Transboundary challenges and deforestation trends in the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem
In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity and promote sustainable development, the Government of Ghana has signed numerous international and regional agreements. Some of these include the three instruments of the Rio Conference (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD), the Kyoto Protocol (1997), the Paris Agreement (2015), and the Kigali Agreement (2016). To implement such instruments, it has passed, among others, the Forest and Wildlife Policy (2012), which specifically references the problem of “the degradation in the forest resource due to illegal chainsaw and mining (galamsey) operations.”
In line with national REDD+ objectives, the project, Global Transformation of Forests for People and Climate: A focus on West Africa (2019-2024), has developed a legal gap analysis, based on country needs, to contribute to sustainable forest management and address transboundary threats to forest ecosystems in West Africa. It is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The legal report for Ghana identifies the major drivers of deforestation and land degradation, considering forest-related transboundary issues affecting bordering countries. The analysis, based on a legal review and field mission, is structured around three thematic areas: (i) forestry-related legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks; (ii) measures adopted to preserve forest ecosystems and fight deforestation; and (iii) transboundary legal challenges and opportunities. The report was enriched by legal exchanges, focusing on transboundary challenges, with consultants on projects across Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
The report identified the following areas of improvement for the forestry legal framework to (i) promote further inclusiveness of local communities in the management of forests; (ii) boost the institutional setting and reduce sectoral incoherencies; (iii) protect trees/wildlife species while ensuring a sustainable livelihood to local populations; and (iv) clarify land tenure concerns.
As a number of forest resources are transboundary and forest dependent communities may transcend national territories, encouraging community participation is an effective tool. In this regard, the Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA) mechanism represents an effective alternative for the management and conservation of resources. It incentivizes forest dependent communities to ensure the conservation of resources, while their legal status is expected to be boosted through the adoption of the Wildlife Resource Management Bill. Developed to consolidate and revise laws relating to wildlife and protected areas, the bill provides for the implementation of international instruments promoting sustainable wildlife management to which Ghana is a signatory.
To enable farmers to demarcate and register lands and trees on their farms and secure ownership of trees off reserve, land title registration might occur locally, with support from authorities. A decentralized regime could facilitate access to equitable benefit-sharing. In the context of Ghana’s Cocoa-Forest REDD+ Programme, 69 percent of funds are directed to local project sites (known as Hotspot Intervention Areas or HIAs). Once at the HIA level, there are many steps until the Community Resource Management Committees can distribute funds in the form of monetary benefits to traditional authorities and non-monetary benefits to farmers in farmer groups, including community projects. Reinforcing forest governance and local structures would indeed facilitate the equitable share of REDD+ benefits.
As it concerns carbon rights, legislation has yet to be introduced. The only official reference is in the Forest and Wildlife policy (2012), which emphasizes the need to “enact the necessary legislation to guide allocation of carbon rights and related matters.” Ghana’s Cocoa Forest Emissions Reduction Program (GCFRP) refers to sub-arrangements between the Forestry Commission (FC) and land and resource tenure rights holders, and a benefit Sharing Plan (BSP) defines how proceeds from the REDD+ Programme will be distributed. Such engagement led to the signing of framework agreements in HIAs, with collective bodies and local groups (Sub-HIA, CSC Consortium, Governance Board) clarifying the share of responsibilities and benefits, while allocating emissions reductions to the government.
These are but a few of the considerations and recommendations contained in the report, submitted in the context of a May 2022 workshop, and expected to be adopted by the end of 2023. Building linkages with REDD+ is key, especially as it concerns efforts made to clarify carbon rights - a requirement if Ghana is to access different sources of REDD+ finance, including under ART-TREES. As indicated in the UN-REDD Carbon Rights brief, legal options to clarify carbon rights might include updating legislation or agreeing upon how rights associated with ERs, or benefit allocation arrangements, will be established in compliance with the law and REDD+ safeguards. Drafting benefit sharing mechanisms through participatory and inclusive processes that direct benefits to local communities, small owners[CH1] and Indigenous peoples contributes to trust building among the parties in this area.
Ensuring that women’s perspectives are integrated into forest-related, decision-making processes is paramount, enabling a more accurate analysis of the problem of degradation and forest loss. It has been demonstrated that women’s effective participation in community-based forest governance leads to better outcomes. The FC’s draft gender policy aims to pursue such objectives, and give equal access, rights and opportunities to men and women to participate in the sustainable management of forests. Women’s exclusion in decision-making on such resources undermines sustainability efforts. The UN-REDD Programme has developed relevant tools and resources to effectively promote a transformational change in implementing REDD+ actions and is strongly committed to supporting country efforts in reaching gender equality targets, in line with international instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
For more information:
Carbon Rights in the context of jurisdictional REDD+: Tenure links and country-based legal solutions
Gender and REDD+: Promoting transformational change and innovation in REDD+ action: