As part of our commitment to the sustainable development of our forests and timber we set a clear aim to provide long term, sustainable employment in the local community. Ghana is a country that is currently staging an impressive economic comeback for a country that only three decades ago was famine stricken and teetering on edge of economic collapse. Fast forward to 2019 and it was the fastest growing economy in the world. Its growth has been built not only on the traditional cocoa production but also on oil, which has boosted Ghana’s GDP by an estimated 8.8% over the last year.
However, this is not evenly spread throughout the economy. The GDP per capita in Ghana is actually half that of other emerging economies, the IMF reports, and the unemployment there is slightly higher than the average rate in sub-Saharan Africa. This higher unemployment is particularly relevant when it comes to the rural areas of Ghana where it is much higher. Jobs in rural areas are very difficult to find and that is why it is important that commercial timber operations such as ours focus on sustainable development alongside growth and profits.
The UN estimates that for every person employed in rural communities such as these, income will be spread throughout the local community and allow 10 further families to earn an income. This is why we place such importance on offering decent, long term jobs with local peoples in our commercial forest plantations. With more than 1000 workers in peak season, this means between 5 and 10,000 families are receiving some kind of income from long term plantation management. We also have a significant number of more casual workers in our plantations who help out with the thinning, pruning and weeding of the plantations.
Most importantly, our plantations have signed up to voluntary benefit sharing agreements which guarantee that a percentage of all sales from timber will go straight back to the community via a District Assembly. Doing this allows us to be accredited as a UNFCC or UN-REDD plantation.
What all this means is that we think we have found that rare thing – a long term, profitable business that can be good for the planet and the local community through a sustainable forest plantation and jobs for men and women in the local community. All the while delivering excellent returns for investors! It is a model that is being replicated all across Africa, with plantation businesses proving to be excellent employment providers in many areas with massive unemployment. And as in Ghana, the jobs given to the communities around plantations also help to increase knowledge about the value of the forest and how to grow sustainably.