Charcoal is an important source of energy in Ghana and constitutes a major source of livelihood for people in rural areas endowed with woodlands suitable for charcoal production. Its production is predominant in the northern and transitional zones of Ghana and serves as the primary and secondary energy sources for most Ghanaians. It is readily available and can be purchased in small quantities. With this, the annual consumption of charcoal is estimated to increase rapidly in the coming decade. Taxes and levies on the charcoal trade are important sources of revenue for District Assemblies and traditional authorities (chiefs) in production areas.
Many forest enterprises operating in Ghana are of the small and medium type and most do not function along any formalised system of production. Their ad hoc nature of operation means that there is no inbuilt system within these organisations that offers in-service training and knowledge pertaining to their trade to both employers and employees alike. Hence, most of them are not well informed on issues such as the Forest law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), its action plan: the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) and other legal issues governing the forestry industry.
Supply of illegal timber to the domestic market has become one of the main forest governance issues in Ghana today. Although outlawed in 1998, illegal chainsaw milling (CSM) has become the major supplier (about 84%) of timber to the domestic market. Discussions on chainsaw milling have become an important part of the EU-Ghana Voluntary Partnership Agreement since the country cannot fully meet the legality assurance aspect of the agreement without adequately addressing supply of illegal timber to the domestic market.
In spite of being banned in 1998, chainsaw milling continues to be a major supplier of Ghana’s domestic lumber needs. Chainsaw milling helps to sustain rural economies and livelihoods, and banning it fuels illegal practices and conflict. Chainsaw milling challenges Ghana’s ambitions to develop a legal and sustainable forestry sector. Addressing the issue in an equitable way will reduce conflicts in the forest sector, diminish forest degradation and support rural livelihoods.
The 1994 forestry policy in Ghana gave ‘birth' to the concept of collaboration and decentralisation, with the hope that involvement of all stakeholders and the devolution of power to the lower levels could contribute to sustainable forest management and improvement in forest governance and livelihoods, especially at the community level. True to this, government, through the sector ministry and the forestry commission as well as civil society and the donor community have pursued several programs (establishment of CBOs-CFCS, CBAGs etc, boundary cleaning contract with forest fringe communities, Modified taungya systems etc) all aimed at promoting good forestry governance and livelihood innovations.