Ghana to start electronic tagging of trees (Tuesday, October 7, 2014)

Ghana is to begin the electronic tagging of trees in its forests as part of measures to deal with illegal logging, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, has said.

The system is a satellite mapping process that works by scanning bar codes stamped onto trees, creating an electronic paper trail that helps to track trees whether in the forest or out for export.

“This new system tags the trees and monitors their whereabouts from stump to port," Nii Mills said at the inauguration of the board of the Forestry Commission in Accra.

The 11-member board chaired by Mr Edward A. Prah, who has long-standing experience in the timber industry, has been charged, among other responsibilities, with the strategic direction, the regulation of the utilisation of forest wildlife resources and the co-ordination of policies related to forest and wildlife resources.

In other countries, the purpose of the bar codes is to help firms comply with the stringent laws on exporting sustainable timber into the United States and Europe, but they could also fight deforestation, which contributes significantly to global emissions of carbon dioxide.

Tagging trees by satellite is already being done successfully in Indonesia and has helped stop illegal logging in Cameroun.

Liberia started using the system in 2009 to track and prevent revenue leakage from timber exports.

According to experts, the electronic system is less prone to abuses compared to paper documentation and even helps governments to collect more timber taxes.

According to World Bank estimates, illegal logging costs timber-producing countries $10 billion a year in stolen wood, lost taxes and lower prices for illegally-sourced trees.

The minister observed that deforestation and forest degradation were some of the causes of loss of the country’s biodiversity, extinction of prime timber species, drying up of water bodies and climate change, a trend that, he said, was disturbing and should be a great source of worry for many Ghanaians.

He, therefore, charged the new board to help restore the rapidly declining values and functions of the forest to ensure a continuous flow of benefits to all segments of society.

He, however, urged the board members to apply the principles of integrity, honesty, objectivity and humility and also make the interest of the nation paramount.

Nii Mills said the government would soon make timber importation into Ghana attractive by removing taxes on timber being brought into the country.

The new board chairman asked for an open line of communication between the board and the ministry.

Mr Prah also said it was necessary that the management and the staff of the commission understood their roles as the new board had resolved to co-operate with all stakeholders to ensure that it succeeded in its assignment.

Other members of the board include Mr Moomen Alhassan, Ms Agnes Bertha, Awulae Attibrukusu, and Naa (Dr) Puore Puobe Chiir VII.

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