The role of African traditional practices in sustainable forest management and conservation: A case study of the Malshegu Sacred Grove in the Northern Region of Ghana.

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November, 2015
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Forest resources of Ghana are very vital for the country’s sustainable development and several forestry initiatives have been executed to improve governance in the sector. Traditional forest management approach such as the protection of traditional areas (sacred groves, trees species and non-forest products) in Ghana aims at achieving effective management and sustainability of natural resources, especially off reserves that falls under traditional communities. The study aimed at investigating the contribution of African Traditional Practices (ATPs) in forest management and conservation. The bond between traditional practices in forest management of the study area and a set of socio-demographic characteristics were analyzed. The effectiveness of traditional practices, reasons for adherence to these practices and the challenges faced in traditional forest management were also identified. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques were used to collect data from the community. A total sample of 105 respondents comprising 94 household individuals, 8 traditional authorities, the Gundana (land/forest chief) and 2 officials (each from EPA and FSD) were interviewed. Data analysis were done using mainly descriptive statistics such as frequency, percentages and the pairwise ranking method (was used to determine the effectiveness of the traditional practices). The result revealed that 73% of the respondents agreed that traditional practices were effective in protecting the sacred grove, 15% disagreed and 13% neither agreed nor disagreed to the assertion. Some of the perceptions revealed from the study showed the contributions of traditional practices to forest management and conservation included; the sustainable conservation of the Malshegu sacred grove as a cultural heritage to the people and the chieftaincy system of Dagomba and adherence to traditional practices as a sign of respect to the gods (resulting in bumper harvest and blessings). Furthermore, the study results showed that only men participated in forest management decisions and related activities. The results also indicated that 28% of the respondents participated in management decisions or meetings, 16% had access only to the sacred grove whiles only 12% had both access and control (direct managers) over it and this category included the Chief, the Gundana (land/forest chief) and the chief/fetish priest. The main policy implication drawn from the findings are that resource managers and policy makers need to be sensitive to create more practical integrated management approach or policies to ensure meaningful participation from forest-dependent communities. The success of this approach relies heavily on a positive relationship between forest-dependent communities and resource managers. In designing participatory integrated management approach, differences in socio-demographic variables (gender and age) and capacity building interventions should be considered by resource managers to ensure extensive grass-root participation. The study concludes that traditional practices can still play key role in forest management and conservation if integrated into modern forest management policies given the fact that these practices have stood the test of time. However, poor interest in traditional practices (amongst the youth) due to the stigmatization from the influx of Islam and Christianity and low grass-root participation (because of gender and age biasness) in traditional forest resource management are major lapses or challenges which have limited adherence and control of traditional leaders over their subjects and hence negative implications on the sustainability of forest resources in Ghana especially traditional community forests.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Silviculture and Forest Management, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in (Natural Resource and Environmental Governance).