Will the implementation of the EU-FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement affect the forest livelihoods in Ghana?

Illegal logging has received significant attention in the forest policy debates at national, regional and international levels. The concept of illegal logging is a multidimensional concept, including – in addition to law enforcement –various ecological, economic, social, cultural and political issues. In the last decades, the policy debate regarding illegal logging has particularly focused on the forest law enforcement, resource governance, and the societal costs of illegal logging. A number of international and bilateral initiatives have been launched to address illegal logging. Among the major international initiatives are the G8 Action Programme on Forests, the regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes in different continents, and the EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade) Action Plan. Two main pillars of the EU FLEGT are: the legality assurance system and the governance reform in timber producing countries. The linkage between these two pillars is the definition of legality. The definition of legal timber and other measures towards the production of legal timber are negotiated in the bilateral voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs). The VPAs are voluntary bilateral agreements between the EC (representing the EU Member States in trade matters) and individual timber producing countries.

Illegal logging in Ghana is a considerable issue. Over the last century the country lost 78% of its original tropical forest, and according to recent studies 70% of the total harvested timber in Ghana is harvested illegally. To save what is left of its tropical forest cover and counter the unsustainable timber harvest, Ghana is undertaking various policy and legislative reforms towards sustainable forestry. In 2006 Ghana started the VPA negotiation with the European Commission, and in 2008, she became the first country to sign the VPA. With the start of the VPA negotiation in Ghana, various questions about the VPA implications emerged; among others, the implications on the livelihoods of people who live in, and from the forest, was also raised. The main concerns arise from the following situation: currently the forest communities rely on certain forest activities, such as: farming in forest reserves, bush meat hunting, felling trees without permit for domestic purposes. These activities do not necessarily fall into what is officially known as legal forest activities. While in theory and from international perspective this phenomena is known as a lack of forest law enforcement and compliance; yet, from the local perspective it is just a matter of survival. FLEGT VPA aims to enforce the existing forest policy and legislation, and when necessary, to bring about their reform. Thus, the question arises as to whether the current forest livelihood activities will be restricted, as the VPA progresses to enforce the forestry laws and regulation in Ghana.

In a study published in the International Forestry Review Journal, a team of researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the European Forest Institute discuss the concept of livelihoods in the context of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the expected impacts on the livelihood of forest communities in Ghana. The study comprises a literature review and an expert survey and concludes that the concept of livelihoods had a prominent position in the VPA negotiation phase. The VPA livelihood impacts will differ for different social groups – the impoverished groups are expected to be more affected in comparison to the wealthier groups. The study identifies the following issues as the most achievable in shaping the VPA livelihood impacts: improved forest resources and environmental services, reforms of the land and tree tenure system, increased transparency and accountability, and stakeholder consultation and participation in the forest management.

For further information, please contact Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen, email: sabaheta.ramcilovic-suominen@efi.int

Original article:
Ramcilovic-Suominen, S., Gritten, D., Saastamoinen, O. Concept of livelihoods in the FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement and the expected impacts on the livelihood of forest communities in Ghana. International Forestry Review. Vol.12(4):361-369

Artikkelin kirjoitusvuosi: 2011

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