The role of women groups in Agroforestry systems development in Ghana

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Women, especially those in the rural setting of Ghana, have often been accused of being part of the problem of environmental degradation. However, it is rather the rural women who are most affected by the global problem of deforestation. They are therefore very important to consider in prescribing solutions to the problem. Studies show that, women groups such as the Chipko Movement in India, Green Belt Movement in Kenya, Leaf Gatherers of Kwapanin in Ghana and many others have championed environmental conservation efforts. The 31 St December Women’s Movement (31St DWM), one of such groups in Ghana was therefore used as a case study in the present study. This is because the group’s activities are community-based which include afforestation programmes among others, involving a large number of women. The objectives of this study were 1) To examine the structure of the 31st DWM with particular reference to its aims and objectives in the sustainable use of natural resources; 2) To assess the social status of the women and how it relates to their ability to carry out the aim of the 31st DWM with regard to (he environment; 3) To identify the land-use problems that have been prioritised and addressed by the movement in line with their environmental policies;. 4) To identify the sustainable land-use practices/activities of the movement; and 5) To evaluate the impact of its activities on the communities involved. The methodology used in data collection involved the use of structured questionnaires and interview schedules. About 150 registered members of the movement and 15 District Coordinators participated in the survey. The data obtained were statistically analysed and the results revealed the following:  Members of the 31st DWM use a number of agroforestry technologies and the benefits are substantial to the communities.  The women involved have low socio- economic status and that they derive a lot of benefits (personal and environmental) from the tree planting ventures of the group.  Some of the activities that have shown positive impact include; gathering fuel wood from woodlots that the women themselves planted, thereby, helping to avert deforestation. The problem of erosion has also been reduced considerably due to the tree planting activities. Personal benefits include income support to some extent for the family and financial independence of the woman.  On the structure and function, it was observed that, the 31st DWM has a network of members, who are strategically placed within the 3 ecological zones. A social hierarchy also exists within the group, which encourages individual members to be responsive to the rules laid-down by the group. It could therefore be concluded that the 31st DWM afforestation project is contributing immensely to the realisation of the National Agroforestry Policy objectives by establishing and raising tree nurseries and seedlings respectively, which are incorporated into the agroforestry systems nation-wide. It is recommended that women engaged in projects of this nature be given adequate training on the basic principles of agroforestry so that they can then serve as trainers and facilitators among their peers.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Master of Science, 2002