Home Ghana News Elizabeth Ohene writes: Rosewood, the timber to kill for

Elizabeth Ohene writes: Rosewood, the timber to kill for


I am glad to hear that the Forestry Commission says we are not losing the forest cover in our country at the rate a recent report claimed.

Apparently, there is a difference between forest cover and tree cover and what we are losing is tree cover and not forest cover.

I am not keen to know what the difference is between tree cover and forest cover.

I am old enough now to accept that there are things I do not understand and it is perfectly okay not to understand.

I am willing to concede that the Forestry Commission must be speaking from a position of expertise that is not available to me, but I can say that what I see with my eyes when I go around this country gives me cause for deep worry.

What I see gives me the distinct impression that we are losing our trees and our forests at a truly alarming rate, never mind what the experts say.

I have written on many occasions that there used to be forests in Abutia and they have disappeared. We do have what I had hoped would, one day be our saving grace, and that is the Kalakpa Reserve which covers a large area of land owned by the Abutia and Adaklu people.

Well, I am not quite sure I can talk about their owning it now since the government of Ghana acquired the area covering 32020 hectares back in 1975, LI 710 as amended by LI1022 and gazetted on June 19, 1976, and it is now supposed to be a forest and game reserve.

Someone I know is campaigning for Ghana to adopt the Odum tree as the country’s national plant.

He has written an interesting book on the subject and one of these days when I get around to it, I will do a proper review of the book.

At the moment, I mention this only because I have got trees on my mind, Rosewood in particular, which is very much in the news.

I confess that I did not know that there was Rosewood in Ghana.

Mahogany, Odum, Teak, Walnut, Ebony, those are the timbers that I know but it turns out we have Rosewood as well and even in my local Kalakpa.

I only got to know about Rosewood in the Kalakpa Reserve earlier this year when the Abutia community rose up in anger over a permit granted by the Forestry Commission to somebody to harvest Rosewood from the Reserve.

It was never clear the identity of the person who had the permit but suddenly lots of trucks started going into and emerging from the Reserve loaded with Rosewood.

The Forestry Commission said a permit had been issued to harvest Rosewood trees that had already been felled in the Reserve before the ban on the logging of Rosewood and which would otherwise go to waste.

The young people were not happy and claimed there was some huge conspiracy to destroy the Reserve.

Some of them argued that the least that should happen ought to be that the locals be allowed to do the harvesting.

I might add that it has always been a sore point with some members of the community who have never accepted that the Reserve was legally off limits and they were not allowed to even pick snails never mind hunt for antelopes.

But they were grudgingly persuaded that this mystery permit holder could harvest logs that had already been felled.

Now it turns out their worst fears have been confirmed.

This past week, we have discovered that under the guise of that harvesting, a full-scale logging and sawmill operation has been established inside the Kalakpa Reserve and huge areas, the size of a football field have been devastated.

Members of the community who live near the reserve say that by their count, eight container loads of Rosewood were carted out that would legitimately be the harvesting of the trees that had already been felled.

Since then, more than 40 container loads of Rosewood have been taken out of the Reserve.

What was once a peaceful and innocent patch of land and home to rare animals and birds and plants has been invaded by armed men and hired gangs determined to cause havoc.

It is obvious that the permit to “harvest already felled trees” is a big hoax that is used as a cover to fell fresh trees and undermine the ban placed on the logging and export of Rosewood.

This past week, we have discovered that much of this illegally “harvested” Rosewood is taken to Togo.

The truckloads of the banned Rosewood logs go through the many Police barriers on the road from Adidome, Sogakope, leading to Togo.

I have been told about Chinese in the Reserve and Togolese chain sawmillers and of course, many Ghanaian accomplices and instigators.

Some of the villagers who were supposed to move out of the Reserve and used to stay there surreptitiously are now well settled there and serve as guides for those who are destroying the Reserve.

I forgot to mention that there are workers of the Game and Wildlife and Forestry departments posted to the Kalakpa Reserve.

None of them appears overly concerned about the devastation going on.

Doubtless, when the last tree goes and the last animal disappears, these workers in their uniforms might inform their headquarters that there is no need for an office in Abutia.

Whenever all seems dark, a light always appears and, on this occasion, it came from the Volta Regional Police Commander and his Deputy who listened to the cries of the members of the team that were determined to save the Reserve.

They went in there last Friday and were appalled at the sight that met them and that is how come container loads of Rosewood and sophisticated mobile sawmills were abandoned.

It helped, of course, that the Regional Minister ,my good friend Dr Yao Letsa ,was ready to and provided the political will to enable the police do their work.

It has been a sobering experience.

I have no idea how much a truckload, a containerload of Rosewood is worth, but it must be a lot of money.

Suddenly a lot of people are interested in Abutia because we have Rosewood.

I pray they never discover gold in the hills of Abutia.

It is enough to have Rosewood, a prized specie of timber.

Maybe we should adopt it in Abutia as our traditional area plant.

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