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Samartex | The Leading Wood Processing Company In Ghana - Main Section

Samartex | The Leading Wood Processing Company In Ghana - Main Component

Forest Policy

FOREST POLICY

Almost the whole of Samartex’s concessions takes the form of what is known as ‘Forest Reserves’. These are areas of forest, which have been demarcated and set aside to be safeguarded for silvicultural use.

In other words they are protected from farming activities, or any other activities which would result in the destruction of the forest canopy. Commercial timber extraction is allowed in these reserves, but under strictly controlled and monitored conditions. Some reserves are completely protected from all commercial activity (although obviously none of Samartex concessions are), and within almost every reserve there are areas that are completely protected from logging activities. This protection can be to protect rivers, extreme slopes etc. Large swathes of many reserves have also recently been designated as ‘Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas’ (GSBAs), and set aside from all future logging activities in order to maintain the complex interdependent number of species both plant and animal. Productive forest reserves (or the productive portions of these reserves) are sub divided into compartments (usually 128 ha). These ‘compartments’ are the smallest management unit, and harvesting is carried out within the confines of these compartments. The compartments in the reserves are grouped according to a harvesting schedule. The principle of this schedule is to manage the reserve on a forty-year rotation. This means that when a compartment has been logged it will be a further forty years before any further commercial logging can occur. This forty-year period has been chosen as the optimum period to allow natural regeneration to occur after logging. The individual compartments are grouped into coupes within the harvesting schedule. Each coupe lasts for five years. The company is allowed to log the compartments within the five years. The next coupe cannot be entered into before the five years has elapsed. The company cannot simply log the compartments on an ad-hoc basis. Apart from the harvesting schedule, there are further more detailed controls on the logging activity at the compartment level. It is a commonly held misconception that tropical logging is simply clear-cut felling where vast areas are deforested. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. Ghana’s logging standards are some of the strictest in the world. The number of trees removed per hectare (<2) is extremely small. Indeed by European or North American forestry standards it is tiny. Every tree that the company can take is individually selected, and the logging operations themselves are strictly controlled and monitored by the Forest Services Division. Before any logging activity can commence, a stock survey team from Forest Services Division (FSD) surveys the entire compartment. Every commercial timber tree larger than 50cm diameter are recorded, as well as the physical features and topography within the compartment. This survey also demarcates the compartment boundaries by slashing a clear line through the forest to delineate the extent of the compartment. It is a vast undertaking, usually taking a team of eleven people up to four weeks.

Each tree has a number scribed onto the bark to ensure that only the designated trees are then finally felled. It is not unusual for over four thousand individual trees to be recorded, measured and marked during the survey!

After the survey takes place the results are mapped in order to produce a highly detailed map showing the position and size of all the timber trees. From this map the FSD District Forest Manager then calculates the total number of trees the company can take.

These decisions are made through a ‘yield allocation formula’ that ensures that only a relatively small number of each specie is allocated for logging. For a tree to be available for logging it also has to have reached and exceeded a felling limit (i.e. diameter) to ensure that immature trees are not logged. If we take the example of Mahogany (as the best-known tropical timber), the tree must have reached 110cm diameter, and of all the trees in the compartment above this size, only 20% will be allocated to the company for logging.

The selection process also takes into account proximity to rivers and slopes to ensure that trees are not felled which would then have an adverse impact on the forest environment. After the yield allocation procedure, the company will end up with less than two trees per hectare.

Before any logging takes place the company has to access the compartment through its road constructions. To lessen the environmental impact as well as to reduce costs the company utilizes GPS surveys coupled with Geographic Information System computer software to plan the trucking roads as well as the major hauling routes. The actual road construction also has to adhere to set FSD standards regarding lengths and maximum carriage widths as well as the size and number of log landings. Once all this is done, the compartment is finally released to the company for operations to commence. As mentioned earlier all operations are supervised by FSD representatives to ensure that all felling conforms to the approved yield. All logs are also monitored through a system of certificates of conveyance. This is part of a complex ‘chain of custody’ to ensure that all timber produced by the company can be traced back to the actual point of felling. The environmental standard of the company’s forest production operations also adheres to strict standards: steep slopes, riparian areas (i.e. near watercourses) are all designated as areas where no logging can take place. Once a compartment has been logged, the compartment is certified closed by the Forest Services District Manager, who inspects that environmental standards have been adhered to, and that enrichment planting has been done on branch roads, skidding trials and on sidings. This ‘concession planting’ is a key part of the company’s operations. Two tree nurseries are maintained by the company solely for this and other re-afforestation work.

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On average the company plants 316 trees (more than is usually harvested) per compartment to supplement the extremely fast natural regeneration that takes place after logging.

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