REDD+ projects 10
Other readiness initiatives 11
Forest cover Low
Deforestation rate High


REDD in Ghana

Ghana is located on West Africa's Gulf of Guinea coast, bordered by Burkina Faso in the north, Cote d’Ivoire in the West and Togo in the East. According to the most recently held national census, the population of Ghana increased from 18 million in 2000 to about 24 million in 2010 (GHANA STATISTICAL SERVICE, 2010). A re-evaluation of the economy in 2010 showed Ghana to have achieved lower middle income country status, with a per capita GDP of around USD $1,300. Ghana is rich in natural resources and the economy is based largely on the agricultural sector, which contributes about 28.5% towards national GDP (CIA, 2012). Gold and cocoa are also key drivers of growth, in addition to the forestry sector, which contributes about 6% to the country’s GDP (CIA, 2012), employs more than 100,000 people and supports the livelihoods of about 2.5 million people.

It has been estimated that environmental degradation in the major natural resource sectors costs 5-10% of GDP, with the forest sector accounting for 63% (USD $500 million) of this cost (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010b). According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 21.7% of land in Ghana (equivalent to 4,940,000 hectares) is covered by forest (FAO, 2010). Of this, 8% (395,000 hectares) is classified as highly bio-diverse and carbon dense primary forest and 260,000 hectares are plantations (FAO, 2010). Deforestation has been identified as a critical environmental issue and Ghana has lost more than 33.7% of its forests, equivalent to 2,500,000 hectares, since the early 1990s (FAO, 2010). Between 2005 and 2010, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 2.19% per annum; the sixth highest deforestation rate globally for that period (FAO, 2010).

Ghana’s REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) attributes the causes of deforestation to mainly economic, demographic, institutional and policy-related factors, with activities such as small-scale agriculture, timber harvesting, land conversion and mining being the principal drivers (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010a). Forest loss in Ghana is considered largely incremental rather than dramatic, that is the emphasis has primarily been on degradation caused by multiple drivers rather than one major industrial driver (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010b).

To address environmental degradation, Ghana has developed a number of national programmes, notably the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance Programme (NREG) and the National Forest Plantation Development Programme, which aims to arrest and reverse deforestation rates in the country and take steps to increase the national forest cover. The Government of Ghana equally recognises the social and economic impacts, and the development challenges arising from, climate change. It is committed to mainstreaming climate change into key planning processes at the national, regional and local level (MEST, 2010) and in early 2010 the government initiated development of a National Climate Change Policy Framework (NCCPF). A key objective of the NCCPF is low carbon growth. REDD+ and other initiatives within the forestry sector have been identified as key aspects of this (WÜRTENBERGER et al. 2011).

Ghana is currently in the ‘readiness’ phase, with preparations for REDD+ ongoing since 2008 (FCPF, 2012). This has included the development of a National REDD+ Strategy, in addition to the development of policies and capacity building activities. Ghana is in the Implementation Phase of its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) as a Participant Country of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Ghana is also a Pilot Country to the Forest Investment Programme (FIP) and has developed an Investment Plan. Ghana does not receive direct support from UN-REDD for its national programme, but in 2011 joined as a Partner Country (UN-REDD Programme, 2011).

As of 2013, there are a number of REDD+ initiatives and carbon projects being implemented in Ghana, including seven REDD+ pilot schemes, which are being coordinated by the Climate Change Unit of the Forestry Commission; the REDD+ secretariat of the National REDD+ Technical Working Group (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2012). 

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Institutional arrangements

In Ghana, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR), which is headed by a cabinet minister appointed by the President, has the overall responsibility for forest sector planning and policy direction and for monitoring sector programmes towards the attainment of the national goals on forestry. Within MLNR, the Forestry Commission (FC), headed by a government appointed Chief Executive, implements forest sector policies and programmes, and is the focal point for REDD+ (ORTSIN, 2013).

The National REDD + Technical Working Group (NRTWG) is responsible for the overall management and coordination of REDD+ in Ghana (ORTSIN, 2013). The NRTWG is a multi-stakeholder body within MLNR consisting of government, private sector, and civil society representatives, as well as those from other relevant institutions (ibid). The NRTWG was established in 2008 as part of the institutional set up that prepared Ghana to submit its Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The NRTWG provides advice and guidance on all REDD+ processes (FCPF, 2012) and operates through technical Sub-Working Groups providing expertise in the areas of Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA); Policy, Legislation and Governance; Consultation and Participation; Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV); and Reference Emissions Levels (REL)/Reference Levels (RL) (ORTSIN, 2013). The Climate Change Unit of the FC serves as the REDD+ secretariat to the NRTWG.

Other governmental bodies in Ghana that are integral to coordinating elements of REDD+ include: the Natural Resources Advisory Council (ENRAC), the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance Technical Coordination Committee (NREG TCC+), and the Carbon Credit Policy Committee, under the Ministry of Environment, Science,Technology and Innovation (MESTI) (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2013). ENRAC is the apex body at the Cabinet level for providing oversight on national climate change issues including REDD+ initiatives in Ghana and is chaired by H.E. Vice President (FCPF, 2013). The NREG TCC+ is responsible for coordinating Ghana’s Forest Investment Programme (FIP), its engagement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, and the Non-Legally Binding Instruments (NLBI) (FCPF, 2013). Finally, the Carbon Credit Policy Committee, under MESTI, was set up to clearly define rules and procedures for carrying out carbon credit generating activities, allocation of carbon rights and participation in sub-national activities.

The Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources are also key players in forest-related issues, especially those issues involving land use, as is the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which are involved in the coordination of climate change intiatives.

At the sub-national level, District Forest Departments and the District Assembly are key institutions in the implementation of REDD+ (CLIMATE FOCUS, 2010). Local Forest Forums and the National House of Chiefs have also been identified as playing a crucial role (CLIMATE FOCUS, 2010).

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Stakeholder engagement and participation

Ghana has developed a Stakeholder Consultation and Participation Plan (C&P Plan), which builds on lessons learned from consultations carried out as part of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the Natural Resource and Environmental Governance (NREG) sector programmes (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010). The implementation of Ghana's C&P Plan is the responsibility of the Working Group on Consultation and Participation, operating in the National REDD+ Technical Working Group (NRTWG).

Consultations at national, sub-national and local levels, in collaboration with relevant civil society groups who have interest and experience in VPA and REDD+ issues began in 2008 to formulate Ghana’s Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) and culminated in a National Validation Workshop in 2009 (FCPF, 2011). It is reported that the development of the R-PP saw consultation and sensitisation workshops being organised for 16 Traditional Authorities (chiefs) in Kumasi, 15 forest communities in Ho District, and five communities in Sunyani, to enhance their understanding of REDD+ and Ghana’s R-PP (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2013).

The various consultations discussed the scope and nature of REDD+, the process and responsibilities for consultation and issues including land use rights and land tenure, forest governance and benefit sharing (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010a). Civil society platforms such as Forest Forums at national, regional and local levels are being utilised for consultation and the dissemination of REDD+ information to grassroots forest communities and other stakeholders.

This work has been supplemented by the development of a database at the REDD+ Secretariat for REDD+ actors to support networking and capacity building (FCPF, 2011). Further to this, several workshops have taken place organised by the Forestry Commission in collaboration with NGOs such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Tropenbos International Ghana, in addition to other independent workshops (TROBENBOS, 2010). As part of efforts to raise awareness and improve understanding of the REDD+ process, a simplified brochure has also been prepared in collaboration with Tropenbos International to educate traditional authorities and local communities about REDD+ and how they could participate in the process. The Climate Change Unit within the Forestry Commission has also developed a REDD+ web page on the organisation’s website to facilitate information dissemination on REDD+ activities.

However, in spite of these initiatives, the consultation process for REDD+ has been criticised by some researchers and practitioners (e.g. Dooley and Ozinga, 2011) as having been rushed compared to that of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

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Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

Ghana’s land tenure system is characterised as one of legal pluralism, in which customary and statutory laws co-exist in a complex mix, with a range of institutions and regulations having authority over land rights and multiple bodies responsible for resolving disputes.

Customary land is categorised by its largely unwritten nature, based on local practices and norms that are said to be flexible, negotiable and location-specific (AGBOSU et al, 2007). Customary land tenure is usually managed by a traditional ruler, earth priest, council of elders, family or lineage heads. Its principles stem from rights established through first clearance of land, conquest or settlement (AGBOSU et al, 2007).

The State land tenure system, on the other hand, is usually codified, written statutes and regulations. It is based on laws which have their roots in the colonial power and which outline what is acceptable and provide consequences for non-compliance. Management of such codified systems is usually in the hands of government administrators and bodies with delegated authority. It is instructive to note that despite the fundamental differences underlying the principles and systems for managing land under customary and statutory forms, in practice this neat distinction is not readily obvious.

Generally, five land ownership types can be identified in Ghana (ABEBRESE, 2002): a) State land referring to land that the government has compulsorily acquired under the State Lands Act 1962, Act 125. Such land is acquired in the interest of the public; (b) Vested land referring to land vested in the State under the Administration of the State Lands Act 1962, Act 123. The state acts as the trustee for the relevant stool (community); (c) Stool land (community land) which is vested in the relevant stool on behalf of the community, as represented by the chief or the traditional ruler or any in a fiduciary capacity for his people. Members of the land holding group have usufruct rights, which are equivalent to free hold. In a practical sense such land belongs to members of the land holding group and their interests are secure, inheritable and generally alienable. The alienation of such land by the stool or family requires the consent of the holder of this interest; (d) Family land, which is vested in a family whose head represents the family; and finally, (e) privately owned land, which has a free hold interest and can be purchased outright by an individual or group of persons. This type of land invariably reverts back to become family land should the owner die intestate. Public land accounts for approximately one fifth, and stool land for approximately two-thirds of land in Ghana (KATOOMBA, 2009).

A review of tree tenure and land rights in Ghana reveals that while rights to carbon are yet to be determined, issues relating to land and tree tenure are quite clear within legislation (OSAFO, 2010). There is a dual system with regards to land and tree tenure rights in Ghana, with landowners usually having no economic rights to the trees on their land (KATOOMBA, 2009). While traditional authorities can own the trees on their lands, the management and commercial rights belong to the State in both reserve and off-reserve areas (KATOOMBA, 2009).

Income from mineral and natural resources including timber is distributed according to a Constitutional formula. By this formula, the Forestry Commission (FC) deducts a management fee of 60% from timber revenues (technically known as stumpage fees) in the on-reserves and 40% in the off-reserves. An additional deduction of 10% is given to the Administrator of Stool Lands and then the remaining is shared between the District Assembly (55%), the stool (25%) and Traditional Council (20%). As individual farmers, who often hold the management responsibilities, are left out from the revenue sharing formula, the small farming population is not adequately incentivised to protect trees. They would rather keep economic timber trees off their land than risk collateral damage from timber operations to their beverage and food crops. Reform of the tree tenure regime is widely viewed as a necessary precondition for reinvigoration of the off-reserve stock, and has been proposed to be given attention in the REDD+ strategy.

In Ghana, carbon rights have yet to be clearly defined. It is recognised in the REDD+ arena that the government must decide whether carbon is viewed as an ecosystem service or as a natural resource by law. In the absence of this understanding, community resource management areas (CREMAs) provide a potential solution by allocating all management rights to the communities that make up the CREMA.  Ghana’s Readiness Preparation Proposal cites this as one of the preferred mechanisms for implementing REDD+ projects.

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Forest management

The Forestry Commission (FC) is the statutory body responsible for managing forest resources in the country. The Commission is divided into three divisions (Forest Services Division, Wildlife Division and Timber Industry Development Division) and two centres (Wood Industries Training Centre and the Resource Management Support Centre).

Forest management in Ghana has been divided into two broad areas: on-reserve management and off-reserve management. On-reserve areas are protected forest zones, which have primarily been gazetted as protected areas of biological, ecological, economic, research and environmental value. In an effort to balance the interests of timber exploitation and sustainable forest management of on-reserve land, the government has introduced timber utilisation contracts (TUC) for timber companies. The TUC enables registered timber companies to enter into an agreement with the government for the exploitation of timber and the sustainable management of the forest through a competitive bidding processes. This arrangement seeks to ensure better selection procedures for contractors. Additionally, it places greater responsibility on the contractors in the planning process of timber exploitation in the on-reserve with improved monitoring done by the Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission.

Integrated in the TUC is the requirement for a Social Responsibility Agreement (SRA), which defines the working relationship between contractors and landowners. The SRA is an agreement between a contractor selected for a timber bid and representatives of land owning communities, where the contractor agrees to provide social amenities to the communities on whose land the exploitation of timber is done.  Although the agreement - at least on paper - gives the communities the right to insist on the compensation for trees felled, the provision is not always followed by timber contractors (AYINE, 2008). Although the potential of the SRA as a possible benefit-sharing option for REDD+ is recognised, there has not been a definite decision on its application in the on-going REDD+ effort.

An off-reserve forest area is a piece of land outside of a protected forest zone interspersed with patches of naturally occurring tree species of economic or non-economic value and also consists of mosaics of intact forests. The primary use of the land in the off-reserve is agriculture which makes it difficult for any form of sustainable forest management to be ensured (SACKEY, 2007). Efforts to maintain control over the exploitation of timber in the off-reserve has seen the introduction of a system of regional and district quotas for timber exploitation, known as the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). This quota system provides the maximum amount of trees that can be felled in the off-reserve area in any particular district per year.

In addition to this, there are incentives for afforestation and reforestation such as programmes offering land allocations and revenues from harvesting trees (OSAFO, 2010). The Modified Taungya System (MTS) of the National Forest Plantation Development Programme (NFPDP) is an example of such a scheme.

For several decades, the need to halt deforestation and promote sustainable forest management has been raging with the key drivers, including illegal logging, weak regulatory capacity and agricultural expansion. Although illegal logging or chainsaw milling has been banned since 1998 by Act 547 and LI 1649, enforcement has not been effective and this continues to pose a great challenge to fighting illegality and forest degradation in Ghana (MARFO, 2010). Despite the ban, some studies have shown that over 85% of the timber supply to domestic markets is sourced from illegal activities (MARFO, 2010). Ghana is committed to reducing illegal logging and in recognition that European demand for timber is one of the main drivers of this, the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan was designed to eliminate illegal timber to the EU market (EUROPEAN COMMISSION, 2003). In 2009, Ghana entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) to strengthen enforcement of forest governance and illegal timber activities. Ghana commits not only to export solely legal timber to European markets, but also to guarantee the legality of the domestic timber market (EUROPEAN COMMISSION & REPUBLIC OF GHANA, 2009). As well as the VPA, the FLEGT Action Plan includes the adoption of procurement policies by member states that further promote trade in legal timber, promotion of private sector initiatives and the exercise of due diligence by export credit agencies among others. 

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Reference levels

According to Ghana’s Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP), the development of a historically adjusted reference emission scenario (REL) is in the process of taking shape. The REL will involve quantifying historic emissions and removals and then developing future trajectories based on economic, development and agricultural scenario data (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010a). The Terms of Reference (ToRs) for developing the Reference Scenario have been prepared (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2013). A carbon baseline map has been produced as a collaborative effort between the Forestry Commission, the Katoomba group, the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) and Oxford University. The Forestry Commission plans to pursue a sub-national carbon accounting approach as a first step to manage the national carbon accounting and actions related to crediting. 

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According to the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP), Ghana intends to establish an MRV system by the end of 2013. The system will monitor forest cover and carbon emissions using remote sensing technology and ground truthing information (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010). The MRV system is the responsibility of a Sub-Working Group under the National REDD+ Technical Working Group (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010a). Discussions by the Sub-Working Group are ongoing on how best to develop an effective MRV system (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2013). The existing National Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory database of the National Communication programme, within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for estimating historic emissions will be used for developing the MRV and carbon accounting system.

The Remote Sensing & Forest Inventory Unit of the Forestry Commission and the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (CERSGIS) at the University of Ghana will be key collaborators in the design of the MRV and carbon accounting system. The Forestry Commission will also be monitoring land use and land use changes, implementing forest inventories and compiling tree measurements in Ghana through its Climate Change Unit and Resource Management Support Centre.

As well as this, a Ghana Carbon Map Project was developed through collaboration between several international NGO and academic organisations, which estimates carbon stores of biomass in Ghana in order to improve reporting of carbon emissions (FOREST TRENDS, 2009).

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The Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) identifies that a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) will be implemented to quantify the risks and benefits of REDD+ implementation in Ghana. The results of the SESA will inform the design of the National REDD+ Strategy to instill acceptable safeguards for the mitigation of negative social or environmental impacts (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2010a).

The Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the SESA have been prepared and included in the R-PP to promote due diligence; to identify the institutional arrangements and governance needed for the implementation of the REDD+ Readiness strategy; to identify the likely socio-economic and environmental risks associated with REDD+ strategies/policies; to outline possible mitigation options; to assess the potential additional benefits of REDD+ (especially biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation); and to inform the design of the National REDD+ Strategy, so that it avoids or mitigates negative social/environmental impacts and encourages positive ones.

In July, 2012, Expressions of Interest (EOI) on five thematic ToRs were advertised to engage prospective consulting firms for these assignments namely; SESA, MRV, REL, Strategic Options, Benefit Sharing and Conflict Resolution (FORESTRY COMMISSION, 2013). A consultant has consequently been selected for undertaking the assignment on the SESA and the contract is about to be signed as at the mid-September, 2013 (KWAKYE, personal communication). Similarly, Ghana is also committed to ensuring the establishment of social safeguards under its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process (WAGENINGEN, 2010).

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Gender Equality

In 2004, Ghana adopted the Gender and Children Policy to promote the welfare, survival, development and protection of women by mainstreaming gender into the national development process. The 2012 Forest and Wildlife Policy emphasises the need to mainstream gender into forest management activities (Section 1.1.13) and to build capacity of women (Strategic Direction 5.2.1(a)). A large number of customary communities in southern Ghana are matrilineal. However, the number of women in decision-making processes in the context of REDD+ and national policy is still low and capacity still seems low as well (Yeboah 2013).

Ghana's 2010 R-PP mentions that special consideration must be given to gender pursuant to FCPF guidelines (Subcomponent 2d on the social and environmental impacts of REDD+).

Ghana adopted its ER-PIN in 2014 which states that the emissions reduction programme development process will identify likely social impacts such as gender issues (Section 9.5). Within the implementation of the Strategic Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (SESA) and the Environmental and Social Management Framework, gender experts are being consulted and efforts are made to mainstream gender into REDD+ processes (Section 13.1 and 13.2). These efforts are part of a road map to integrate gender and women’s issues into REDD+ which was drafted in collaboration with IUCN, women’s organisations, gender experts, national level policy makers and other key stakeholders (Ibid).

This road map (‘A Roadmap to Mainstreaming Gender Considerations into Ghana’s REDD+ Process’, 2011) was created in close consultation with WEDO and Participatory Development Associates (PDA). It aims to integrate several national and international documents on gender issues that Ghana is a Party to, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979).

During Ghana’s REDD+ readiness phase, the road map calls for a number of action points including the creation of a gender and forest task force, for gender considerations to be mainstreamed into the revised policy and legislative framework, for the capacity of women and women’s organisations to be built and/or strengthened, for REDD+ to deliver gender-sensitive and equitable benefit-sharing schemes, for gender-sensitive safeguards to be established as part of SESA, for the enhancement of the capacity of women to engage in MRV. In March 2015, Ghana inaugurated a cross-sectoral sub-working group on gender and REDD+ to enhance women’s participation and contribution in the REDD+ process.

During the implementation and management phase of REDD+, the road map calls for gender to be mainstreamed into information and communication systems, for equal opportunities to be created for women and men, for effective institutional collaboration at all levels, for gender considerations to be fully integrated into the forest sector and REDD+, for women to be adequately represented and for the participation of women and vulnerable groups to be enhanced and effective, and for the advancement of women’s rights in the forest sector.


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