NATURE AND Development Foundation (NDF) and Tropenbos Ghana (TBG), with funding from the European Union (EU), are implementing a project aimed at strengthening the capacity of non-state actors (NSAs) to improve FLEGT and REDD+ processes in West Africa” (known as the NSA project) to monitor , advocate and engage with state and non- state actors on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade and Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in developing countries.
The NSA project, since 2017, has spearheaded the formation of this civil society-led independent forest monitoring (CSIFM) platform in Ghana.
Prior to the launch of this platform, civil society organizations were engaging with Forestry Commission (FC) individually. This, the FC said, undermined their core mandate as they had to attend to each organization separately on the same issue of interest.
To this end, the NSA project team met with some civil society organisations (CSOs) which, at that time, had different projects on independent forest monitoring and with the Forestry Commission on the way forward for better engagements with all parties.
Concept note on CSIFM
A concept note on CSIFM collaboration with FC on IFM was drafted and sent to FC, which led to a presentation on the system of monitoring the platforms that seeks to employ and to also get the buy-in of the FC.
An official letter from the FC headquarters in Accra then went to the Forest Services Division managers in all the districts where CSIFM platform members are implementing projects on forest monitoring.
About seven CSOs in Ghana currently form the CSIFM platform. These CSOs are Nature and Development Foundations (NDF), TBG, Civic Response, EcoCare, Rural Development and Youth Association (RUDEYA), Rainforest Alliance and Friends of the Earth (FOE).
These CSOs have since then been having periodic meetings and engagement on independent forest monitoring. The CSOs on the platform employ a technological 3-tier system of independent forest monitoring.
First level is community monitors. The second level is community-based organization (CBOs) based in the districts while the third tier is for civil societies and Forestry Commission.
At this stage, selected and trained community monitors in the various forest-fringe communities raise alerts on forest infractions. Some of the infractions community monitors have been trained to report on include illegal logging, illegal farming, transportation illegalities, Solicitors Regulatory Authority, compensations, illegal mining and bush fires through the apps installed on android devices.
Under the tier 2, community-based organizations (CBOs) at the district levels then verify the authenticity of such alerts from the verifiers. These verification exercises involve checks on defaulting party, gathering further and better particulars and information such as pictures, recordings, videos etc. to support the alert.
The verification exercise also helps to detect and debunk false alerts when verified as such. This step is very crucial in the IFM process so as to not overwhelm the FC with just about any alert raised by a monitor. This step also helps to paint a true-to-form picture to represent true alerts from monitors and happenings on the ground.
CSOs at this level have a general overview of all alerts that have been generated by community monitors against alerts that have been verified. These verified alerts can then be the basis of engagement with the relevant key stakeholders and foci for advocacy.
This launch is to create the awareness of the general public and other relevant stakeholders about the existence of the CSIFM platform in Ghana. Again, at the launch stakeholders will receive updates on the status and progress of the launch.
This launch will also create the platform for interaction and engagement of opportunities that exist in CSIFM. It is the fervent wish of CSIFM that the Forestry Commission of Ghana will take up this system of monitoring in the future and implements it all over Ghana. This system can also cover a variety of topics and illegalities to monitor all over the country.