TED Case Studies

Ghana Forest Loss

     CASE NUMBER:        193


     CASE NAME:          Ghana Forest Loss



Deforestation has claimed an enormous toll through the ages in

environmental damage, economic deterioration and human misery.

For various reasons such as logging and clearing for cash crops

cultivation, the rainforest in Ghana has been decreasing rapidly

and significantly.  Since 1981, the annual rate of deforestation in

Ghana has been two percent/year or 750 hectares each year. Ghana's

tropical forest area is now just 25 percent of its original size.

The major buyer of Ghanaian timber is the European Union. The

impact of deforestation is widespread, affecting the livelihoods of

local people, disrupting important environmental functions and

severely disturbing the biological integrity of the original forest

ecosystem .  There is a serious concern in the region about

climatic change, soil erosion and large-scale desertification.


Ghana is a West African country slightly smaller than Oregon. Its

total area is 238,540 sq km and its land 230,020 sq km.  Ghana's

land use is as followed: arable land 5%, permanent crop 7%, meadows

and pastures 15%, forest and woodland 37%, and others 36%.  The

population of Ghana is 17,225,185 (July 1994 est.) .  Since the

colonial era, the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes

has been part of the Ghanaian economy. But it is only since the

start of the economic reform program known as Economic Recovery

Program (ERP) in 1981 that deforestation has become a serious

concern for the environmental balance of the region. Today, timber

is Ghana's third most important export commodity after cocoa and

minerals. Timber exports have increased in terms of volume and

revenue since the start of the ERP, rising from $16 millions in

1983 to 100 millions in 1988. The main causes of forest loss in

Ghana are the following:


Timber Trade is the main source of deforestation in the country. By

1983, the Ghanaian economy had reached a state of virtual collapse,

the victim of falling cocoa prices, decreased government revenue,

spiraling inflation and political instability (3 coup d'etats in 2

years). At the same time, $1,5 billion in loan repayments fell due

as debts rescheduled in 1974 matured.  Strapped for cash, one of

fastest way to earn foreign-exchange was to sell timber at an

unprecedented rate on the world market.  In 1994, Ghana earned $

222 million from the export of 983,000 cubic meters of wood, a 29

percent increase on 1993.  "Apart from large multinational

companies, free-lance young men armed with the machine are cutting

swathes through Ghana's timber reserves, selling to local craftsmen

and small scale industries."

Contrary to developed countries which utilize up to 95% of the

harvested wood, only about 15% of each tree cut in Ghana is used

commercially.  A major part of the tree is left to rot after taking

the trunk for export.  Besides the direct timber trade, some

furniture companies such as Scanstyle have opened office in Ghana

to go around government regulations on timber export. Scanstyle

exports finished furniture to the UK, Germany, Italy and Ireland.


Cocoa is the first export commodity of Ghana. " The volume of cocoa

exports rose by over 70 % between 1983 and 1988, the result of

government incentives that included higher producer prices and

increased investment. Cocoa are now responsible for over 70 % of

Ghana's export earnings." In the effort to open more surface for

cocoa cultivation, trees are cut down. According to Francois Ruf,

a researcher for the French CIRAD tropical agriculture Institute,

the supply of cocoa seems very dependent on the clearance of

tropical forests and seems to change within countries and

continents. Cocoa farmers slash and burn forest themselves or

move on to land which has been commercially logged.


The majority of Ghanaian depends on the forest for cooking and fire

wood. The depletion of the rainforest for the purpose of fire wood,

although a concern for many, has been insignificant compared to

commercial logging.

The rate of deforestation has increased by 50% over the last ten

years, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Ghana has started feeling the pain of the environmental imbalance

in the country.  The consequences for the irresponsible

deforestation are of various types.  First, many of Ghanaian

species are almost if not totally extinct. At the present rate of

extraction, known Ghanaian hardwood like Mahogany, Odum and

Afromosia used mainly in the construction and the furnishing

business would disappear within 10 years.  According to the

Director of FAO Edouard Saouma, the deterioration of soil quality

is continuing at an ever faster pace throughout the world and is

now threatening Ghana with a famine similar to those suffered by

Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. According to FAO soil experts, when

deprived of their natural protection, the soils increase in salt

content and are worn away by air and water erosion. 

"Deforestation is changing the habitats of disease-carrying insects

and creating conditions that may help to spread malaria, river

blindness and other devastating illnesses."  The worms that

causes river blindness or onchocercosis, are transmitted mostly by

cytoforms of a blackfly (Simulium damnosum) found in savanna

regions. These cytoforms are beginning to spread into areas of

cleared forest in Ghana.

Deforestation is threatening yet another sector linked to the well-

being of people in Ghana : Pharmacopeia. The majority of Ghanaian

have always opted for herbal treatment over Western medicine. At

the Center for Scientific Research in Plant Medicine, doctors say

they can control diabetes and other illnesses by dosing patients

with herbal extracts. More than 250 indigenous trees and plants

with healing properties have been scientifically catalogued. But as

Dr Ampofo said," Time may be running out." He worries that the

trees will be lost to deforestation before they can be


The position of the Ghanaian government on the issue is delicate.

They badly need the revenue from the timber and cocoa trade but

they also concerned about the repercussion of the mismanagement of

the forest. President Jerry Rawlings said that logging and forest

protection could go hand in hand. "Instead of telling

conservationists in consuming countries to mind their own business

we should be educating them in measures we have taken towards

sustainable management and demonstrate our commitment to a timber

and trade that would rather ensure the survival of our forests" he


To achieve that goal, the government has taken a serie of measures.

A ban on all exports of raw logs has been decreed, beginning in

1994.  From that day, all timber exports have to be processed

into sawn wood or furniture parts.  (Several operators in the

industry doubt whether the ban will be enforced.  They are

important interests in the logging business.)  In addition, Ghana

has set aside 16 percent of its total area to permanent forest and

wildlife reserves. Outside these areas, the government rations

logging licenses. 

Some international pressure groups have protested against this

step.  They claim that the value added to the wood raw material is

in fact value subtracted and wasted.  Measures such as the

discouragement of raw-material exports in favor of further

processing will encourage a reduction in the volume of wood

extracted from the forests while maintaining or even increasing

revenue, advocates of the ban contend.  Again, environmentalists

have pointed out that some wood processing industries of developed

economies are dumping their inefficient sawmilling and

veneermilling equipment in developing economies such as Ghana, a

way to subsidize the timber industry.


     AFRICA Case

     THAILOG Case

     USWOOD Case

     BENDL Case

     INDONES Case

     Keyword Clusters

(1): SIC                        = WOOD

(2): Bio-geography              = [TROP]

(3): Environmental Problem      = DEFOREStation

4.   Draft Authors: Senamede Beheton and Shehu Ibrahim

B.   LEGAL Clusters

5.   Discourse and Status: DISagreement and INPROGress

Ghana is a member of the International Tropical Timber Organization

(ITTO) but has not yet ratify the 1994 International Tropical

Timber Agreement (ITTA).  Nationally, a case has been established

because of the fraudulent nature of the trade as disclosed by an

investigating body.  This situation, according to an update in

Africa Report, "Two West Germans, four Lebanese, and dozens of

Ghanaians have been charged" (Africa Report 5).

6.   FORUM and SCOPE: ITTO and MULTIlateral

ITTO groups 25 producing countries and 26 consumer nations.


Logging companies, cocoa producers as well as the government of

Ghana could be affected by any decision taken by the ITTO.  The

other countries, consumers and producers, will also be affected.


The Ghanaian government has initiated a set of regulations to

control the exploitation of timber. Ghana still has not ratified

the International Timber Tropical Agreement.  Ghanaian laws are

derived from pre-20th century English statutes due to the influence

of colonization.  Due to what Africa Report states about Ghana,

"Only last year, members of the ruling Provisional National Defense

Council (PNDC) considered timber as one of the great success

stories of its Economic Recovery Program" (Africa Report 5), a

serious domestic legal case about corrupt involving Ghanians and

others nationals are in the making.


9.   Geographic Locations

     a. Geographic Domain : AFRICA

     b. Geographic Site   : Western Africa [WAFR]

     c. Geographic Impact : GHANA

10.  Sub-National Factors: NO

11.  Type of Habitat: TROPical

The tropical forests that cover the country are vital for the

environmental balance of the whole region. The Sahara desert is

advancing at an alarming pace and is menacing countries never

before threatened by desertification. The change in seasonal

patterns also constitutes a major risk for west african populations

who depend on agriculture to survive.

D.   TRADE Cluster

12.  Type of Measure : Export Ban [EXBAN]

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect

14.  The Relation of Measure to Impact

     a. Directly Related:          YES FOREST

     b. Indirectly Related:        YES COCOA

     c. Not Related:               NO

     d. Process Related:           YES DEFORestation

The timber legislation will indirectly affect the cocoa trade by

reducing the total area devoted to the cultivation of cocoa. That

raises the question of revenues.  Ghana badly needs foreign-

exchange to conduct reforms and maintain social and political

stability in the country.  If the production of cocoa (first export

commodity) drops as a result of the timber legislation, that will

constitute a double jeopardy for the ghanaian economy.

15.  Trade Product Identification: WOOD

16.  ECONOMIC Data

Timber is the third largest export commodity in Ghana.  In 1994,

Ghana earned $222 million from the export of 983,000 cubic meters

of wood, a 29 percent increase on 1993.   The location of Ghana

along the equator gives it the advantage of high density in

tropical forest.  Recently, the structural adjustment program has

helped Ghana generate a lot of revenue in its efforts to export

timber and associate products "with export revenue jumping from $12

million in 1982 to nearly $100 million (in 1988)."  The devastation

made toward the forest is further underscored by The Ecologist, "

Between 1937/38 and 1980/81, the area of closed forests in Ghana

was reduced by 64 per cent from 47,900 Km to 17,200 km and open

woodland declined by 37 per cent from 111,100 km to 69,800 km (The

Ecologist  50).  This study focuses on the southern part of the

country, however the north is affected on a limited scale.  

The economic gains derived from timber trade both at the individual

and national level is high and has become an incentive to embark on

such trade.  According to Mann, "In 1939, the volume of wood

exported from Ghana was 42,450 cubic meters.  By 1987, it had risen

to 1,471,600 cubic meters per annum, a 34-fold increase" (Mann 52). 

The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) reports that Ghana in 1993

exported timber worth 140 million dollars.  

17.  Impact of Trade Restriction: BAN

     EIU 3rd quarter 1994 report shows that Ghana's timber export

in 1993 totalled $140 million.

18.  Industrial Sector: WOOD

19.  Exporters and Importers:  GHANA and MANY


20.  Environmental Problem Type: DEFORestation

21.  Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

     Names: Afromosia, Odum, Mahogany, Iroko

     Type : Plants

     Diversity: NA

     Wood species that are lost as a result of lumber trade and

wood carvings are many, and their extinction would affect habitat

growth in the area and other pharmaceutical raw materials derived

therefrom.  According to Dei, " Tree species commonly used for such

woodcarving purposes include Baphia nitida (odwen), Canthium

hispidium (ogyapam), Carapa procera (Kwakuobese), Ceiba pendandra

(onjina),  Cola nitida (bese), Funtumia elastica (fruntum), Xylopia

staudtii (duanan)" (Dei pp.17-22).

22.  Impact and Effect on Environment: HIGH and REGULatory

The impact of the deforestation in Ghana is seriously jeopardizing

the future of the country. If extraction continues at the present

rate, the forest will be gone in the next 45 years. Many medicinal

plants are menaced by extinction. The fauna also is impacted,

because animals die in brush fires or migrate to other countries

when their natural habitat is destroyed.Those who can make


23. Urgency and Lifetime: HIGH and 45 years

Much of the Ghana rainforest could be gone in the 45 years.

24. Substitutes: RECYCling

Although it is difficult to substitute wood in many cases, plastic

and recycled products could be used. Also, certain types of tree

with a faster growth can be used for furniture and fire wood.

F.   OTHER Factors

25. Culture: NO

To understand the issue of timber trade in Africa and Ghana

specifically, one has to understand the nature of the local

politics.  Ghana is a multiethnic nation, sometimes, the government

exercised control over the issuance of export license, which goes

to various clients.  In addition, the drive toward export led

growth has contributed to the massive trade in timber. The

government encourages deforestation to some degree for the purpose

of road construction and the result of economic policies, and at

the local level, some of the wood are sources of energy for the

most vulnerable groups in the society-the poor, women, and the

elderly.  External variables sometime sustain the behavior of tree

feeling as confirmed by the 1985 International Tropical Wood

Agreement.  This agreement "whilst recognizing the need to conserve

tropical forest, at the same time called for an expansion of

output" (The Courier IX).

Ghana belongs to the high-context, relational and communal 

culture.  This pattern of culture helps the communities sustain

itself within its environment.  However, Dei underscores the

gradual loss of communal control of the collective and extended

family over land with state property regimes.  This situation has

created some from of distrust from the communities toward the

state, thereby leading to indiscriminate destruction of trees and

timber of various species.

26. Trans-Border: NO

27. Human Rights: NO

28.  Relevant Literature

African Business, GHANA: Environment Action Plan Seeks To Save

Forest Resources, August 1, 1992.

African Economic Digest, GHANA: Bid to Tackle Environmental

Problems, November 16, 1992.

Brown Phyllida, Parasites move in when forests are cleared, New

Scientist, October 10, 1992.

Crawford, Leslie, Furniture future for Ghana's forests, Financial

Times, November 23, 1993.


Dei, George J.S. "Crisis and adaptation in a Ghanaian forest     

community" Anthropological Quarterly v.61 April 1988 p. 63-72.

Dei, George J.S. "Deforestation in a Ghanaian Community"         

Anthropologica. 32 (1): 1990, pp.3-27

Dei, George J. S. "A Forest beyond the trees: Tree cutting in rural

Ghana. Human Ecology  Mar 1992, v20n1, p.57-88.

Europe Environment, FAO: UN Agency sounds the alarm on soil damage,

July 20, 1993.

Fitzgerald, Mary Anne, Doctors rediscover herbal cures, The

independent, January 2,1990.

Gault David, Timber chief wants tropical forest pact ratified,

Reuters World Service, May 11, 1995.

Ghartey, Edward E. "Devaluation as a Balance of Payments Corrective

Measure in Developing Countries: A Study Relating to Ghana" Applied

Economics.  July 1987, v19n7, p. 937-947.

"Ghana's Timber industry" Africa, (London, England). v.n166, June,

1985 p. 76.

"Ghana Hit Hard by Shady Deals of the Timber Trade" Africa Report.

May 1989, v34n3, p.5.

Hammond Ross and Lisa McGowan, The Other Side Of The Story, GAP

Press, Washington DC 1993.

"Increasing aridity in Ghana" The Ecologist v. 20 no2  1990 p.50.

Mann, R.D. "Time Running Out: The Urgent Need for Tree Planting in

Africa" The Ecologist v. 20n2, 1990p.50.

"Searching for a partnership: An interview with H.E. James Leslie

Mayne Amissah, Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana" Japan 21st Apr

1993, v38n4, p.38-39.

"Tropical Wood: The International Agreement  Takes Effect" The   

Courier92 July/August 1985, IX.

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