Ecotourism resource development: a potential for poverty reduction in the East Akim District of Ghana

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Poverty still affects four billion people throughout the world, of which two billion are living with less than one dollar a day. It is with this dramatic figure in mind that the millennium declaration of the United Nations identified poverty alleviation as one of the most crucial that the international community is facing in the twenty-first century. (WTO,2001) Attractions and activities related to the natural environment provide opportunities for nature and ecotourism, which involves wild life viewing, visits to such special physical features as water falls and caves, controlled fishing and hunting; adventures, such as trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, bird watching, among others. The East Akim district records one of the highest poverty levels in the southern sector of Ghana. Poverty levels remain as high as 40%, even though government efforts at reducing poverty have spread across the boundaries of the district ( EADA, 2002). The Assembly’s revenue sources are inadequate to meet the demands of the people, so it is important to explore alternative avenues for revenue to help reduce poverty in the district. There are reports of a number of untapped ecotourist resources in the district. There is therefore the need to investigate and identify these untapped ecotourist resources and examine how these resources can support poverty reduction in the district. The objective of the study is therefore to identify the potential ecotourism resources in the East Akim district, assess their potential towards poverty reduction ,and to make recommendations for the development and promotion of eco- tourism in the district in a sustainable manner. As part of the methodology, a case study design was adopted. Again, household questionnaires were administered in addition to the use of observational techniques. Data were also gathered from both primary and secondary sources. A sample frame of 3087 was used to represent the labour force(51%) of the sampled communities, while a sample size of 354 was used — representing 95% confidence interval and 5% level of significance. Basically, the three communities were selected, as they provide a fair representative sample of communities with the highest (reported) ecotourism resources in the district. The study was based on extensive literature review on the concepts employed in the study and describes how ecotourism can influence the social, economic, culture and environmental situation in an economy. The benefits and costs and of ecotourism on the lives of the local people and their environment, are addressed. There is also a review of some communitybased ecotourism programmes, both within and outside Ghana. Stakeholder participation, community participation in planning, as well as management of ecotourism has also been touched upon. Major findings of the study include the following; The district experiences high poverty levels , evidenced by; high school drop out rates, low levels of literacy, inadequate socio-economic infrastructure, low income levels and over dependence on the forest for general livelihoods. ii. the study has identified a number of potentially viable ecotourist resources. The most important ones covered by the study include; Waterfalls at Adasaswase (Tini Falls Aponkyea falls, Yaayaa falls, Sintresu falls and Gyaman falls.) Other resources identified include such caves as ; Wompa Caves, Osebobuom Caves, Britwum Caves, and Rock Canopies, one of which is the Nsafuam Canopy, and two Giant Trees, all at Adasawase. Bunso Arboretum is located between Ettukrom and Bunso. Potential contributions of the development of ecotourism resources include mainly; employment generation to local communities, improvement in the socioeconomic infrastructure, increased revenue to District Assembly and conservation of natural resources. Concern is rightly expressed about the negative social, cultural and environmental effects of ecotourism, but active local management, monitoring and regulation can reduce the negative effects, while improving the participation of the communities and improving the distribution of benefits throughout the district.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science Degree in Development Policy and Planning, 2004