Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

The Ghanaian government has taken a number of important steps to reduce illegal logging and related trade but a number of enforcement and administrative challenges remain, as well as broader governance challenges including corruption.

Exotic species of hardwood timber harvested from Ghana's rain forests, at a sawmill in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images.Exotic species of hardwood timber harvested from Ghana's rain forests, at a sawmill in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. Photo by Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses the global response to illegal logging and the related trade. 

The Ghanaian government has taken a number of important steps to reduce illegal logging and related trade, most notably with the signing of the Ghana–EU voluntary partnership agreement in 2009. This agreement has prompted improved multi-stakeholder dialogue within the sector as well as a process of legal reform. Considerable effort has also been put into the development of a timber legality assurance system, which has been successfully piloted. However, a number of enforcement and administrative challenges remain, particularly in relation to tenure and land and resource rights, as well as broader governance challenges including corruption.

Awareness of the issue of illegal logging has improved among the private sector, and the area of natural forest that is verified as legally compliant has increased considerably in recent years. However illegal practices remain widespread in the country. Illegal chainsaw milling is prevalent, predominantly supplying the domestic market. Illegality is also an issue in supply chains for export, albeit at a lower level. Trade data discrepancies indicate that illegal trade is a problem, in particular for tropical logs, and there is a lack of clarity over the legality of many logging permits.

A key challenge for the country is its declining resource base. The forest sector has shrunk considerably over the last 15 years as a result of this, and the situation looks set to worsen. Wood-balance estimates indicate that timber consumption considerably exceeds sustainable harvesting levels. 

In order to make further progress in tackling illegal logging, the process of legal reform and efforts to improve enforcement need to continue. Priorities include: a review of fiscal policies for the sector; improvements to land administration; completion of the conversion process of logging rights; and implementation of the legality assurance system across the country. Efforts must also continue to address the challenge of illegal chainsaw milling, which will require a range of approaches from legal reform to developing alternative livelihood strategies.