Ghana will by close of this year become the first country in Africa and second in the world to issue the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licenses, under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union.
Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey, who announced this, said the VPA will help improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber products.Indonesia is the only country in the world currently issuing the FLEGT licences.
The FLEGT licences are issued to timber traceable to legal forest operations in line with the Legality Assurance System (LAS) developed through a participatory process involving civil society and public-private sector interest groups.LAS combines audits against legality standard with an innovative wood tracking system capable of identifying the precise forest harvesting area of all timber exported from Ghana.
According to John Allotey, the progress made so far underscores Ghana’s commitment in meeting the provisions of the VPAs as well as the national forest and wildlife policy.“We see the development and implementation of the framework as a means to enhance understanding of the challenges in livelihoods, markets and forest governance resulting from the implementation of the FLEGT VPA,” he stated.
Ghana and the European Union signed the VPA in November 2009 to address the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products.
A delegation from the European Union has joined officials from the Forestry Commission and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on a field trip to some forest reserves in the Ashanti region to inspect the project.
“Pilot operation of the LAS is already demonstrating that it provides a powerful mechanism to improve the transparency and efficiency of forest operations in the country,” Mr. Allotey said.
Head of EU delegation, Diana Acconcia, said the implementation of LAS in Ghana is a demonstration of global leadership not only in the application of wood tracking technology, but in the field of forest governance.
She urged Ghana to take final steps towards full operations of the system and the issuance of the VPA licenses to help the country to fully exploit new market opportunities for legally licensed timber in importing countries