TED Case Studies
Ghana Forest Loss
CASE NUMBER: 193
CASE MNEMONIC: GHANA
CASE NAME: Ghana Forest Loss
1. THE ISSUE
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:
a. TIMBER TRADE
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.
b. CLEARING FOREST FOR COCOA
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.
c. FIRE WOOD
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
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
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.
3. RELATED CASES
(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.
7. DECISION BREADTH: 1
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.
8. LEGAL STANDING: LAW
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.
C. GEOGRAPHIC Cluster
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
E. ENVIRONMENTAL Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: DEFORestation
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
Names: Afromosia, Odum, Mahogany, Iroko
Type : Plants
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.
CIA FACTBOOK 1994.
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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