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Ghana’s Rosewood Saga

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THE COUNTRY’S ROSEWOOD SAGA.

After the arrest of a Chinese national, Helena Huang, for transporting rosewood, the media have not been silent on the issue.  Barely three weeks after she jumped bail, there have been new developments on the rosewood issue.  The police in Tamale arrested two more trucks carrying containers of the timber species.  The truck was from Tumu in the Upper West Region.  This time again it was from a Chinese national.  A day or so later a truck load of rosewood with lumbering machines was intercepted by the Volta Regional Police Command.  This time five people were arrested, and it is alleged that the wood was illegally harvested from the Kalakpa Resource Reserve in the Volta Region. This came as shocking news against the background that rosewood harvesting has been banned in the country.

Rosewood harvesting and trade in the country started with salvage logging first during the construction of the Bui Hydro Dam and later the construction of the Fufulso-Sawla-Road both in the Northern Region. It is alleged that it was during these constructions that the Asians saw the specie which is highly priced in their countries. Rosewood is used in the production of very expensive furniture for the elite class in Asia.  It is used for making chess pieces, parts of other creative and musical instruments.

In Ghana, until 2010, the wood was only used by women for charcoal.  Its branches and twigs were used in building local houses, and manufacturing components for the local xylophone.

Therefore, the specie was under no threat of being endangered. When the Asians came into contact with the wood during the construction of the Bui Dam and the Fufulso-Sawla Road, the price of the species increased based on their quest for the wood.  According to records, exportation of rosewood started in 2005 with 125 cubic meters. This increased to more than 40 thousand cubic meters by 2013. The species is found in the Ashanti Bono, Ahafo, Upper East, Upper West, Savanah Northern and Volta Regions making it abundant in the country. Following the rate of harvesting and volumes of trade coupled with irregularities in the timber industry. It has been banned since 2012. The rate of deforestation coupled with climate change make recent development on the interception more worrying. This is because it defeats the objective of the UN programme on reducing emissions from deforestation also known as REDD Plus.

It is therefore heart-warming to hear the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, say the Commission is investigating the alleged involvement of some officials of the commission in the seizures of the rosewood. While this is being done, the harvesting of the wood is not at the blind side of community members. They should be educated on the importance of the product and why they should report people in that illegal business to the police. While we commend the police for their vigilance leading to the arrest of truckloads of rosewood, those found culpable should be made to face the full rigours of the law.

Since it is now known that rosewood is highly valued in Asia, it will be appropriate to establish a plantation of the specie and promote local processing to add value to it. This way, jobs will be created for indigenes and that will prevent foreigners from exploiting our resources.

Script is by Joyce Gyekye, environmental journalist.

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