BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The disparity between estimates of forest loss is less striking, but still significant, at the global level. Elaine Matthiaws, a NASA scientist, attempted to estimate the world’s initial forest cover based on climatically suited places and compared it to the condition in 1970. She came to the conclusion that the original cover had lost 15% of its value (Cleaver et al, 1992). According to Cleaver, the total area of tropical forest lost each year ranges from 133,000 to 245,000 square kilometers. According to surveys, the rate of deforestation in emerging countries has been increasing. In West Africa, for example, the average annual deforestation rate is 3.7 percent or more (Harrison, 1992).
According to Danso and Opoku (2005), the forest sector’s governance in Ghana has undergone a series of historical adjustments that have increasingly disempowered and denied benefits and rights to one of the sector’s important stakeholders, the fringe communities. The Forest Commission is responsible for ensuring that forests are managed in such a way that they provide “a constant flow of benefits to all segments of society,” according to the Forest and Wildfire Policy (1994). The Forestry Commission’s Resource Management Support Centre’s Collaborative Resource Management Unit (CRMU) was formed.
We have the responsibility of ensuring that all stakeholders in forest management share duties, responsibilities, and benefits. Community Forest Committees (CFCs), NTFP production and management, and the formation of a District Forestry Forum, as well as forest-dependent livelihoods (boundary cleaning, Modified Taungya Systems, and so on) were piloted in most forest zones of Ghana to assure their effectiveness. The FSD’s collaborative Resource Management Unit (CRMU) has released recommendations for forming Community Forest Committees (CFCs). Women’s engagement in forest governance is a prerequisite for overcoming crises, according to the standards, because of their interaction with forest resources. Non-governmental organizations like the Rural Development and Youth Association (RUDEYA) have been tasked with championing its expansion and recognition.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
According to the 2000 Population and Housing Census Report, rural towns are home to 56 percent of the country’s population. Increased demand for forest resources and land for farming activities results from high population growth within forest zones. Forest encroachment, which results in excessive logging of timber and non-timber forest products, as well as bushfires, is a result of the pressure on these two important land use systems. The forest resources base in Ghana is dwindling at an alarming rate. Between 1955 and 1972, almost a third of Ghana’s forest was lost, with an average annual rate of deforestation of 750 square kilometers since the turn of the century. 70% of Ghanaians rely on forest resources for their livelihood, and crises bring hardship for the citizens, the bulk of whom are women (Forest Governance Livelihood Group, 2005). Rural women, who manage natural resources such as water, soil, food, wood, fuel, and land on a daily basis, are the ones who will be affected.
They will likely be severely impacted as a result of their access to non-timber forest products as a source of food and revenue from the forest.
Forest decline has been caused by a number of issues, including a lack of incentives for local forest resource management (by women). Forest-dependent rural women have been excluded from decision-making processes about forest resource management, access to, and benefits from forest resources in order to enhance their livelihoods.
Despite the fact that the 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy emphasizes the need to “promote public awareness and involvement of rural people in forestry and wildlife conservation to maintain life-sustaining systems, preserve scenic areas, and enhance the potential for income generation opportunities,” there is still an insufficient flow of information and collaboration among the numerous forest stakeholders.
Rural women in forest edge settlements (and the wider public) lack the necessary information about the situation, their constitutional rights, and how to exercise those rights to take action. According to Arthur and Brogan, the Forestry Commission has produced a forest service charter and established District Forest Forums (DFFs), community forest committees (CFCs), and customer service centers in select areas as a result of donor pressure. These structures, on the other hand, are kept in the dark about policy developments, the reality of timber allocation, and logging practices, all of which are decided in the corridors of power (Arthur and Brogan, 2005).
Ghana’s forests play a significant role in the country’s socioeconomic development. The forestry industry (which is dominated by the wood industry) is a large industry.
Ghana’s domestic and export profits are key sources of revenue. It is also important for environmental stabilization. Forests sequester carbon, safeguard key watersheds, and prevent siltation and flooding by acting as a refuge for wildlife. However, in recent years, the forestry sector has been subjected to a variety of impacts and pressures, threatening both the long-term viability of timber resources and certain species, as well as the sector’s ability to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development and environmental preservation, with the greatest negative impact on rural women.
According to the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS, 2002), the country’s forest has shrunk from 8.2 million hectares at the turn of the twentieth century to 1.7 million hectares in the twenty-first. To achieve low volume and high value production, continued reliance on forest resources must be based on appropriate management. The Ministry of Lands and Forestry is now conducting a comprehensive ten–year sector investment strategy, the Natural Resource management programme, in partnership with the Ministries of Energy, Environment, Science and Technology, and Local Government and Rural Development. This program aims to increase the incomes of rural people and, in particular, women who own these resources, by protecting, rehabilitating, and sustainably managing the national land, forest, and wildlife resources through joint management. Many women and other forest users are employed in this initiative to develop tree plantations, domesticate forest livelihood possibilities, manage watersheds, and cultivate and process root and tuber crops, all of which are exclusively women’s domains.
Despite all of the problems that women have faced as forest resource managers alongside their male counterparts, there is growing evidence that the extent of women’s engagement in forest administration is unknown or underappreciated. Because the 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy aims to promote community participation in forest management, which includes women, it’s crucial to look into how much women have participated in forest management programs and how their participation has affected their livelihood.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The overall goal of the research is to:
1. Identify and analyze the visions or rationales of Community Forest Committees for women’s participation in forest management.
2. Determine the contribution of women CFCs to sustainable forest management and the impact on their livelihoods.
3. Examine the perspectives of the major stakeholders on the impact of women’s CFCs’ participation in RUDEYA’s forest management project on their livelihoods.
The following research questions guide the objective of the study:
- What is the rationale for women’s CFC’s collaboration/participation in forest management?
- How has the contribution of women CFCs to sustainable forest management impacted their livelihoods?
- What are the major stakeholders’ perspectives on the impact of women’s CFCs’ participation in RUDEYA’s forest management project on their livelihoods?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The findings will add to the current literature on women’s role in forest administration in general, and specifically in the Asunafo District of Ghana’s Brong Ahafo area.
The findings will also help government organizations, including the Forestry Commission, Forest Service Division, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Asunafo District Assembly, and other policymakers, set priorities and formulate strategies to decrease forest degradation.
The study’s findings would also be utilized to draw the attention of stakeholders such as RUDEYA and other like-minded NGOs to good practices in the study region and improvements in women’s livelihoods.
The research will add to the present body of knowledge in this field and will also act as a resource for academics, researchers, and students interested in conducting future research on this or a similar topic.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study scope was to identify and analyze the visions or rationales of Community Forest Committees for women’s participation in forest management. Furthermore, the study would determine the contribution of women CFCs to sustainable forest management and the impact on their livelihoods, and also examine the perspectives of the major stakeholders on the impact of women CFCs’ participation in RUDEYA’s forest management project on their livelihoods. The study scope was limited to the main district capital of the Asunafo North District Ghana.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
A limitation was the lack of adequate financial resources to enable the researchers to capture all of the stakeholders in the study area, as well as the poor condition of some of the roads connecting the forest fringe communities to the Asunafo North District’s main district capital, which made accessibility extremely difficult.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Perception: personal indications and opinions regarding some things, and meaning put in one’s own way. perceptions, opinions, and attitudes all have the same meaning in this study.
Perceived impact: the degree to which women CFCs or stakeholders regard RUDEYA’s interventions as having improved or retarded any aspect of their livelihood.
Community forest committee: a community-based group formed and trained to assist in forest management. This is a concept of the Forestry Commission to ensure the involvement of local people in sustainable forest resource management.
Non-timber forest products: These are forest livelihood options that farmers try to domesticate for income generation and nutritional purposes, such as snails, grasscutter, and mushrooms, etc.
Livelihood: Assets, activities, and access that determine the living gained by individuals or households.