Accra, Oct. 19, GNA - Five organisations have signed letters of Agreement with the Food and Agriculture organisation's(FAO) Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme, aimed at supporting private sector in the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
The beneficiary organisations of the grant are the Nature and Development Foundation, Kumasi Wood Cluster Association, Ghana Timber Millers Organisation, Timber Development Division and the Resource Management Support Centre.
They are expected to use the funding to undertake projects that support Ghana's VPA implementation.
Ghana and the European Union (EU) signed the VPA in November 2009 to address the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products.
Speaking at the signing, Mr William Hanna, Ambassador of the EU delegation to Ghana, said the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) that came into force in 2013 had placed an obligation on the European private sector to ensure that their timber supplies are coming from legal sources.
He said recent efforts across the EU for greater enforcement of the EUTR was driving demand for FLEGT licenses, which Ghana would soon be in a position to issue to meet all due diligence obligations under the EUTR.
Mr Hanna said in anticipation of the supply of FLEGT licensed timber, there was a growing interest in the EU market in better understanding the systems, procedures and processes that result in the issuance of such a license.
In this connection, there would be a visit to Ghana from representatives of EU trade associations and their membership to develop the understanding by coming to see for themselves how the system would operate.
'The decision to make this visit to Ghana is an acknowledgement of the progress that has been made here towards licensing,' Mr Hanna said.
Dr Abebe Haile Gabriel Gebreyohannes, FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa and Country Representative to Ghana, commended government for the efforts and measures to improve the governance of the forest sector.
He said the actions were bringing Ghana closer to fulfilling its commitment to implement the VPA and also bringing significant benefits to the population.
Mr Gebreyohannes said eight new initiatives had been endorsed for funding in Ghana to support private-sector actions and implementation of the VPA in Ghana but the agreement being signed were for five projects.
Three of these projects focus on helping the private sector to better understand and prepare to comply with the VPA requirements while the two other projects are being signed to support increased opportunities and capacity development for small-holders and artisanal millers to encourage legal production to meet the demands of markets.
'This event today demonstrates how FAO is working closely with the government…to ensure that all of the support we can offer will have the greatest impact on the governance objective they have set for the VPA,' he said.
Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, said some policy issues that had remained intractable and which created stumbling block for the issuance of FLEGT license are almost resolved.
He said the Commission was making sure that identified gaps were adequately addressed, not only for the purpose of issuing out legality licenses to the international market but that these technical and regulatory systems were improved to ensure better forest management and sector governance.
'At the end of the process, we want to be confident in declaring that Ghana's FLEGT licenses are issued from a well thought through and wholly credible legality assurance system,' Mr Dartey added.