicability of the submitted national forest definition in the light of the varied agro-ecological zones in the country and potential the submitted definition has to reduce CDM eligible land areas, as well as, and the potential for communities to benefit from and the private sector entities and government to be engaged in CDM A/R projects across the country.

    At this stakeholders' meeting a new national definition of forest was agreed upon, which as the UNFCCC Focal Point and Designated National Authority for CDM, I am pleased to submit to the
    UNFCCC Secretariat to replace the forest definition previously communicated to the Secretariat.

    The current Ghana definition of forest is:

    "A piece of land with a minimum area of 0.1 hectares, with a minimum tree crown cover of 15% or with existing tree species having the potential of attaining more than 15% crown cover, with trees which have the potential or have reached a minimum height of 2.0 meters at maturity in situ".

    I will appreciate if all records of the Secretariat could be amended to reflect the current national definition for forest as stated above.

    Please accept the assurance of my highest consideration.

    William Kojo Agyemang-Bonsu
    UNFCCC Focal Point/COM-DNA

  5. Dr. Gyampoh, Rita, and Douglas,

    Here in America similar practices occur: there is illegal timbering, timber companies don't abide by the rules, and when they do the rules are weak in most regards and still allow for ecologically damaging activities. There are clearcuts over 600 acres in size on mountainous slopes more than 45 degrees, with only 10 feet given on either side of a creek. The money generated leaves the community, and hardly anyone is employed by the timber industry anymore, mainly huge machines and a huge unemployment rate in these regions.

    I think education is the key - here in the USA the TV and radio and culture says that if you just let the forest grow you're "neglecting" it, that you have to "help" the forest by cutting it down, and planting monocrops.

    I've been inspired by the work of conservation biologists over in Papau New Guinea (PNG), international biologists training native PNG students in conservation biology, field work, and research, helping them get M.S. and PhD training in universities so that they can lead the conservation movement in their regions of PNG in a way that is tailored to local culture, history, environment, and traditional uses and economic needs. Are there folks doing similar work in Ghana?

    all my best,

  6. Dear Nastassja,
    The Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research (PNGIBR) is really doing a good job. Have visited their site and really impressed with their work. In Ghana, there are quite a lot of disjointed approaches towards conservation of forest and wildlife resources. But most of the responsibility is on the Forestry Commission and other state-funded research centres and educational institutions. Something like the PNGIBR, if it's happening, then I am not aware. Ghana really needs such a not-for-profit association of great and committed scientists formed to ensure a biologically sustainable future. Conducting meaningful research, training biologists & conservationists, building the knowledge base and capacity of policy makers and the general public, and integrating traditional knowledge & customs with modern concepts of conservation is certainly a sure to go.

  7. It's remarkable in favor of me to have a web page, which is good designed for my experience. thanks admin
    Also visit my weblog ; Vertical Training


Feel free to comment on anything you read here. Your comments are very important.