Even though the ban placed on the harvesting, transporting and exporting of Rosewood in Ghana is still in force, there is a surge in the illegal harvesting and haulage of the tree.

So far, the worst hit area regarding the illegal harvesting is the Savannah belt of the country which is already suffering from a severe climatical conditions, with sources of drinking water being dried up.

In order to salvage the situation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Jaksally Development Organisation is proposing bye-laws including heavy fines in the area where the illegal harvesting is taken place.

According to the Borle-based NGO in the Savannah region, poverty and greed is making the fight against the illegal harvesting of rosewood almost impossible, hence the surge despite the ban.

The statistics

A new data by the Washington DC based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), says, 9,031,570 Kilograms (kg) of rosewood, an equivalent of $ 5,663,782 were imported by China from Ghana in December 2020 while bans on its harvest and export have been in place.

This is despite the fact that, the value and volume of rosewood exported to China from Ghana should be zero.

According to the staggering EIA’s analysis, 199,160,119 kg of rosewood, an equivalent of 124,073,247 USD were imported into China from Ghana since March 2019 when the last ban started.

The ongoing illegal activity was discovered through EIA’s Rosewood Revealed, a web tool created to enable Ghanaian citizens know the quantity and value of illegal rosewood exported into China from Ghana every month. The source of data the EIA said, is the Chinese Customs data based on the Global Trade Atlas (GTA).

The push for heavy fine and bye-laws

According to the Founder and Executive Director of Jaksally Development Organisation, Mr. Jeremiah Seidu, no government worker or civil servant can fight the illegal trade unless he or she is willing to lose a job or be transferred to some God forsaken place.

“One time I was with our outgoing regional minister when he impounded a truck with rosewood. You will not believe the high-level people who called him that day to release the truck! The political pressure is very high. There are “big wigs” in this trade”, he alleged in a statement.

He noted that, money has divided the youth front, with poverty and greed rendering some of the chiefs incapable of fighting the menace, adding that, some indigenes in the business are untouchable because they are natives, leaving the enforcement officers with no choice than to join.

He said “In a system where we glorify wealth no matter the source, fighting such criminal activities become very difficult. How were the 2020 elections financed, Who can explain to me the source of the money that was displayed in front of Ghanaians. How do you justify the kind of houses, guest houses, hotels etc being put up especially from salaried workers in areas related to these illegal items? he asked.

He said, it is therefore imperative that, a new strategy is mooted in order to be able to control the surge in the illegal harvesting of rosewood.

“In a battle when you are losing, you change strategy. Here is what we can do: charge GHC 5000 for every rose wood tree that is cut. Any tree cut that has not been approved is GHC 10,000.00 with imprisonment. Set up special fast track court. Any chief caught is destooled and his entire family struck out of the chieftaincy line. Register all chain saws at GHC 2000 a month. Anyone who reports an unregistered chain saw gets GHC 500.00 and anyone who reports a cut rose wood and other economic tree gets GHC 1000.00, put similar outrageous charges on vehicles etc”, he proposed.

He also demanded that, assembly members in the local districts hold an emergency meeting to pass the aforementioned proposals into bye-laws or be removed with a vote of no confidence and new elections called. “Only people who campaign on fighting the menace will be elected. For this to happen NPP/NDC must put country before party”, he added.

According to Mr Seidu, there are lone voices, who are risking their lives to fight the menace and was hopeful that, the adoption of the local bye-laws would help control the illegal activity.