Administration of local community forest rights in the high forest zone of Ghana: The case of forest fringe communities in Tano-Offin forest reserve, Ashanti Region

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Forest rights and how they are administered constitute a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation. This study examined the administration of statutory local forest community rights against the expectation of forest fringe communities in the high forest zone of Ghana. The study was carried out in the Tano-Offin Forest Reserve in Ashanti Region, a hot spot of deforestation and degradation in the forest zone. A case study approach with qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and analysis was applied. Data was analyzed using SPSS. Eight categories of forest uses and benefits were identified showing substantial and varied uses of the forest reserve by the local people, but they have limited knowledge of the statutory forest rights and access protocols. Overall, 40% to 55% accessed forest uses and benefits across the regimes but as fewer as 19% to 30% were aware of community rights. Yet more people were aware of forest rules (42% to 56%), community responsibilities (23% to 32%) and procedures (22% to 31%) than rights. The people depended on their forebears, government/FC and community for knowledge of forest rights and access protocols. Across the regimes 1% to 9% cited their forebears, 6% to 42% the government/FC and 19% to 39% the community. Only in the Plantation regime that because of MTS forestland cultivation that the people most frequently cited the government/FC otherwise the community was most cited across the regimes. Thus in the absence of a structured awareness creation and education by the FC, knowledge passed on from the forebears and the community has shaped people‟s perceptions and attitudes. The people‟s potentials for collaborative forest management are not fully tapped as they lack formal forest management responsibilities in many respects. To them, the FC is insensitive to their concerns as it pursues forest management principles that exclude their course. They suggested that education on forest rights, improvements in access to forest resources and pragmatic participatory management regime will enhance sustainable management of the reserve. The study recommends a realignment of FC‟s collaborative management to include a pragmatic programme of education on local forest rights and prioritization of local socio-economic aspirations.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Materials Engineering in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE in Environmental Resource Management 2015