The acting Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission (FC), Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, has called for the withdrawal of direct state participation in forest plantation activities if the country is to benefit from the sector.
Government is said to have spent over GH¢70 million within the past decade in direct state involvement in reforestation but has very little to show for it by way of success.
Forcefully advancing arguments for the withdrawal, Mr Dartey said Ghana’s forest plantation development should be implemented as a business and not a civil service activity.
He noted that the role of governments in the nations that had succeeded in their plantation programmes was to create the enabling environment necessary for individuals, communities and large corporations to invest in the sector.
Speaking at a colloquium on plantation development at Akyawkrom near Kumasi, Mr Dartey explained that the long involvement of the FC in plantation development had not yielded fruits because it had not got the capacity to meet set targets.
About 100 industry players from the private and the public sectors attended the colloquium, which was jointly organised by the Resource Management Support Centre (RMSC) of the FC and the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG).
The RMSC is the centre established to set standards for forest and wildlife management and monitor implementation within the FC and its stakeholder organisations.
Mr Dartey suggested the transfer of industrial capacity and forest land to the private sector and further called for the introduction of subsidies and tax reforms to private companies engaged in the programme.
Stressing the physical and economic importance of forests, he said if well managed and controlled, the resource, which he described as “green gold”, could be a major source of revenue for the nation over a long period.
Around the world, the commercial values of trees have informed the decision of many nations to develop those resources to contribute significantly to their economies.
UN figures for 2006 said Ghana, with a land size of 238,335 km2, harvests an average of 1,200,000 m3 of trees a year, earning a revenue of US$214,323,000.
Mr. Dartey called for legislation that would compel companies in the Free Zones enclave to put more funds into plantation development.
The Director of the RMSC, Mr Edward Obi, said the first colloquium, which centred on the impact of the global economic downturn on Ghana’s timber trade, brought about a lot of discussions which had benefits for the nation.
“For example, we relaxed our compartment re-entry regulation to enable companies which were producing plywood and lumber for the ECOWAS markets to re-enter compartments which had closed but had yield exploitation not above 40 per cent to extract certain species just to make some marginal profits,” he said.