Communities fringing Ghana’s forest reserves and in the off reserve areas have always been at the receiving end of illegal activities in the forest and on their farms. Either farmer’s consent is not sought when entering their farms, or Social Responsibility Agreements (SRA) and negotiated compensations are not paid when their crops are destroyed by felled trees or by roads constructed through their farms. Besides this damage, the microclimates created by the presence of trees on farms that support high yielding cocoa production is also destroyed when they are felled, affecting the livelihoods of the farming communities as cocoa production declines. Some of the reasons for which these illegal activities have been thriving are because the fringe communities lack knowledge of Ghana’s forest laws and they also lack evidence to back reported forest illegalities. Hence the culprits always have their way out.
It is for these reasons that Friends of the Earth-Ghana introduced the concept of capacity building for forest fringe communities to help them understand Ghana’s forest laws and also to give them the skills and tools to collect evidence of forest infractions using low cost mobile technology. Evidence of illegal forest activities can be collected by photograph, audio or video.
Five communities in the Western North Region of Ghana have been receiving support from the “Timby Community Forest Monitoring” project to help in the campaign against deforestation activities and also ensure the sustainable use of the forest resources whiles protecting the rights of forested communities. The project is being implemented by Friends of the Earth-Ghana with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands. The Timby Community Forest Monitoring project has been building the capacities of forest fringe communities to understand and demand their rights relating to forest use and management, and also to improve their representation in stakeholder deliberations in forest governance issues. The project also provided equipment to the trained monitors to enable them to sustain the campaign against illegal forest activities.
Fifteen trained monitors from the five different project communities received items including android phones with the Timby app installed, bicycles, raincoat and wellington boots to help them monitor the forest for illegal forest activities. The communities are Kramokrom, Sikafremogya, Pampramase and Yerepemso all fringing the Bia North Tributaries and Yawmetwa in the Manzan off-reserve area. The monitors will be reporting timber companies that fail to follow operational procedures for logging in off reserve areas such as fulfilling the requirements for Social Responsibility Agreements, Consent and Compensation, which are critical issues in these areas, as well as other illegal forest activities such as illegal logging, mining, farming and bush fires in the forest reserve.
This support has become very necessary due to the increased rate of deforestation in the country and the abuse of the rights of farming communities mainly in the off-reserve areas. It is hoped that these tools and equipment supplied to the monitors will help them bring to the public’s attention the injustices that rural farmers in off-reserve areas and other fringing communities are subject to as a result of the greed of a few. The project will make the work of the forest sector operations more transparent through the inclusiveness of the forest monitors as major stakeholders in sustainable forest management.