The effects of poverty on environmental sustainability: the case study of the Kassena-Nankana West District, Upper East Region

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Poverty and environment nexus has been dominated by two schools of thought. The orthodox view suggests that poor people are forced to degrade landscape in response to population growth and economic marginalization. Hence of the view that poverty and environmental damage occur in a downward spiral in which it is assumed that the only way to avoid environmental degradation is to alleviate poverty. However, recent views argue that many poor people are able to adopt protective mechanisms through collective action which reduce the impacts of environmental change. The Kassena-Nankana West District (KNWD is one of the worst degraded districts of the Upper East region with a high incidence of poverty. This study therefore examined the impact of poverty on the savannah forest in the KNWD of the Upper East Region of Ghana. FGDs and questionnaires were used to collect qualitative and quantitative data respectively. 370 households were selected at random from four communities in the District as respondents for the quantitative data. Both SPSS and Excel software were used to analyse the quantitative data while content analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data. Results from the study indicate that a total of 95.4% of respondents are either extremely poor or poor. Moreover, results indicated that the very poor, that is those who earn less than GH₵100 a month and those without formal education depend on the environment as a source of livelihood. Their activities included the production of charcoal and fuel wood from the forest reserve in the district. These activities have direct impact on the environment causing deforestation, forest degradation and fragmentation. The study therefore recommends that the KNWD, government agencies and NGOs should design and implement projects and programmes geared towards the reduction of poverty and should also build the capacities of heads of households to engage in alternative livelihood activities to supplement household’s income from farming.
A thesis submitted to the Department Of Geography and Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Philosophy.