In Ghana, an innovative system has been set up for community-based real-time monitoring of forestry activities and governance. By means of smartphones, about 200 trained monitors collect evidence about compliance with social responsibility agreements (SRAs), logging in forests, compensation and other aspects. The information is shared on the web-based platform ForestLink and then verified and processed by intermediary CSOs. It is then that the Forestry Commission, with whom the platform works well in a strong alliance, has access to the information and may take remediate actions.
The monitoring system exists in approximately one hundred and fifty communities in five regions, mainly in forest reserves in the High Forest Zone and in some parts of the transitional areas where much timber is felled. These places were chosen because they are where most of Ghana’s timber is produced and exploited. They are all natural forests that are important for local livelihoods, local biodiversity and climate regulation.
By the end February 2020, this form of real-time monitoring had yielded more than 450 alerts. Nearly 60 percent of these have been verified. As a result, 32 communities are now receiving SRA benefits, either for the first time or more continuously. Monitoring revealed 75 cases of illegal mining, 81 cases of compensation (for damage to crops), 148 cases of non-fulfilment of SRA obligations, 85 cases of illegal timber harvesting and 125 cases of illegal agriculture. Apart from illegal agriculture and mining, for which it is relatively difficult to find a solution, the issues have been resolved gradually.
Verification of community alerts is done by local CSOs. Tropenbos Ghana supports these organizations with small donations to enable them to do their work; for example, to purchase laptops, mobile phones and bicycles.
Tropenbos Ghana is one of the founders of Civil Society Led Independent Forest Monitoring (CSIFM), which comprises seven civil society organizations and forms the basis of the monitoring. In addition to Tropenbos Ghana, these are Nature & Development Foundation (NDF), Civic Response, EcoCare, Friends of the Earth, Rural Development Youth Association and Rainforest Alliance. Originally the Ghana Real-Time Monitoring (ForestLink) was set up by Rainforest Foundation UK with Civic Response and Friends of the Earth. Tropenbos Ghana, with NDF, successfully enlarged this CSIFM group and strengthened its relationship with the Forestry Commission.
The role of the platform is to harmonize efforts on forest monitoring, spearhead discussions on independent monitoring of Ghana’s forest, and take the lead in forest sector reforms, advocacy and capacity building. To this end, discussions are ongoing with the Forestry Commission of Ghana to build a strong alliance for safe and sustainable forest management. Meanwhile, a concept has been submitted to the Forestry Commission on the usefulness of civil society-led independent forest monitoring for the country. The Forestry Commission accepted the plan and has since collaborated with the CSIFM platform in capacity building for the Forest Service Division’s District and Regional Managers and in joint control verification missions.
Published in the Annual Report 2019