Progressing the Dialogue on Tree Registration in Cocoa Farms in Ghana

Tree tenure, the ownership and benefit sharing in planted and naturally growing trees on cocoa farms, is a very delicate issue to tackle when working with local farmers in Ghana. It is an important factor in farmers’ willingness to participate in the management and protection of forest and tree resources. The lack of tenure security negatively affects reforesting degraded off-reserves with instances of farmers clearing out planted trees for fear of losing them without compensation and having their farms destroyed in the process.

It is against this background that, under the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) Joint Framework for Action, key actions are being taken to accelerate the development of land and tree tenure reforms to retain naturally regenerated trees on off-reserve farmlands as well as to establish a national register of farms and trees.

In particular, WCF and partners through the Climate Smart Cocoa program have led the dialogue and work to operationalize tree tenure in Ghana to provide a clear pathway for farmers to register trees on their farm, ultimately leading to the development of a government-approved guidance documents.  As a next step, the policy reform on tree tenure and benefit sharing of the related resources is currently being finalized by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR), which hosts the CFI National Secretariat, and other major stakeholders including civil society organizations (CSOs) and the private sector.

Tree tenure is also one of the targeted areas of work by the CFI Agroforestry Taskforce. During the first quarter of the year, the Taskforce proposed a national stakeholders’ dialogue on tree registration which was approved by the CFI National Steering Committee. Dialogue on “Identifying the Gaps and Feasible Options” was organized on 26-27 June by the MLNR in collaboration with the CFI secretariat and private sector partners. It was attended by high-level representatives from Forestry Commission, COCOBOD, World Bank, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), CSOs, the private sector, and farmer groups.

Experiences from stakeholders facilitated the identification and discussion of key issues, challenges, and possible solutions. The stakeholders at the dialogue agreed to the following:

  1. A reference age should be set above which all trees can be considered planted.
  2. Any organization undertaking a pilot registration process should contact the appropriate Forestry Commission officials to assist in the validation process.
  3. Farmers have the authority to prevent concessionaires from harvesting on their farms.
  4. All naturally-occurring trees must be registered alongside the planted trees but there must be a clear indication of the difference.
  5. Digital or manual registration of trees is to remain optional and based on the organization supporting farmers to register trees.
  6. All tree information (especially GPS coordinates) of naturally-occurring trees must be captured whereas that of planted trees remain optional.
  7. It is necessary to repeal or amend the Concessions Act 1962 (Act 124) which hinders farmers and landowners’ ability to own naturally-occurring trees on their farms.

Generally, the Forestry Commission and MLNR lead the registration and validation of trees.  The modalities of the roadmap implementation will be further defined, but it was agreed that a committee will be convened by the MLNR to finalize costs of the tree registration per hectare and of the validation exercise to produce a roadmap to roll-out the tree registration policy and to recommend either digital or manual endorsement of registration forms. A team was also nominated, having the task of merging the two operating manuals for tree registration produced by the Resource Management Support Centre (RMSC) and Agro Eco. This will become the standard reference manual for tree registration in Ghana. The RMSC will make the National Tree Registration Master Database ready by the end of September, 2019 and will provide information to all piloting organizations regarding the various exporting formats that the database can accept.