Mr Francis Wilson Owusu, a Research Scientist at the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), on Wednesday stressed the need for industries to collaborate with the institute to research into the utilization of lesser-used timber species to address the needs of the society.
He said FORIG, one of the 13 institutes of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was successful in working on some of the timber species that were unknown or less used and had been adopted and were on the market.
Mr Owusu said this at a seminar to commemorate the celebration of “100 Years of Forestry in Ghana”, as part of the on-going GIFEX 2008 in Accra.
Speaking on the topic: ”100 years Forestry in Ghana; The role of FORIG in the Utilization of Wood Species”, he said out of 730 tree species in the forest, more than 37 were lesser-used species.
“Out of the 730 species, 240 of these grow to timber size, only 95 species are traded in and 15 species are over exploited,” he said.
Mr Owusu therefore called for the promotion the utilization of lesser-used species to increase the resource base and reduce pressure on the prime species some of which had been listed by International Union for Conservation of Nature as endangered.
He said currently, FORIG had studied over 28 lesser-used species, which were being used to produce garden chairs and tables, drawing boards, beds, wardrobes and sunbeds, among others.
Dr Daniel Sekyere, Deputy Director, CSIR-FORIG, said Ghana's potential forest zone covered 8.2 million hectares out of which 1.7 million hectares were under forest reservation and the remaining 6.5 million are for agriculture, settlements, roads and railways.
He said over 70 per cent of the non-reserved forest has been lost over the last 100 years leaving about only 15 per cent of the reserved forest in good condition.
Dr Sekyere attributed the causes of the degradation to bush fires, unsustainable agricultural practices, illegal farming, poor logging practices and overexploitation, illegal chainsaw lumbering, mining and firewood extraction.
He said FORIG had established various interventions such as sustainable management of natural forest, restoration of degraded forest, large scale plantation and efficient utilization of forest products to arrest forest degradation.
Dr Ernest G. Foli, Head of Eco-System and Climatic Change Department and a Senior Research Scientist at FORIG, gave the assurance that the future of timber trade was promising and urged both government and the private sector to make funds readily available for research into forest management.
He said although government's strategies had been slow there was the need to sustain them to achieve results.
At another seminar organized earlier by the Forestry Commission to commemorate the day, Professor Nii Ashie Kotey, the Chief Executive of the Commission, said the timber industry had come a long way and it was therefore imperative that there was such an occasion to reflect and re-examine the path pursued over those years.
Speaking on “100 years of Forestry in Ghana: Networking Partnerships for Sustainable Development”, he said given the current challenges faced by the timber industry the next 100 years would be daunting.
“This calls for innovation and pooling resources together by the industries to meet future challenges and to remain competitive in the global village,” he added.
Prof. Kotey therefore applauded the re-emergence of GIFEX and its complementary seminars as platform to reinvigorate the industry.
Dr E.A. Abeney, Senior Lecturer, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), speaking the topic “Sustainable Forest Management in Ghana: Ghana's Forest Management Certification Standards,” observed that forest standards required sound environmental practices, good forest governance and good forest management practices.
He therefore suggested a multi-stakeholder driven approach to safeguard Ghana's forest management certification standard both locally and abroad.