Ghana’s plan to implement a wood tracking system to ensure that only legally acquired timber is exported is far advanced.
The system would enable Ghana to issue the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licenses, under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement reached with the European Union (EU).
Ghana and the EU signed the VPA in November 2009, to address the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products.
The VPAs with the EU helps to improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber products.
Speaking at a day’s sensitisa-tion workshop for key government institutions in VPA Implementation, Mr. Chris Beeko, Director of Timber Validation Department of the Forestry Commission, said a test pilot was carried out on the system with selected companies.
He said the next stage would be to operate all the modules, close the gaps identified by external auditors in the legality assurance system and go full swing with the implementation.
“I am confident that, by the end of the year address all system issues will be addressed and move on with implementation,” he said.
FLEGT licenses may only be issued to timber traceable to legal forest operations in line with the Legality Assurance System (LAS) developed through a participatory process involving civil society, public and private sector.
The LAS combines field audits against a legality standard with an innovative wood tracking system capable of identifying the precise forest harvesting area of all timber exported from Ghana.
Mr. Beeko said with the tracking system, it is easy to collect data on trees that have been felled and those entering the mills via the electronic devices.
He said up until this time most of these processes of data capture have been paper based, making extremely tedious to keep proper records.
“The introduction of the electronic devices is going to help us to capture this transactional data in real time. So we capture data on the electronic device and barring any challenge, including internet connectivity, we are able to send the data collected straight to our central servers in Accra,” he said.
Mr. Beeko said a key advantage of the system is that, it helps to get access to data quickly and do reconciliation of the data to check whether or not there are anomalies.
“Pilot operation of the LAS is already demonstrating that, it provides a powerful mechanism to improve the transparency and efficiency of forest operations and regulation in Ghana,” Mr. Beeko said.
“If you have a purely paper based system, it takes time for you to pick up anomalies but with electronic system it is easier to reconcile,” he said.
Mr. Beeko said there are plans to introduce bar codes along the supply chain on moving logs, adding that, the VPA is a very huge undertaking but very good for the country.