Sustainable non-timber forest resource management and household poverty reduction: a case study of Asenanyo River Forest Reserve of Nkawie Forest District

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High on international agenda is the issue of environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. Its importance is revealed in the fact that it has been captured and given prominence in the Millennium Development Goals. Among others, the millennium development goals are designed at ensuring environmental sustainability and eradication of poverty and hunger by 2015. These are to be achieved by the integration of the principles of sustainable development into national policies and programmes in a bid to reverse the loss of environmental resources. To reduce global poverty, the millennium agenda aims at reducing poverty and the people who suffer from hunger in the next ten years. These two millennium goals; environmental sustainability and poverty reduction among others are imperatives to local, national and international development. In Ghana, forest fringe communities are beset with a high incidence of poverty and this has consequent effects on forest reserves and hence Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). Forest fringe communities therefore either pose as a threat to sustainability of reserved forest or become victims of poverty due to population explosion, fragile micro economies, and continuous land fragmentation. In the light of the foregoing, global attempts at environmental sustainability and poverty reduction might not be realized if it is not viewed also hi the context of forest fringe communities. This is because fringe communities fall on NTFPs for a continuum of uses. This is so also because off-reserve resources have seriously dwindled over the years. Thus fringe communities are compelled to enter forest reserves to harvest forest resources especially NTFPs for their survival. The challenge is how sustainable is harvesting practices of fringe communities and how can forest reserve entry be managed in a manner that will safeguard forest reserves without compromising household welfare. The foregoing sets the basis for this study which is geared at analyzing the underlying causes of encroachment of forest reserves; identifying problems in forest reserve management and to discover the contribution of NTFPs to household income. The study is directed at on-reserve forest management of NTFPs on the Asenanyo River Forest Reserve in the Nkawie Forest District. To arrive at the set objectives, the study adopted a case study approach to fact finding. Under the case study approach, proportional stratified sampling derived from probability sampling and simple random sampling was applied to households using structured questionnaire in four fringe communities. Focus group discussion and key informant interviews were also used for community and institutional surveys in the forestry and wildlife departments of the Forestry Commission respectively. Using the case study approach and supporting statistical data collection instruments the study revealed striking findings. The major findings of the study include small land holdings, weak forest management practices, seasonality of poverty and fragile economic activities and the non involvement of forest communities in forest policy and management formulation as the causes of forest entry. In relation to the contribution of NTFPs to income the study revealed that up to 17 percent of income is generated from NTFP related activities. In the light of the findings the study recommends that royalties be equitably utilized to benefit poor fringe communities, a diversification of the rural economy, enhanced institutional processes and policy reviews as well as the involvement of fringe communities in the management of forest reserves. The way to go therefore is for all stakehblders to be involved and have the will to take right decisions for the benefit of all.
A Thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Development Policy and Planning, 2005