In 2007 Ghana's Forestry Commission and Form Ghana drew up and signed the country's first forestry public-private partnership (PPP), laying the foundation for other PPPs to enter the sector. Form Ghana's mission is to work closely with traditional leaders, district assemblies and fringe community chiefs, queen mothers and elders to sustainably rehabilitate, reforest and manage its leased forest reserves.
Paul Ontoaneyin manages Form Ghana's Environment and Social (E&S) Department, assisted by E&S Officers Bismark Manu Adjei and Evelyn Affreh. Ontoaneyin describes the relationship between the company and the villagers living on the boundaries as "mutually beneficial".
Open and sincere
Ontoaneyin says, "Our activities impact the fringe communities, and we don’t make decisions without consulting them first. Over the years we have established an open and sincere relationship".
It is illegal for farming and logging to happen on Ghana's forest reserves. "However, Form Ghana's negotiations with the Forestry Commission lets the company sign agroforestry agreements with farmers from its fringe communities," explains Ontoaneyin.
"We regularly meet with community leaders and farmers to discuss their needs and identify and solve problems that fall within the scope of Form Ghana's agreement with the Forestry Commission.
"By involving the Forestry Commission and traditional and community leaders in decision-making, we promote inclusive and participatory approaches to sustainable development.
"If a problem raised by a community is beyond the company's control, we liaise with the Forestry Commission, relevant government departments and organisations and facilitate a solution. I believe maintaining open communication promotes transparency, trust, and a sense of ownership and shared responsibility".
Form Ghana's head office is in Sunyani, 370km northwest of Accra. It leases 19,467ha of degraded land in Berekum and Akumadan. Berekum is in the Bono Region, 37km from Sunyani, and Akumadan is 74km by road in the Ashanti region. It has established a 9007ha teak plantation at Berekum and 3447ha at Akumadan. The company has restored over 2000ha of the indigenous forest through enrichment planting and reforestation.
Teak and Gmelina
The company specialises in teak (Tectona grandis) from provenances sourced in Brazil, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica and elsewhere. However, it recently planted an experimental plot of Gmelina (Gmelina arborea). Both are deciduous hardwoods belonging to the Verbenaceae family.
Matthew Essuman, the commercial manager, says Form Ghana's growth and yield modelling indicate that Gmelina grows faster than teak under ideal conditions, which means it can be harvested and re-planted sooner. "We are working with our silviculture researchers and stakeholders to determine the best provenances and sites that will deliver products meeting their specifications", he says.
Form Ghana's nursery is located at Akumadan. It can produce 3,5m teak and 400,000 indigenous seedlings and cuttings of more than 11 species annually.
Afia Yeboah is the plantation manager at Berekum. She, Ontoaneyin, Mariam Awuni, the human resources manager and Essuman are part of the team coordinating Berekum's silviculture and harvesting regimes.
Yeboah says before planting, women from the fringe communities collect fuel wood. After that, the site is burned on a day when the fire-danger index is low and monitored to determine when the soil is ready for cultivation.
The boundary of the planting blocks is measured and demarcated with baseline timber pegs. The blocks are adjacent to or near forestry roads to ensure access for the farmers and Form Ghana's monitoring and firefighting teams. The blocks are further demarcated with bamboo pegs at 3x3m intervals.
"We use a modified form of Ghana's Taungya System that involves agroforestry and inter-cropping practices", Yeboah says.
Expanding on the subject, Ontoaneyin explains that "We inform the 150 farmers who have signed an agreement with us when planting conditions are ideal. They and their employees use the roads we have made in and from their communities to cultivate and tend cereals, grains and other short-term food and cash crops".
In addition to introducing maise, cashew, cocoa and teak inter-cropping, demonstration farms (research plots) have been planted with cassava, plantain and okra, with technical support from Ghana's Food and Agriculture Ministry.
By the time the crops are ready for harvesting, the plantation trees have grown. They are hardy enough to withstand weather conditions and competition from weeds.
When the truck of indigenous seedlings arrives at Berekum, they are unloaded, watered and then hardened off to lessen the shock of planting. The plastic bags are carefully removed during planting, and the seedlings are placed in prepared holes in demarcated blocks. Inter-cropping also takes place in indigenous areas.
Although the Berekum plantation has no formal nursery and receives seedlings from Akumadan, it also uses a moving or dry silviculture system. Teak seeds are planted, and after eight months, a harvesting team slashes the stems and uses pickaxes to uproot the plants.
The exposed roots are gathered and taken to a group of dexterous women who use knives to carefully remove the sprouting roots. They measure the stumps four roots down from the collar and cut them, leaving the bottom part of the root or stump.
The planting teams dig a hole next to each peg, and the teak stumps are planted to expose about 2mm of the tip. They use their feet to compact the soil to ensure that rodents don’t dig up the stumps.
Through comprehensive training programmes, farmers and community firefighting teams are given the necessary skills, a mobile phone, and personal protection and firefighting equipment to manage controlled burns and for firefighting.
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