Inventory analysis of the timber industry in Ghana

J.F. Eshun, J. Potting, R. Leemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background, aim, and scope The timber sector, i.e., forestry and timber industry, plays an important role in the socioeconomic development of Ghana through timber products export. Timber production in this sector is associated with increasing environmental burdens in terms of use of materials and energy, production of emissions and waste, and land use changes. The purpose of this study was to compile a comprehensive life cycle inventory (LCI) to identify the most dominant environmental pressures for five major production lines in the timber industry, and to evaluate the influence of the choice of the functional unit on the results (1 m3, 1 kg, and 1 euro). LCA’s of wood typically base their functional unit on volume, but mass or money may be more appropriate for the rather different products considered in this study. Materials and methods The LCI covers five timber production lines, namely, air-dried lumber, kiln-dried lumber, plywood, veneer, and furniture parts. Three functional units were used for this study to identify the most appropriate basis for a fair comparison of the different timber products (functional units were 1 m3, 1 kg and 1 euro). Questionnaires were administered to thirty selected companies in Ghana. These companies provided data about their material uses, energy requirements, and waste production for their operations from 2000 to 2007. The collected data were first converted into total annual average values, and next extrapolated to reflect the national average data for all 104 active companies. Finally, these data were expressed per functional unit for each of the five product lines on the basis of their production outputs (in volume, mass or money according to functional unit applied). Forest land used changes data was taken from the Ghana Timber Industry Development Division. Emissions for the several activities were taken from literature. Results and discussion Land use change for timber production in Ghana between the estimated periods turned out to be 34.0¿×¿103 ha per year, which will lead to complete deforestation in the year 2023 if continued. The total energy consumed by the timber sector per year was estimated at 1.9¿×¿109 MJ per year. The results showed that CO2 emissions by the timber sector activities per year accounted for 745k tons per year and dominate overall greenhouse gases emissions in the timber sector (changes in carbons storage related to land use changes not included). Wood waste by the timber sector accounted for 0.8 million m3 per year. The enormous wastage of wood contributes enormously to the rapid depletion of the country’s timber resources. The choice of the functional unit influences inventory results. The money-based functional unit, which also seems more appropriate for the different products considered, favors the value-added. Value-added products with strict sustainable forest management policy hold a promising future in terms of sustainability for the timber industry in Ghana. Conclusions This study has yielded good quality primary data unique for LCA research in Africa. This will enhance LCA approaches in Ghana, and allows here identification of the main environmental pressures and their dominantly contributing processes in the timber sector. Land use changes due to forestry form a critical issue and require urgent attention. The chosen functional units’ plays a crucial role in the environmental comparison of production line in the timber sector in Ghana. Recommendations and perspectives A comprehensive and transparent inventory for the timber industry provides the industry with an overview of areas in which material and thus economic savings can be made for the good of both environment and the industry finances. Good data keeping in the Ghanaian timber industry will help to build the required research capacity to develop local familiarity and competence in LCA techniques and applying these techniques will help to further certify tropical timber international markets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-725
JournalThe International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • life-cycle inventory
  • renewable resources
  • lumber production
  • policy
  • wood
  • lca
  • thinking
  • forest
  • needs

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