Samartex, WWF, and Friends of the Earth Initiate Program to Save Primary Forests and Wildlife Habitat in Ghana | WWF

Samartex, WWF, and Friends of the Earth Initiate Program to Save Primary Forests and Wildlife Habitat in Ghana

Posted on 10 February 2005
Accra, Ghana – In a groundbreaking achievement for forest conservation in West Africa, WWF and Friends of the Earth have signed an agreement with Samartex Timber and Plywood Co. Ltd. that will help ensure the responsible management of primary forests and valuable wildlife habitat under Samartex management in the western region of Ghana.  Samartex – a vertically-integrated company with timber harvesting and sawmill operations – will implement programs to verify environmental and social performance across its operations by seeking credible forest certification on all of the 159,000 ha. of reserves under its management.  
“Increasingly, discriminating consumers are demanding forest products that have been produced according to the most rigorous environmental and social practices,” said Abraham Baffoe of Friends of the Earth.  “With support from WWF and Friends of the Earth, Samartex intends to provide this market with legally and responsibly produced wood products and assume a leadership role among companies in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.” 
This agreement makes Samartex the inaugural participant of the Ghana Forest & Trade Network, a part of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), and the first producer in Ghana to commit to pursue credible certification.  The Ghana Forest & Trade Network – which aims to provide technical support to build the capacity of producers to supply legal and sustainable wood and ultimately reach certification - is managed by Friends of the Earth in partnership with WWF.  The Ghana Forest & Trade Network was established with, and receives support from, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Companies participating in the WWF GFTN commit to achieve increasingly rigorous levels of responsible forestry and production practices, culminating in the achievement of independently-verified, credible forest certification.  
The addition of Samartex to the GFTN completes a supply chain of GFTN-participating companies that brings forest products from the forest floor to the retail shelf. Samartex provides Sapele, Iroko, Idigbo and Utile, among other species, to Timbmet Silverman, which in turn supplies products to Travis Perkins. Timbmet and Travis Perkins - both members of the UK Forest & Trade Network of the GFTN – encouraged Samartex to participate in the GFTN as a means of satisfying their commitments to procure forest products from increasingly responsible sources.  
"Our responsible purchasing policies require that our suppliers provide us with forest products guaranteed to have originated in environmentally well-managed forests," said Mike Packer, Group Environmental Manager for Timbmet Silverman. "Producers like Samartex that are committed to supplying legal and certified well-managed timber and participate in WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network provide an off-the-shelf solution to our immediate sourcing needs.  Timbmet will continue to actively implement its responsible purchasing policy and in so doing stimulate the supply of timber from legal and FSC-certified sources." 
With support from the Ghana Forest & Trade Network, Samartex will implement a moratorium on logging in primary forests; develop plans for providing benefits to the communities that own Samartex-managed concessions; and achieve certification to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council in 2007.  This progress will contribute towards sustainable management of the forests in the western region of Ghana and protect species such as forest elephants, chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, and bongos that depend on Samartex-managed forests for their habitat. 
“Samartex believes that sustainable forest management is an integral element of effective forest conservation,” said Kurt Dirtz, Managing Director for Samartex.  “By working with WWF and Friends of the Earth we intend to help conserve healthy forests, while providing benefits to local communities and valuable products to our customers.” 
While Samartex is the first official participant in the Ghana Forest & Trade Network, a number of other companies have applied to join.  Applicant companies unable to prove that they hold legally allocated, long term licenses to harvest timber are not allowed to join the organization.  Participants in the Ghana Forest & Trade Network receive assistance in achieving certification for their forestry and processing operations, and support with establishing trading links with GFTN-participating buyers. 

Notes to editors: 
Samartex is one of the leading forest product companies in Ghana with average annual sales of about 17 million euro and a product range that includes sliced and rotary veneer, sawn timber, boules, mouldings, and plywood.  The company operates a nationally recognized apprentice training scheme as well as health and safety workshops for its 2,500 employees. 
The Ghana Forest & Trade Network, managed by Friends of the Earth in partnership with WWF, is a part of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network or GFTN.  The GFTN is WWF’s initiative to eliminate illegal logging and improve the management of valuable and threatened forests.