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Last updated: July 2013

Forest Management

Timber production in Ghana is a major source of income for the country. With 2.6 million ha of production forests available, 2 million ha of cropland producing timber, and 260,000 ha of forest plantations, Ghana’s forestry sector employs a labor force of more than 100,000 people and contributes approximately 6% to its GDP, making it the fourth largest sector. Total export revenues from timber and wood products (excluding paper goods) amounted to roughly $377 million dollars (US) in 2012. Countries within the EU imported roughly 33% of Ghana’s exported timber volume in 2013, but other African nations are also becoming important export destinations for Ghanaian wood products. Ghana’s total annual timber production is approximately 3.5 million m3 of roundwood. The country has a good reputation for innovation in wood processing and value addition.

Although the Government has set aside 16% of Ghana’s land surface area to conserve representative samples of the country’s ecosystems, increasing pressure from agricultural expansion, mining, timber extraction, and other socio-economic factors continue to severely impact the biological resources of the country. According to FAO, the country had the sixth highest deforestation rate globally between 2005 and 2010. Since the 1990’s, Ghana has lost more than 33.7% of its forests, equivalent to 2,500,000 hectares. Only a quarter of illegal timber harvesting is caused by the formal sector, the majority is related to illegal artisanal “chainsaw” logging. This is partly due to the fact that the formal forestry sector does not produce enough timber for the domestic market, so as a result illegal chainsaw operations make up for the lack of material.

Unfortunately, Ghana’s forest resources are seriously threatened by ongoing illegal chainsaw logging. As a result, Ghana’s forest regeneration cannot match demand. This has been particularly true over the last two decades. Studies estimate that approximately 70% of Ghana’s timber harvest is illegal, and most of it is conducted by chainsaw milling operators. It is estimated that an additional 2.5 million m³ of timber is harvested by chainsaw milling and then included in the official Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) of two million m³, making the total annual chainsaw harvest 4.5 million m³. If left unchecked, illegal logging in Ghana will wipe out all of its forests resources.

To actively address these and other issues, Ghana has taken proactive steps to protect its forests’ futures. The EU and the Dutch Government have also supported Ghana in developing a Forest Management Certification System based on sustainable forest management. The result - Ghana Forest Management Standard - was awarded accreditation by the FSC in February 2014. This means that Ghana has its own credible and internationally recognized accreditation system for assessing sustainably harvested wood and wood products.

In addition, Ghana signed the world’s first FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU on 20 November 2009. This Agreement aims to ensure that all timber imports into the EU from Ghana have been legally acquired, harvested, transported and exported. It was negotiated and is currently being implemented with multi-stakeholder engagement an integral and important part of the VPA process.


According to Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public-sector corruption - on a scale of 0-100 (100 = very clean), Ghana has a corruption index of 46 out of 177, meaning it has a below average level of corruption. It ranked 63rd out of 177 countries assessed. Transparency in the Ghanaian forest sector remains a challenge. Efforts to improve transparency have stalled and access to information is still limited.

The World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) The World Bank compiles a set of Worldwide Governance Indicators for all world economies. These indicators are important barometer in terms of risk assessment. The WGI country reports are based on the six following aggregate governance indicators: Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption. Countries are ranked (percentile rank model) for each of the six governance indicators on a scale from 0 to 100 where 0 corresponds to lowest rank and 100 corresponds to highest rank (better governance). Access the Ghana Governance Indicator Data Report (‘96-‘12).

Global Witness Transparency Report Making the Forest Sector Transparent is a four year project managed by Global Witness that supports civil society groups in forest-rich countries to engage with policy makers and advocate for accountable forest sector governance. The project has designed and piloted a “transparency report card” that gathers data on the level of public access to information, as a means of assessing transparency and any progress made towards the improvement of forest sector policy and practice. The project focused on a few pilot countries, including Ghana. Access the Global Witness Transparency Report: Ghana.

The Ghana Anti-corruption Coalition is a cross-sectoral group comprised of public, private and civil society organizations working to curb corruption, particularly in the extractive Industries. Together they have developed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which may be rolled out to the timber industry. The initiative will allow citizens to access information on how much taxes timber companies pay to the Government.

Right to Information Bill (RTI) was first tabled in the Ghanaian Parliament in February 2010, but has made limited progress since then. However, in the first quarter of 2014, the Ghanaian Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was scheduled to review the RTI bill. If passed, the RTI could improve transparency and access to information in Ghana.

Laws and Regulations

Ghana has a well established range of laws and regulations which govern its forestry sector. Chatham House reports note that Ghana has made considerable efforts to protect its forest resources and curb illegal logging in recent years. These efforts have made Ghana a leader in forest management, but inconsistency, lack of transparency, and large amounts of illegal logging remain. This is mainly due to the chainsaw milling sector despite it being outlawed in 1998. Weak law enforcement, poor domestic production standards, and a large export market have continued to drive illegal chainsaw milling.

At the same time, Ghana is leading the way as the first country to enter into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union. It is hoped that this partnership will help Ghana challenge and reduce illegal logging within its borders. In addition, Ghana is also continuing to ban the export of raw logs and add protections for overharvested tree species. Ghana’s Forest Commission is also encouraging plantation development in degraded forest areas, and placing approximately 15% of Ghanaian land under additional protections.

Forestry Laws

Ghana has had an established history of laws governing the forest sector since 1906. There is currently a range of policy and regulations that impact the sector, and several government bodies that oversee its operation.

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources oversees the country’s management of land, forest, wildlife and mineral resources. Its work includes reviewing, updating, harmonizing, and consolidating existing Ghanaian legislation and policies. The Forestry Commission of Ghana (re-established under the Forestry Commission Act, 1999 Act 571) is the subdivision under this Ministry, and is responsible for the sustainable development and management of Ghana’s forests and wildlife. The Forestry Commission’s Service Charter (2008) further defines its duties and commitments to information transparency and education.

Learn about Ghana’s Forestry Laws & Policies.

Ghanaian Constitution of 1992, Section 269 The Constitution provides for the establishment, composition and functions of today’s Forestry Commission. It also gives the Ghanaian President control over all mineral resources, to be managed on behalf of the local people.

Forestry Commission Act of 1999 (Act 571)

The Forest and Wildlife Policy of 1994

The need for better government guidance and stronger control of forestry activities led to the development of Ghana’s 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy; it has become the overarching national forestry document for Ghana and is aimed at advancing Ghanaian conservation initiatives and furthering sustainable development of natural resources to benefit multiple sectors of Ghanaian society.

Forest and Wildlife Policy of 2011

The 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy was subjected to a review process from 2007 to 2011, and a renewed version was finally approved by the Ghanaian Cabinet in 2011. Core objectives of the revised 2011 policy include:

  • managing and enhancing the ecological integrity of forest, savannah, wetlands and other ecosystems
  • promoting the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded landscapes through plantations development and community forestry
  • promoting the development of viable forest and wildlife based industries and livelihoods, particularly in the value added processing of forest and wildlife resources
  • promoting and developing mechanisms for transparent governance, equity sharing and peoples participation in forest and wildlife resource management
  • promoting training, research and technology development that supports sustainable forest management

Forest & Plantation Development Act of 2000 (Act 583)

This Act established the Forest Plantation Development Fund, which provides for the grant of financial assistance to develop private forest plantations on lands suitable for commercial timber production. Under certain circumstances, these funds may also be used for research and technical advice for those already involved in commercial forestry plantations.

The Forest Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 (Act 624)

This amendment alters the Forest Protection Decree of 1974 to establish higher penalties for forest misconduct, including fraudulent taking, marking, destruction, etc. of timber or trees.

Timber Resource Management Act, 1997 (Act 547)

This law captures Ghana’s forest resource allocation and timber rights laws, and repealed the Concessions Act of 1962 (Act 124). It aims to ensure sustainable management and use of Ghana’s timber resources over time. As a result, it has been amended several times to provide better guidelines for the allocation and management of timber resources. For instance, it established Ghana’s Timber Utilization Contracts (TUCs), which are used for timber harvesting and to enhance benefits for landowners and farmers for harvesting of trees on their land. It also provides for payment of timber related royalties. For lawful felling and harvesting, any person or company must be incorporated under the Ghanaian Companies Code, 1963 (Act 179) or under the Incorporated Private Partnerships Act, 1962 (Act 152).

L.I. 1649 - Timber Resources Management Regulations, 1998

These regulations establish management requirements for the timber sector as required under the 1997 Timber Resources Management Act (see above). It also establishes the terms for Timber Utilization Permits (TUPs), which can be issued to rural community groups or NGOs for social or community purposes and where the timber is not for sale or exchange. Salvage Felling (SP) is another timber allocation mechanism, which is applicable to land undergoing development for things such as road building, community settlement, cultivation or expansion. Most importantly, this law lays out the application requirements, procedure, and review process for parties interested in acquiring a TUC in Ghana.

L.I. 1721 Timber Resources Management (Amendment), 2003

These amendments altered the principal Timber Resources Management Regulations of 1998 by creating a competitive bidding system for the grant of timber harvesting rights. Only pre-qualified applicants are allowed to participate. View the bidding manuals and TUC Resources.

Timber Resources Management Act 617 (Amendment) Act, 2002

Act 617 amends Act 547, the Timber Resources Management Act, with respect to granting of timber rights (i.e. lands with private forest plantations are now excluded), duration, and maximum size of timber harvest area. It also establishes the disqualification of rights for a person’s involvement in illegal logging operations, and creates benefits and incentives for those who invest in any forestry or wildlife enterprise.

Processing/Manufacturing Laws

The Regulations governing log processing are denoted in the 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy, the Forestry Commission Act, 1999 (Act 571), L.I. 1649 - Timber Resources Management Regulations, 1998, the Forest Protection Decree, 1974 (NRCD, 243) and Forest Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 (Act 624). The laws promote value-added timber in the domestic industries and disincentivize the export of round log timber. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union will require Authorities to monitor and license timber from harvest to export to ensure these requirements are met.

The Forest Protection Decree, 1974 (NRCD, 243) and its amendment, the Forest Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 (Act 624) make it an offence to fell or subject forest resources to any manufacturing process without the written consent of the competent forest authority. Part VI of the Timber Resources Management Regulations (L.I. 1649 – 1998) prohibits the use of chainsaw felling and the use of chainsaws in the processing of timber for commercial purposes. These laws are intended to control an industry that was previously legal and operated with very few regulatory controls, and to enhance the overall quality of timber and timber products in Ghana. Despite the policy, illegal chainsaw milling is a key concern in the country. View Ghana’s Forestry Processing and Manufacturing Laws & Policies.

Transport Laws

The Timber Resources Management Regulations (LI 1649 - 1998) outlines the legal transportation requirements for timber. It requires that timber products from a contract area should be carried out between the hours of 6am and 6pm on a working day unless otherwise permitted by the Forestry Commission. Conveyance certificates are required before timber products can be transferred or removed from any forest area. These certificates however cannot be issued for any lumber produced by chainsaw milling. Valid documentation demonstrating that the timber has been legally harvested (i.e. origin corresponding to physical identification) must accompany the transported wood.

Tax Laws

All relevant fees and charges must be paid in accordance with legal requirements in order for timber and timber products to be legal in Ghana. The Forest and Wildlife Policy indicates how fees and taxes should be devised and applied. Key motivations include fees and taxes as incentives to encourage more rational and less wasteful utilization and should be revised according to market forces, and particularly to increase production of value-added wood products for export. It also states that there should be regular review of forest and wildlife fees to reflect the economic value of the resource and to recover optimum revenues for supporting the cost of sustainable resource management and development. Effective March 1, 2014, Ghana is implementing a new stumpage fee. The Forestry Commission has not updated the fee in 11 years, which has amounted to an estimated loss of $1.9 million dollars. Stumpage fees for high-demand trees, such as Asafina, African blackwood, Candollei, Sapele, and Utile, have increased considerably. To assist with transition, the Forestry Commission is staggering the increase for one year. By January 2015, the new stumpage fees will be fully implemented. See "Related Links" for more information.

Trade Laws

The Trees and Timber Decree, 1974 (NRCD 273) and its amendment Trees and Timber (Amendment) Act, 1994, makes failure to comply with payment of export levies for unprocessed timber of a range of species an offence where conviction could result in a fine, imprisonment or both. The export levies depend on the species and whether the material to be exported is unprocessed or processed air dried timber. For example unprocessed Afzelia wood has an export levy of 30% (for a complete listing see amended Trees and Timber Act). In addition, Ghana has had in place a log export ban for high value species since 1979 which was extended to all species in 1994. It has been argued that this was one of the driving factors for the growth in the timber industry. There are no taxes imposed on imported round logs.

Ghana was the first country to finalize a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a bilateral agreement with the European Union that aims to ensure timber imported into the EU from Ghana is produced according to local laws and regulations. The agreement was negotiated in September 2008 and ratified on March 19, 2010. Once the licensing phase has been finalized each timber product shipment from Ghana to the EU has to be accompanied by a FLEGT license, which will confirm that the timber has been produced legally. Ghana’s Government objective is to deliver FLEGT licensed timber to the EU by Spring/Summer 2014. View the Presentation: EU Market Outlook & Ghana FLEGT VPA (2014).

Ghana has also been a party to CITES since 1976. The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission is the Management Authority under CITES for Ghana. The Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission is the other Management Authority competent to grant permits and certificates related to CITES.


CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement among governments whose purpose is to ensure that international trade in wild animal and plant species does not threaten the survival of these species. A total of 180 countries have agreed to the CITES regulations, which is a legally binding agreement. It is up to each CITES Party to draft its own domestic legislation in order to comply with its CITES obligations.

See current list of member countries here

Ghana acceded to CITES in 1976. There are 58 CITES plant species within Ghana. Pericopsis elata, locally known as Kokrodua, Assamela or Afromosia, has been an important commercial species for over 60 years. This has resulted in significant overharvesting and an “endangered” status on the IUCN Red List. Ghana is within the distribution range of Pericopsis elata and historically was a major exporter of the species. Today, only one Kokrodua tree has been found in the Asubima Forest Reserve. Decades of exploitation have resulted in Ghana’s low levels of trade in this species. Ghana bans the export of Pericopsis elata logs as part of a general log export ban and its use is typically for veneer and decorative plywood - decorative, ship and boat work, high quality joinery, indoor/outdoor furniture, and flooring. Small scale plantations have been developed in Ghana. The CITES listing for Pericopsis elata applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets and plywood.

The CITES listing for Diospyros spp. (ebony trees) applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets. The Diospyros applies to around 500 species, distributed throughout the tropics, several of which are listed under CITES. No Diospyros spp. are listed in Ghana, however.

For more information on CITES and Ghana, see the following resources:

Forest Resources

Ghana is a west African nation that is rich in natural resources and tropical biodiversity. Forests cover approximately 22% of the land area (4,940,000 ha) of which 8% (395,000 hectares) are classified as highly biodiverse and carbon dense primary forest. These species-packed forests are located in the southern one-third of the country, while the rest is primarily savannah vegetation.

Forest Products

Production Status

The Ghanaian forestry industry is made up of a number of small, medium, and large processing facilities, which manufacture over 17 different wood products for export. The small processors are often community forestry operations that operate through community forest committees (CFCs). CFCs become a collaborative forest management unit of the Forestry Commission. Although the Ghanaian timber and wood products industry has traditionally been an export market, it is currently operating over-capacity due to a lack of raw material and a neglect of the local market. Since most industry operators in Ghana reserve their products for export, locals have resorted to illegal chainsaw milling to generate resources for the domestic market. As a result, forest resources are being rapidly depleted and nearly 70% of the domestic timber market is believed to be comprised of illegal wood.

Since January 1, 2014 (until further notice), the harvest and export of Rosewood timber from Ghana is now prohibited due to unchecked and indiscriminant harvesting. The main trading partner affected by this ban is China.


Industry Associations

Ghana Association of Teak Exporters

Ghana Timber Association

Ghana Timber Millers Organisation

Furniture & Wood Products’ Association of Ghana

Association of Ghana Industries (AGI)

The AGI is a non-profit voluntary business association with about 500 members of varying sizes. It operates in all parts of Ghana and includes both private and public sector member companies. In addition, the AGI supports and influences legislative actions and other measures supporting industry. It also strives to delivers quality services to member-companies, particularly small and medium scale enterprises.

Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE)

FAGE is a private Ghanaian NGO comprised of exporter and importer associations. Membership is made up of over 2,500 exporting firms in a range of sectors, including timber. Its main objective is to be the main provider of technical and information services to facilitate transactions between Ghanaian firms and their global partners.

Civil Society Organizations

WWF-West Africa Forest Programme Office (WAFPO)

WWF-WAFPO works to protect forest habitat in West Africa. Much of their work is under the Global Forest Trade Network. Its office is located in Ghana.

WWF Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN)

WWF works in Ghana and the surrounding area to promote wildlife conservation, sustainable forest management, timber certification, and capacity building.

Rural Environmental Care Association (RECA)

RECA aims to assist Ghanaians to harness their potential and their environment toward a sustainable improvement in their livelihoods.

Forest Watch Ghana (FW-Ghana)

FW-Ghana is a coalition of approximately 40 NGOs and individuals working in the forestry and environment sector to improve forest governance in Ghana.

Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG-Ghana)

FGLG-Ghana is dedicated to developing policy briefs targeting governance reform in areas such as FLEGT, REDD, local institutional capacity, tenure and rights, and donor initiatives in the forest sector and forest governance reform.

Friends of the Earth-Ghana (FOE-Ghana)

FOE-Ghana is a member group of FOE-international. This subdivision aims to combat illegal forest activity in Ghana in order to protect the environment and bring about socially equitable development.

Government Ministries

Forestry Commission of Ghana (FC)

The FC is responsible for developing and implementing the use regulations Ghana’s forest and wildlife resources. It also oversees the conservation and management of those resources while coordinating the associated policies. Further, the FC serves as the umbrella body for other public entites and agencies that were previously implementing Ghana’s resource use and conservation regulations within the forest and wildlife sectors. The agencies currently within the control of the FC are:

  • Forest Services Division
  • Wildlife Division
  • Wood Industries Training Centre Resource Management Support
  • Resource Management Support Centre
  • Timber Industry Development Division

Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources

This Ministry is entrusted with the management of Ghana’s land, forest, wildlife and mineral resources.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry

This Ministry is responsible for formulating, implementing and monitoring Ghana’s internal and external trade. Its mission is to ensure that Ghana derives maximum benefit from its trade relations and partnerships, and that domestic trade is conducted in a smooth and orderly manner.

Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana (EPA)

The EPA of Ghana is the public body responsible for protecting and improving the natural environment in Ghana.

Forestry Research Institute of Ghana

The Forestry Research Institute of Ghana is one of the 13 institutes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It started as a research body within the Forestry Department in 1962. Since then it has been formally established as a forest products research institute. Its vision is to be the center of excellence and networking for forest and forest products research in the region. The Institute is also dedicated to forest and forest products research for social, economic and environmental benefits of society.