Chainsaw Milling in Ghana Context, drivers and impacts

Wed, 10/06/2010 - 15:35

This report synthesizes the various studies and discussions that have been carried
out on chainsaw milling (CSM) in Ghana. It is targeted to policymakers, researchers
and indeed all stakeholders, both in Ghana and elsewhere. It is intended to provide
up-to-date information about chainsaw milling in Ghana. It builds on various reviews
and studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 (Odoom 2005; Adam et al. 2007a, b
and c; Marfo, Adam and Obiri 2009; and TIDD/FORIG 2009), and on papers presented
at an African regional workshop on chainsaw milling, held in Accra on 25–26
May 2009 (TBI 2009).
Although CSM for commercial purposes is prohibited by the Timber Resource Management
Regulations of 1998 (Legislative Instrument 1649), the activity has thrived.
It provides jobs for about 130,000 Ghanaians and livelihood support for about
650,000 people. CSM enjoys much public support, and many stakeholders — including
more than half of District Forest Managers — think the ban should be reviewed.
The demand for timber and the conventional sawmill industry’s inability to supply
the domestic demand by legal means remains the principal driver not only of CSM
but also of illegality in the timber industry in general. It has been difficult to implement
the CSM ban for several reasons:
• the demand for jobs for both rural youth and urban timber businesses;
• corruption among forestry officials, police and the joint FSD-military task force;
• political interferences in FSD operations;
• lack of political will to enforce the ban and implement alternatives; and
• strong support for CSM by local communities, particularly farmers — the
practice brings in about Ghana cedi (GHC) 33.6 million per year in the form
of informal payments, most of which benefit FSD officials, police, farmers and
chiefs (at time of writing, 1 US$ = 1.4 GHC).
CSM is the main supplier of lumber to the domestic market. It contributes about
84% of this lumber, with an estimated volume of 497,000 m3 and a market value of
about GHC 279 million. The urban financiers who support CSM operations capture
about 28% of this revenue; rural-based operators receive 19%. CSM provides an
average profit of about GHC 67 per m3 of lumber. A projected aggregate annual
profit of GHC 37 million is realized across the CSM trade chain. Chainsaw milling is
also the major supplier of lumber for overland export to neighbouring countries,
with an estimated volume of 260,000 m3.
The study demonstrates that chainsawn lumber is 12–74% cheaper than conventional
sawmill lumber, depending on species, dimension and quality. The CSM sector
processes about 72 species in more than 100 dimensions. It processes an estimated
840,000 trees a year with a roundwood volume of about 2.5 million m3, exceeding
Ghana’s Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) of 2 million m3 for the formal industry. CSM
recovers about 30% of tree volume, a lower rate than improved CSM with Logosol
attachments (33%), Wood-Mizer portable sawmills (56%) and sawmills (38%). Ghana loses a possible GHC 25 million annually in stumpage revenue from trees
illegally harvested by chainsaw operators; illegal tree sales by farmers to operators are
equivalent to about 38% of this amount (GHC 9.5 million).
The supply of legal timber to the domestic market is the most crucial issue in
addressing the problems associated with illegal CSM. Three policy options are
recommended to this end:
• the legal sawmill industry supplies all timber;
• the industry shares the market with artisanal groups applying improved forms
of CSM such as the use of Logosol; and
• artisanal groups supply all timber.
This synthesis provides some reflections on these options. Equitable benefit-sharing
to include farmers, tree tenure reforms and provision of competitive alternative livelihood
schemes are crucial in the ultimate success of any policy intervention to address

Responsible party
Trobenbos International (TBI) & CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Funding bodies
European Commission & Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands
Attachment Size
chainsaw_milling_ghana_marfo.pdf 1.17 MB