The private sector in the timber industry of Ghana is gearing up to capitalize on the vast opportunities the European Union (EU) market presents with the setting up of a Message House to market its products.
The Message House, a communication strategy being developed by the private sector, civil society and government, is to communicate what Ghana has been able to do to meet the criteria required by the EU for wood and wood products under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) - Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) signed over a decade ago.
A six months project titled “Development of private sector-focused messages for Ghana’s FLEGT license communication strategy”, funded by the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has been carried out by the Kumasi Wood Cluster (KWC) and the Ghana Timber Millers Organization (GTMO).
The project was to make available facts and figures to support messages to be carried by Ghana’s overall FLEGT licensing communication strategy.
When ready, exporters of timber and timber products would have to meet certain criteria for FLEGT licenses to be issued on the products they export to Europe.
With this new communication strategy, licenses issued under the FLEGT-VPA will be worthwhile.
As part of the project activities, a photo catalogue (Ghana Wood Digest) of exported timber products, company facilities, and national infrastructure have been designed.
KWC and GTMO organized a one-day closeout workshop at Kumasi to update stakeholders on messages and the facts that support the messages, which the private sector would advance to promote and communicate the essence of Ghana’s legal timber on the European Market when licensing is ready.
Contributing to the workshop discussions, the Chief Executive of the Domestic Lumber Traders Association (DOLTA), Mr. Kofi Afreh Boakye, said the Message House, an innovative marketing communication tool, “would help the private sector market itself and assure the international community, especially the EU, that Ghana has met the sustainability and legality requirements for wood to be exported.”
He also disclosed that in the past, a miscommunication of these processes and the absence of information on sustainability seemed to have caused doubt among the majority of EU countries over whether Ghana’s timber products could be sustainable.
“The Europeans are more concerned about how sustainable Ghana’s legal wood system is so this is a platform where we can tell the whole world that we are not only interested in legality but also sustainability,” he clarified.
A former Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. Adjei Yeboah, said “it is very important that our messages are strong enough. We are not just talking about an industry. It is not cosmetic. We know by going by it, we are going to benefit members of our fringe communities. It is good that we are doing this and I pray that we would be able to articulate it well to the international community”.
He debunked assertions that Ghana was not doing things right in the past, necessitating the creation of the Message House, revealing that initially, they didn’t place much emphasis on communicating sustainability.
Mr. Gustav Adu, the Executive Director of KWC recommended strongly to the Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG) and the companies to use the communication strategy to promote FLEGT licensed timber products.