Accra, July 27, GNA - Forestry experts from 18 English-Speaking African countries began a meeting in Accra on Tuesday to review their progress towards preparing national assessments of their forest resources.
Assessments are being done in every country across the world as part of the global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) to be produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2005. The French-speaking countries met in Dakar, Senegal, last week for a similar exercise.
Mr Anatolio Ndong Mba, FAO Representative in Ghana, who addressed the opening of the four-day regional workshop, said the only way that Africans could know the true extent of their forest loss and gauge the success in conserving and managing the forest was for them to dialogue with each other.
He said the primary use of the information would be for national planning and management.
Mr Mba noted that in the decade of 1990 to 2000 the net change of forest area in Africa was the highest among the world's regions. Three countries, which were the most endowed with forest, reported 45 per cent of the region's deforestation, he said.
He, therefore, called on the 35 participants to use the meeting of Anglophone countries in Accra to make a difference by ensuring that they improved upon the forest resource assessments of their respective countries.
Madam Theresa Tagoe, Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry, said there had been a progressive reduction in the size of Ghana's forest cover in the last 15 years due to annual wildfires, illegal timber harvesting, mining, infrastructure development and farming.
She said the Government had come out with a programme to improve the state of the nation's forest where about 600 hectares of degraded permanent forest within the high forest estates were being rehabilitated through an improved Taungya System.
In addition, the Government has released money generated from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative fund to assist in the rehabilitation.
"The government has also established the Forest Plantation Development Fund to allocate funds to prospective tree growers to ensure that forest resources are made available for economic livelihood and sustenance as a means of reducing poverty as well as greening Ghana," Madam Tagoe said.
Madam Tagoe said annual wildfires had been a major source of forest depletion in Ghana, particularly in the forest-savannah-transition zone. She said the Government had initiated a wildfire management project with financial assistance from the Dutch Government to reverse this annual trend.
To reduce illegal logging and introduce sanity into the timber industry, Madam Tagoe said, new timber resource allocation and utilization rights based on competitive bidding process had been initiated.
"The bid or Timber Utilization Contract (TUC) winners are expected to police their assets and help reduce the menace of illegal felling," she said.
She said a log tracking system where felled tress would be monitored from the site through the mills to the port and markets had been initiated.
"All these measures and others in the pipeline are aimed at reducing forest depletion and to ensure that the key stakeholders play a part in the sustainable management of the resource," Madam Togoe said.
Mr Joseph Ekow Otoo, Acting Chief Executive, Ghana Forestry Commission, said it was prudent to know how much forest was available in order to plan effectively and efficiently to benefit all segments of society.
He said the Forest Resource Assessment was the most effective way to determine the extent to which the forests were being lost or conserved, hence the challenge to the participants to give accurate updates for Africa. 27 July 04