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Rosewood Smuggling Still Going On Despite Ban

By Beyonce Diamond Kpogli
Rosewood Smuggling Still Going On Despite Ban

A research conducted by the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS) in partnership with Kalakpa Youth Club and the Abutia Development Union, all non-governmental organisations, indicated that over 200 illegal of rosewood containers were shipped out of Kalakpa nature reserve in the Volta region between January 2018 and January 2019.

There was also alleged evidence of illegal settler communities, onsite sawmill operations, designated unofficial routes, a charcoal production industry, some forestry officials involved in the illegalities among other activities that threatened flora and fauna of the reserve.

"The average unit price of timber as reported by the Forestry Commission in 2018 stood at €618 so 200 containers, translating into about 5,000m3 of rosewood is almost € 3,090,000 (GHc 18,147,261). If we are to add new market price this year, the value may be higher,” he stated.

In January 2014, the government of Ghana placed a ban on the harvesting and export of rosewood from Ghana to other countries.

The ban had since been renewed by successive governments and recently, in March this year, the current Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah- Kyeremeh, re-affirmed that the ban was still in force.

The director of the Kalakpa Club, Mr. Horlali Haligah speaking at a press conference held in Accra, June 19, highlighted on the destruction of the reserve acquired by the government, 44 years ago, he said, “the direction of trade of Ghana’s rosewood in terms of value mainly pointed to China and India.”

According to him, in spite of the large volumes of rosewood evacuated from the reserve in recent times, there were no records of proceeds coming to the local communities to improve the wellbeing of indigenes in line with the Forestry Commission Act 1999 (Act 571, section 2 a, b).

"We have seen markings that suggest that the illegal loggers have valid timber certificates despite a ban on rosewood which implies that some senior officials may be involved.

Even though the Forestry Commission is supposed to be responsible for the sustainable management of resources in our protected areas, what we see in Kalakpa is a shameful dereliction of this duty. We see no plan to replenish already degraded areas, no plan to remove illegal settlers or farms, no plan to improve the security of the reserve and no plan to promote the reserve to attract tourists,” he lamented.

Mr. Haligah urged the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources as a matter of urgency institute measures to address the Kalakpa situation, calling for more efficient ways of regulating and enforcing the ban on rosewood.

“We challenge the Volta Regional Minister and the Volta Regional Security Council as a matter of urgency carry out in-depth independent investigations into the recent logging scandal and bring the ring leaders to book.

"Community Resource Management Approach (CREMA) needs to be implemented at Kalapka to engage more local communities in the oversight and management of this nature reserve for posterity,” he urged.

Mr. Faisal Elias, Policy and Advocacy Officer of GWS, charged the Forestry Commission and the sector ministry to “ensure the ban is made to hold this time” by improving monitoring and surveillance of “protected areas and the plant and animal species in them.”

Rosewood is found in open forest and wooded savannah mostly in the forest-savannah transitional zone and parts of the northern savannah woodland ecological zone. It is predominant in six of the ten regions in Ghana, namely: Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, and Volta regions.

Rosewood harvesting and trade in Ghana started with salvage logging first during the construction of the Bui hydropower dam, and then more recently during the construction of the Fufulso-Sawla Road, both in Northern Ghana. What started as legal salvage activities for the removal of trees of commercial value within the catchment of the Bui dam and Fufulso-Sawla road construction zones has turned into the biggest illegal harvesting and trade in any timber species ever in the history of Ghana.