The role of Agroforestry in the development activities of selected women’s self-help groups in the Ashanti Region

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In Ghana self-help groups which have cottage industries continue to play an important role in the life’s of rural women. However regular supplies of fuelwood to these cottage industries tend to be taken for granted. A study of the rural cottage industries of some selected self-help groups in the Ashanti region was undertaken in order to understand the socio—economic implications of the recent awareness of declining fuelwood- supplies. The study sought to establish how best the various agroforestry practices and technologies can be introduced and adapted to suit the socio-economic structure of women’s self- help groups, especially those engaged in rural cottage industries that require the use of fuelwood. The main objective of the study was to find out the role agroforestry could play in the development activities of these women’s self-help groups. This was done by examining their socioeconomic structure especially the way they organise their group activities. They were asked about their sources of fuelwood and the types of species normally used as fuelwood. The study also included a look at their awareness of agroforestry and tree planting and the potential for the adoption of agroforestry technologies. The groups have well organised structures around which their activities are centred. The generation of income is the main reason the groups engage in their economic activities. Activities are organised on weekly basis to ensure the sustainability of their projects. Markets for their products exist both inside and outside their localities. Group leaders are selected from members who voluntarily opt for leadership positions. Group membership is between 20 and 110 women with ages ranging from 25 years to a little over 50 years. Participation in activities by members is good even though there are few members who do not take an active part in the group’s activities. The women’s self-help groups are already experiencing some problems in obtaining fuelwood for their cottage industries. They sometimes have to supplement with waste products from their cottage industries. Fuelwood utilization has changed as they no longer use the preferred species of fuelwood but any type that is readily available, and this includes species that are not normally considered suitable as fuelwood Fuelwood was obtained mainly from farms, uncleared vegetation, backyards and other villages. In recent times fuelwood is purchased from sawmills, chainsaw operators and fuelwood contractors. The groups face more shortages during the rainy season. All the groups were aware of the benefits of tree planting but awareness of agroforestry is low. However they have a positive attitude towards the introduction of trees into their production systems. The self-help groups were able to identify potential niches in their activities for the introduction of agroforestry technologies.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Philosophy in Agroforestry, 1997