Prospects and challenges of small and medium forest enterprises in local development. A case of Sunyani West District in the Brong Ahafo Region.

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The informal sub-sector is characterized by small and medium forest enterprises (SMFEs) broadly covering wood forest products, non-wood forest products and forest services. These SMFEs have been largely left out in forest planning and management even though they represent the main, additional or alternative income source for about three million people in Ghana. Broadly, SMFEs in Ghana are known to have less than 30 employees, source: (Daily Graphic of Friday, March 19, 2010) Also, evidence has shown that SMFEs contribute to more than 50 percent of forest employment in some countries, and also comprise 80-90 percent of all forest-related enterprises in many countries (Mayers, 2007). Despite the potential contribution of SMFEs to local development, there are set of challenges they face, as opposed to non-forest SMEs are complex. Primary, security of tenure is a large concern, most especially when one SMFE cannot assert its right to the forest and natural resources with competitors. However, SMFEs, depending on national policies and local practice can be in better positions than large forest enterprises to address local forest-dependent poverty and development (Macqueen, 2008, 4). SMFEs accumulate wealth locally, support local entrepreneurship, and secure natural resource rights and access for the local communities. However, SMFEs have become synonymous with unregulated logging and illegal harvesting, due in large part to ill-fitting legal frameworks (Karsenty et al, 2008, 1507). This study seeks to analyse the prospects and challenges of SMFEs in local development in the Sunyani West District. Based on this premise, the study sought to find answers to the following research questions. 1. What are the various types of SMFEs in Sunyani West? 2. What is the mode of operation of SMFEs in Sunyani West District? 3. What are the contributions of Forest Enterprises to the development of the Sunyani West District? 4. What are the challenges hindering SMFEs to the sustainability of Forests in Sunyani West District. The study followed three main steps: Desk study to review both primary and secondary data, Field survey, and Analysis and Synthesis of field data. Data were collected from both primary and secondary data. The analysis revealed the following findings. Ninety (90) Percent of SMFEs had not registered their businesses, majority of them, about (50%) evade taxes, and also (19%) of the respondents have little or no knowledge about the regulatory frameworks of SMFEs. In response to these findings, the following recommendations were made: thus, the need to develop a data base on all activities of SMFEs to obtain vital statistics in order to regularize their activities and to support their operations, strengthening the institutions such as FSD, GWD, and TIDD to monitor the activities of the SMFEs in the district, and to impose fines where appropriate, and the need for the institutions involved in forest resource management to embark on vigorous radio programmes to broadcast information on the laws governing forest resources.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a degree Master of Science on June, 2011.