In the last 50 years, Ghana has lost 90 per cent of its primary rainforest; the World Bank estimates that 60 per cent of that was through illegal logging. However, in the last decade Ghana has been making strenuous efforts to control and manage its surviving rainforests. Last year Ghana became the first country to enter into a VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) with the EU. Under this agreement all timber exported to the EU must be legally harvested. In return, the EU provides Ghana with funding for the collection of timber taxes and the enforcement of legal compliance in the timber industry. This follows what appears to be a fairly consistent attempt over the years to halt deforestation: in 1994, the government in Ghana banned the export of raw logs, encouraged reforestation in degraded areas and put 15 per cent of land under protection.
It is generally recognised however that illegal logging remains widespread, and it is hoped and expected (even by hard-line environmentalists) that the new EU initiative will slow illicit export of timber. In addition, Ghana was selected by the World Bank to receive funds to conserve its rainforests under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility – a precursor to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Reforestation and Degradation) which is aimed at rewarding countries with carbon credits from the West in return for preserving their forest cover. This will be high on the agenda in Copenhagen at the UN Climate Change Conference.
The stumps in Ghost Forest will come with the help of the logging company John Bitar from a fully licensed concession in Western Ghana. The company has a published policy on both Sustainable Forestry and Social Responsibility. It operates a forest certification programme and a Chain of Custody tracking system. Ghassan Bitar, who runs the company, works in collaboration with WWF, Ghana’s Wildlife Wood Project, the EU and the Zoological Society of London and various conservation and community programmes.
Ghassan was instrumental in designing the agreement for Ghana’s VPA with the EU, and this year he began one of the world’s largest private reforestation programmes, which involves planting 25 million trees on degraded land over the next five years.