Reinforced social equity
Along with measures for environmental protections, companies applying for commercial logging permits in Ghana must put forward proposals for addressing the social needs of the communities and people living in areas of operations. The companies must negotiate a social responsibility agreement with these communities and pay them 5% of the value of the stumpage fee of timber that is harvested. Although these agreements were set up in the law in 2004, the VPA process showed that they were not well enforced.
“Most communities did not know their rights and responsibilities in relation to the forest,” says Doreen Asumang-Yeboah. “Only a handful of companies negotiated and complied with their social responsibility agreements.” Doreen Asumang-Yeboah works on community rights and gender at the Rights and Advocacy Initiatives Network, a Ghanaian NGO aiming to contribute to environmental sustainability and human development.
In 2017, the Government adopted the Timber Resources Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, requiring all companies acquiring any commercial logging permits to negotiate social responsibility agreements with adjacent communities.
“Now, no timber company can get away with not meeting their social responsibility agreement obligations to local communities” says Asumang-Yeboah.
In each community, a committee is set up to decide which community projects should be supported by the 5% of stumpage fee.
“Now everyone is involved in the management of the forest. The process is very inclusive and even the most marginalised, like women or the youth, participate” says Asumang-Yeboah. “Before the VPA, women were mostly neglected at the local level. But now, the guidelines are clear, they are to be involved in the discussions.”
And these stumpage fees can bring significant improvements to communities. Chris Beeko of the Forestry Commission explains that “district assemblies use the share of stumpage fee for development purposes, like schools and roads.”