Participatory forest resource management for District development - a case study of the Assin-Fosu District

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After several decades of excluding communities from the decisions concerning their local environments and the economic benefits derived from their exploitation, forestry institutions at the International and National levels have come to realise the need for involving local populations in protecting and managing forest resources. In developing countries around the world where participatory management practices have been introduced, rural communities have shown willingness and potential to collaborate in forest management, mainly because the conditions of the surrounding forests are closely related to their livelihoods. However, under the harsh economic conditions affecting especially the rural areas, local populations find difficulties in allocating their limited resources for forest management, when the same resources have to be allocated to other activities such as agriculture, cattle rearing or trade upon which their livelihoods depend. Therefore, in order to promote involvement of communities in forest management, it becomes necessary to create a situation where their participation derives substantial economic benefits to sustain or significantly complement their livelihoods. This research focuses on a study area within the High Forest Zone of Ghana, where pilot projects for participatory forest management are carried out. Discussions held with the community members directly involved in the projects, showed that although there is a desire by the communities to manage the forest resource, lack of financial benefits derived from such activities is a serious disincentive for participation. Although timber plantations can generate substantial revenue for local populations in the long term, income needs in the immediate and short term must be satisfied. Therefore, within a participatory forest management scheme, plantation of timber species should be complemented with the production and commercialisation of non- timber forest products and other small-scale forest-based enterprises, which in the course of this work are referred to as “livelihood projects”. There is awareness from the local population on what activities should be undertaken under the “livelihood projects”. However, institutional constraints limit the technical, managerial and financial support available to the projects. The Collaborative Forest Management Unit (CFMU), which is the body responsible for the promotion and operationalisation of the Participatory Forest Management Program in Ghana, limits its participation to the provision of technical support related to forestry. The research shows the different areas and kind of support that the study site projects require in order to operate on sustainable basis. The proposed interventions focus on the institutional, economic, organisational, human and physical conditions, and place emphasis on the role that the CFMU can play in providing integrated solutions to the projects by providing the technical support related to the livelihood projects, and facilitating access to further support by linking the projects with other relevant institutions. Making these pilot projects a success story will be essential for the CFMU to implement Participatory Forest Management Programs at a broader level.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Science degree in Development Planning and Management, 2001