Ghana is close to making history as the first country in Africa to get clearance to export timber to the European market by the end of the year.
This is after the country had met a series of requirements spelt out in the voluntary partnership agreement that was signed with the European Union (EU) over a decade ago.
Currently, processes are being finalised to issue the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licence to Ghana to ensure that the export of timber and wood products to the EU meets the acceptable standards.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission (FC), Mr John Allotey, who disclosed this yesterday, said the country would be the second in the world, after Indonesia, to get that licence from the EU.
"We are seriously working on looking at our governance structure in terms of the forest sector, streamlining of our laws, enhancing the participation of local communities and civil society organisations (CSOs).
"We are at the very final part where there will be a joint assessment of the protocols we have followed so far to ensure that we are following the objectives that have been set out in the voluntary partnership agreement with the EU," he said.
Mr Allotey said this when the EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Diana Acconcia, led a delegation from the continental body and the ministry to pay a courtesy call on the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei Mensah, as part of a joint tour of some forest reserves in the region with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh.
The tour is meant to take stock of the progress Ghana has made in the move towards achieving the feat of exporting wood products to the EU in a sustainable manner.
The Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Forestry, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, and some key officials of the ministry, the EU, as well as the FC, are part of the tour.
Mr Allotey explained that when the country was finally given the green light to begin exporting wood products to the EU, it would mean that all protocols would have to be followed to ensure that timber was exported on a sustainable basis and within the scope of the law, while preserving the integrity of forest resources.
He gave an assurance that Ghana had done diligent work to soon achieve the feat as the first country in Africa and second in the world to meet the requirements of the voluntary partnership agreement with the EU.
For her part, Mrs Acconcia said the tour of forest reserves was a major step that would determine the fate of the country.
She observed that the EU was more concerned about the sustainable management of forest resources, for which reason it would support Ghana to exploit its natural resources for the benefit of the citizens.
"We are here to take stock of the progress that Ghana has made to protect the forest resources when it begins to export timber to the EU. We are here to support the country to protect the forests and other natural resources to help create jobs and ensure that trees that are cut and sent to the EU are of good quality and from sustainable forest sources," she said.
Green Ashanti project
Mr Osei-Mensah called on the FC to support the Ashanti Region with seedlings to boost the Clean and Green Ashanti project, an initiative to plant trees to preserve the environment.
He also appealed to the commission to deploy forest guards to the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to support the project.