There has been inefficient allocation of forest concessions in the past. The annual allowable cut (AAC) has been exceeded for almost a decade. High commercial timber lobby used to influence the operations of the state. On average, the AAC has been exceeded by more than 46% during the period 1990-1998. There is inefficient marketing of forest products; unrealistic pricing of forest products and administrative procedures had no links to market realities. There are problems with bush-fires especially in the transition forest zones and the highly degraded forest areas. There is no reliable database for proper forest management planning.
Inadequate control of the exploitation of the forest concessions has resulted in about half of forest reserves being categorised as mostly degraded or in worse conditions. This has predisposed such areas to forest fires that is exacerbated by drought. It has been assessed that about 30% of the forest areas are destroyed by fire each year and only about 20% of the forest zone is currently covered by forest that has not burnt regularly. The regeneration of the forest as well as the services that it provides are thereby adversely affected. There is a general increase in forest disturbance from wetter to drier forest zones.
Weak forest policy and implementation
The 1989 Investment Code encouraged over-investment in the milling sub-sector through fiscal incentives. This has contributed to the over-capacity in the industry that in turn has encouraged over-exploitation of the timber resources.
There are no mechanisms for coordinating the activities of the sectors involved in agriculture, mining, infrastructure development and population. There is also lack of unity in the private sector trade associations. Their co-operation with the forest sector agencies in the implementation of sound forest management practices has not been as expected.
The farmers are generally not adequately compensated for the damages caused by timber exploitation. In these circumstances, they would prefer to either destroy the trees or connive with the chainsaw operators to process them on the farm if they are assured of a much more equitable share of the proceeds that will ensue from the operation. The landowners did not consider that forest reservation was a paying concern and hence did not invest resources in forest protection and management. The royalties from the exploitation of the forests were also poorly collected and inequitably distributed. The result has been the mining of the forest resource as the responsible government agency has also not been adequately equipped and motivated to execute its mandate. Government institutions are very recent converts to the community forestry scene.
The timber lobby that has kept the royalty levels particularly low by expedient politicking. Revenues collected from the forest concessions do not cover the full cost of forest management. This has encouraged over-exploitation of the highly desirable species.
Private participation and private/public funding in forestry is low.
There is over-capacity in the wood industry. The raw material prices are not related to the market trends. The recovery rates of log inputs are generally low (20-40%). The wood industry has traditionally concentrated on exports, to the neglect of the local market. The total volume of sawmill lumber available for domestic use is only 152,660 m3 per year while the domestic demand for lumber is about 384,730 m3. This means that the difference of 232,070 m3 has to be supplied from other sources. Supplies to the local market (estimated at a demand of 0.7 million m3 per year) are supplemented by illegal logging and chainsaw operations.
Land & tree tenure
Members of a landholding group have usufruct rights that are equivalent to freehold. Such land for most practical purposes belongs to the member and his interests are secure, inheritable and generally alienable. Tenant farmers do not own the trees found or even planted on their land except for planted economic trees in the Upper West Region. Tenant farmers may however be allowed to harvest trees for their own use, but not for commercial purposes. Individuals cannot harvest economic trees on unallocated communal land even if they have planted them. In traditional land agreements, when the tenant changes the land use, which was agreed upon during the land acquisition, the landowner’s consent must be sought.
It is estimated that 14 million m3 of wood are consumed for energy. The projection of the consumption of fuelwood for the year 2010 is 20 million m3. About 69% of all urban households in Ghana use charcoal. The annual per capita consumption is around 180 kg. The total annual consumption is about 700,000 tones, 30% of which is consumed in the capital, Accra. Charcoal production is concentrated in the transition zones between the forest and the Savannah woodlands.
91% of total roundwood production is used as fuelwood and for charcoal. The remaining (9%) is used as industrial roundwood (mainly timber).
Under the medium term road infrastructure programme, Ghana intends to develop and reconstruct 1,188 km of road between 2000 and 2002 through donor assistance while about 835 km would be constructed with its own funds in the same period. There may be more by the year 2020. Most of road construction works will be directed towards the forest reserves. This, coupled with opening up of the forests to accelerated encroachment and consequent clearance will have adverse effect on the forest resource base. Urban development can also bring inroads into the forest areas. In 1976 it has been estimated that by 1990 a unit increase in the urban population would require an additional land area of about 33 ha for the provision of additional housing, infrastructure and other social services.
Agriculture is the dominant land use. It is based mainly on the shifting cultivation technique or an extensive system of farming. It has been estimated in 1987 that about 70% of deforestation in the country can be attributed to this method of farming. In general, the size of agricultural lands increases every two year by 9%, which indicates the threats of agriculture on forestry development.
Open cast mining poses a threat to the integrity of the forests. There are also several of illegal small-scale mining activities in the closed forest areas. Some of the forest reserves that may be affected are in and near the genetic "hotspots" of the wet evergreen forest zone.
While there has been an increase in GDP of 52% from 1984 to 1993, most people’s per annum income is still below the 1975 level. More than one-third of Ghanaians live below the poverty line. The poor and landless peasant farmers tend to be pushed onto ecologically sensitive areas with low agricultural potential such as semi-arid savannah, erosion-prone hill sides and forests areas.
High population growth and fertility rates coupled with high maternal and child mortality. The March 2000 census gives a provisional population estimate as 18.9 million indicating an annual growth rate of 3.0%. The average population density is 71 persons/km2, its distribution is very uneven. There are high densities in Greater Accra, Central and Eastern regions in the south with low densities in the savannah region except in the Upper East Region.
About 0.4% of the settlements are classified as urban where about 30% of the population live. The five largest cities account for about 50% of the urban population. This places pressure on infrastructure and services in the urban areas.
Internal migrations, especially from the transitional zone of Brong Ahafo region to the forest areas of Western and Ashanti regions for cash crop cultivation also account for the high rate of forest degradation in those areas.
Some of the uncertainties for the future of the sector that were identified include:
The political will to support major forest policies;
The participation of the communities in forest management;
Continued support of the donor communities for forestry projects;
The implementation of effective forest revenue systems so as to be able to cover the cost of forest management;
Skilled labour, adequacy of raw materials and marketing expertise for the promotion of value addition in the sector;
The acceptability of the lesser used species by the export market;
The effect of certification on forest management, and
The effectiveness of the on-going reforms in forestry institutions.
Two scenarios are presented:
Scenario 1 (Muddling through Development): This is appears to be a trend scenario that assumes that the current driving forces will continue in the same manner or even negatively in some cases and that there would be modest or no change in the growth of the economy by the year 2020.
Scenario 2 (Sustainable Ghana): The scenario envisages self-sufficiency in the services and goods that the forest provides while the integrity of the forest is maintained. How this can take place (i.e. how conservation can be achieved side by side with production) is not made explicit, but this vision has been chosen as the best. This is contrary to the accepted use of scenarios in assisting the choice of a strategy instead of the confirmation of one.
Even though inter-sector cooperation has been indicated as one of the most important issues in forestry development, the two scenarios did not treat this aspect adequately.
Recommendations for the future have been made. These appear to be related to the amelioration of the weaknesses that have been identified with respect to the current situation mainly within the forestry sector.