Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 503–518 | Cite as

Involving local farmers in rehabilitation of degraded tropical forests: some lessons from Ghana

  • Dominic Blay
  • Mark Appiah
  • Lawrence Damnyag
  • Francis K. Dwomoh
  • Olavi Luukkanen
  • Ari Pappinen
Original Paper


The role of community-based plantation development in forest rehabilitation and poverty alleviation is a pressing issue for the government of Ghana. In this paper, we present an analysis of the prospects of a community-based plantation using taungya systems and indigenous trees as means to forest rehabilitation and livelihood improvement in Ghana. The project management strategies, communication process and incentive mechanism and their impact on local participation are discussed with the aim to recommending a mechanism through which local farmers can best be involved in rehabilitation of degraded sites in the future in Ghana. Data were collected through a survey using personal interviews of 431 farming households and ten key informants from ten communities living in scattered hamlets in and around forests reserves. The results show a high rate of local participation in project tree planting activities. Four years after the project’s initiation, about 250 ha of plantations had been established using twelve priority indigenous and one exotic species and farmers had indicated improvement in their farming practices and availability of food and forest products. Restoring forest quality as a timber resource and associated values, getting money, food stuff and timber and non-timber for domestic use, and having access to fertile land for farming were the top three issues prioritised by respondents as motivational factors for engaging in the project activities. Overall, this project demonstrates that reversing tropical forest degradation is possible. For this we need local involvement in tree domestication combined with activities that addresses livelihood needs and environmental concerns. This case also demonstrates the prospects of utilising indigenous tree species, not only exotic species that dominated tree planting in the past, for plantations and landscape rehabilitation in Ghana.


Community-based forest rehabilitation Ghana Incentive mechanism Modified taungya system Priority Indigenous tree species Participation 

1 Introduction

1.1 Forest degradation in Ghana and remedial measures

Most of Ghana’s 238,500 km2 is savanna (56%) or closed forest (35%). All the vegetation types in Ghana, except for those comprising the savanna, are considered tropical forests and located in the southern third of the country. These forests play a very important role supporting the livelihood of 21 million inhabitants, particularly the rural communities. However, the combined effect of over-exploitation of forest resources, unsustainable farming practices, logging, wildland fires and mining activities have significantly reduced the forest area and degraded nearly 32% of the reserved forest and over 70% of forests outside reserves (Ministry of Lands and Forestry, 1996; Dykstra, Kowero, Ofosu-Asiedu, & Kio, 1996).

The average density of many valuable indigenous trees species is now low in these forests and some are sometimes less than one commercial tree per ten hectares in the “primary” forests (Lamprecht, 1989). Continued forest loss at a current annual rate of 1.7% (FAO, 2000) threatens the existence of these indigenous tree species and associated biodiversity through not only habitat loss, but also the potential lack of gene flow because of fragmentation (Novick et al., 2003). Forest loss is also affecting the livelihoods and the environment of particularly the rural poor in different ways including shortages of firewood, shortages of non-timber forest products, and accelerated soil erosion (Stoorvogel & Smaling, 1990) which affects agricultural productivity (Abeney & Owusu, 1999). For these reasons, sustaining the diversity of the indigenous tree species and the value of the natural forests is a matter of increasing concern not only for Ghana, but for the entire West African region. This has led to attention focusing on the rehabilitation of the forest, particularly the degraded areas, with the involvement of local people.

Nowadays there is increasing attention for local community-based forest rehabilitation as an innovative response for meeting the conflicting goals of livelihood improvement and sustainable forest management (Ministry of Lands and Forestry, 1994; Chamshama and Nduwayezu, 2003; Castrén, 2005). Such community-based rehabilitation activities have often included the promotion of the establishment of plantations (e.g. Evans, 1992; Siaw, 2001; Yirdaw, 2002), and the introduction of sustainable farming systems where trees are grown together with crops (e.g. Prah, 1997; Appiah, 2001; Franzel and Scherr, 2002; Appiah, 2003) in order to reduce pressure on forests and avoid further degradation of forests. However, despite the increasing rehabilitation initiatives involving local communities only few of such initiatives can boast of being highly successful (Appiah, 2001; World Bank, 2002), because of the lack of local peoples’ commitment which is a result of poor partnership approaches (Brown, 2003), or the absent or poorly utilised incentives (Brown, 2002), or a mismatch about the perception of priority needs or benefits between project initiators and the local communities or a combination of any of these.

In this paper, we present an analysis of the prospect of a community-based plantation project initiated by the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) using taungya systems (an agroforestry system which combines production of forestry tree crops and agricultural crops during the early years of establishment of forestry plantation (Nair, 1989; Schlönvoigt and Beer, 2001)) and priority indigenous trees as a means to forest rehabilitation and livelihood improvement in Ghana. The project management strategies, communication processes and incentive mechanisms and their impact on local participation are discussed. The aim is to recommend a mechanism through which local farmers can best be involved in rehabilitation of degraded sites in the future in Ghana. This study began with the assumption that the use of appropriate partnership approaches and incentive mechanism based on local perception provides the enabling conditions for successful and long-term local engagement in forest rehabilitation programmes.

1.2 Case study: community-based forest rehabilitation project in Ghana

In 2000, a project was initiated by the FORIG and supported financially by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and partly by the Government of Ghana under the theme “rehabilitation of degraded forests with collaboration of local communities (PD 30/97 Rev 6 (F))”. This project provides a case study of collaborative forest rehabilitation through the promotion of plantation development within and outside forest reserves using indigenous tree species in a modified taungya system (MTS).

Under the MTS, farmers were given land to grow annual agricultural crops along with forestry species during the early years of the plantation establishment. Food crops, especially annuals such as plantain, cocoyam and vegetables, were interplanted with determined priority tree species. The food crops were normally cultivated for three years, after which crop growth is impeded by the shade from the trees. Farmers are essentially the owners of forest plantation products, with the Forestry Commission, landowners and forest-adjacent communities as partners. All participants in the MTS are eligible for a share of the benefits accruing from the plantation. An equitable benefit-sharing framework is based on the contributions of the participants: farmers are to carry out most of the labour, including pruning, maintenance and tending; the Forestry Commission is expected to contribute technical expertise, train farmers to carry out their functions efficiently, supply equipment and tools, and be responsible for stock inventory and auctioning or marketing of products; the landowners (i.e. traditional authorities) are to contribute land; and the forest-adjacent communities are to provide support services in the form of protection of the investment from fire and encroachment.

The taungya system (TS) (originally developed in colonial British India in the late 1,800 s) first started in Ghana in the 1960s, and much of the plantation establishment in Ghana was planned through this system in those forest reserves that had poor stocking (FAO/UNEP, 1981). Both indigenous and exotic species were planted. However, the TS was unsuccessful as a means of conversion from natural forest management to tree plantation management, as conflicting interests between food crop production and tree growing developed. Another factor contributing to the failure of the system was the fact that, unlike the MTS, the Forestry Commission was the owner of plantations established through the TS, and only land owners, not farmers, received benefits from the tree crops. Consequently, in 1987, the TS was officially stopped, partly for the above reasons and partly to give way to rehabilitation of failed areas (Prah, 1994). Rapid depletion and degradation of the forest resources has led to reintroduction of the TS with some modifications as described above.

2 Methodology

2.1 The study area

The study was undertaken in three forest districts namely, Dormaa (Pamu-Berekum Forest Reserve) in the dry semi-deciduous forest (DS) ecological zone, Offinso (Afrensu-Brohuma Forest Reserve) in the dry semi-deciduous fire zone (DSFZ) subtype forest ecological zone and Begoro (Southern Scarp Forest Reserve) in the moist semi-deciduous southeast (MSSE) forest subtype covering the ITTO-funded Project sites. The above forest zones lies between latitudes 4°3″ and latitude 8° in the southern part of Ghana (Fig. 1). The mean annual rainfall in these forest areas ranges between 1,250 and 1,500 mm. The mean daily temperature ranges from about 25°C in the wet season (March–October) and about 27°C during the dry season (November–February). The forests in the project areas are considered as tropical forests (Wagner and Cobbinah, 1993) and generally show a high species diversity, generally low content of soil nutrients, multiple canopy layers, and slow growth rates for mature forests. Hall and Swaine (1981) reported over 2,100 plant species in these areas of Ghana. According to Hawthorne (1989), a total of 730 tree species have been recorded in these forests, of which 680 attained a dimension of 5 cm or more at breast height with heights reaching between 10 and 40 m. Some emergent trees even reach 60 m in height. The comparatively drier southern marginal forest like the Pamu-Berekum forest reserve in the Dormaa forest district and Afrensu-Brohuma Forest Reserve are species-poor while the Southern Scarp Forest reserve in a moist semi-deciduous forest zones in Begoro forest district is one of the most important for commercial timber species (Prah, 1994).
Fig. 1

Map of Ghana showing the study sites. DS dry-semi-deciduous forest zone, DSFZ dry semi-deciduous fire zone forest type, MSSE moist semi-deciduous southeast forest type, BAR Brong Ahafo region, ASR Ashanti region, ER Eastern region

The selected project sites represent the few areas in Ghana where the government, international organizations, private individuals and local communities are acting together as stakeholders in forest rehabilitation, resources conservation and management. For the local people in the Dormaa, Begroro and Offinso forest districts, farming was a way of life and represents their primary source of food, income, and security. But many of the rural households either lack any access to land or a secure stake in the land they farm. Consequently, high levels of forest degradation persist in these areas. Furthermore, the forests in the area have been subjected to heavy timber exploitation (Hall and Swaine, 1981) raising concern for rehabilitation.

2.2 Data collection and analysis

Data were obtained between December 2004 and February 2005 (the period of the farming season in the area, when land preparation and planting activities had declined and it was easy for farmers to allocate time for the interviews) using three lines of evidence, namely review of literature, direct observation in the field and interviews with resident project farmers and key informants.

Relevant literature such as the Project Progress Report, and conference documents, and Ghana’s forest policy were critically reviewed for information on the subject under investigation.

Data were mainly collected through a survey using personal interviews from two samples. The first sample consisted of 431 farming household in total who were engaged in the ITTO-sponsored rehabilitation project. The size of the sample represented 14% of farmers in the targeted ten communities living in scattered hamlets in and around forests reserves. From a list of households participating in the project, 143, 143, and 145 farming households (a mean of 143.6 households at the 95% confidence level) were randomly selected from each of the three forest district in Dormaa, Offinso, and Begoro, respectively (Fig. 1). A household was defined as the basic farming unit comprising husband, wife and children. The average household size of respondents was 6.7 (standard deviation (STD) = 4.73). The majority of the farmers (average age 42.24, STD = 13.03) were between 16 and 40 years old, with a very small minority between 81 and 90 years. In many cases the selected household heads were male (n = 388) and 10% (n = 43) were females, who were either widows or divorced. Group interviews were also arranged involving the sub-chiefs (community heads) and their local residents to discuss some general issues.

The second sample consisted of 30 ‘key informants’ (ten from each District) whose selection was guided by the Project co-ordinator determined at the project inception workshop. They were people anticipated to have particular insight or opinion about the subject under investigation. The key informants included three staff members of the project, the Chief of the Traditional Council, the Head of the District Assembly, District heads of the Forestry Department and farmer groups’ leaders.

The interviews were conducted in the local dialect (Twi) of the farmers using pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire and responses were immediately recorded in the spaces created in the questionnaire during the interviews. Information solicited included: (1) information on household background i.e. income, age, education, household size information, farming practices, (2) issues on the determinants for participation in replanting of tree i.e. use of preferred tree species, Project incentives and benefits, management strategies, consultation process and other project practices, (3) farmers willingness to sustain participation in the project activities and lastly (4) opinions on other issues such as land tenure. Questionnaire responses most relevant to the objectives of this paper are presented. Descriptive (mean, standard deviations etc) statistics were used to analyse the data.

3 Results

3.1 Analysis of project goals and implementation approach

It was clear from the project documents and from the interview with project initiators that the project aimed at rehabilitation of degraded forest areas within and outside forest reserves by promoting the establishment of plantations. This was done through sustainable tree-based farming (taungya) systems with the collaboration of local communities as well as introduce income generating activities such as grasscutter rearing to improve the basic living conditions for the local people and to reduce pressure on the fast degrading forest resources.

Respondents, farmers and key informants were asked about how the initial information about the project was communicated to local communities and the general process of consultation. Their responses indicated that the project organised a series of pre-workshop meetings with the community heads (chiefs and elders), district assembly officials, local community-based forestry organisations and farmer groups basing the discussions on indigenous knowledge and local people’s experiences in farming and land management. Further, development education workshops were frequently organised and this formed the core of consultation and awareness creation campaigns. This provided the forum for explaining the project concept, the opportunities, modalities, and expected roles and responsibilities of the various participants and how the project activities could contribute to raising living standards. The meetings and workshops provided the opportunity for determining local priority tree species that were utilised in the plantation establishment.

Communication with the local communities continued at different times and levels, through informal visits to farmers’ farms or homes by the project team. The local people were also represented by their elected members on the project steering committee, enabling the local community to participate in determining the goals and direction of the project and more importantly presenting their priorities.

Questionnaire participants listed the following significant commitments from the Project:
  1. 1.

    Provision of free farming land until such a time that crops can not be grown on the land due to tree canopy cover.

  2. 2.

    Distribution of free seedlings to farmers at the initial stages of project introduction. By the end of 2004 satellite nurseries had been established to raise tree seedlings of thirteen tree species in all the ten project participating communities.

  3. 3.

    Provision of training to farmers for the establishment and management of tree nurseries

  4. 4.

    The Forestry Commission to co-operate fully with the introduction of the cultivation of priority tree species through extension services.

  5. 5.

    Provision of livelihood alternatives to local people by training them in grass cutter rearing and bee keeping.

  6. 6.

    Provision of working tools (Wellington boots, cutlasses, wheelbarrows etc.) and annual token allowances to defray some of farmers labour cost.


3.2 Willingness of local farmers to engage in forest rehabilitation

The most important achievement in the short life of the project is the overwhelming support it has enjoyed from the Chiefs and the people. This is demonstrated by the fact that about 70% of the people in the ten communities have planted trees and the majority of those who have not taken part expressed interest in doing so or were engaged in similar, but Ghana government initiated, plantation projects. The Project managers have documented a visible reduction in new farm clearings within and outside the forest reserves in 2004 compared to 2001 (Luukkanen, 2006).

Respondents were asked about their tree planting activities and willingness to maintain their support for the project activities. Their responses (100%) indicated that all the farmers interviewed were very interested in taking part in the rehabilitation programme and were keen to maintain their support for the programme in future. Analysing the data on tree planting activities, it was realised that by the time of the interview a total 250 ha of forest plantations had been established in degraded forest areas through the MTS using a mixture of 13 priority tree species that were determined in consultation with local farmers. The species included one exotic (Cedrela odorata) and twelve indigenous (Albizia zygia, Alstonia boonei, Aningeria robusta, Entandrophragma angolense, E. utile, Khaya antotheca, K. ivorensis, Nauclea diderrichii, Pericopsis elata, Ceiba pentandra, Terminalia ivorensis and T. superba) tree species (Table 1) that were planted together with traditional crops such as plantain, cocoyam, maize and vegetables.
Table 1

Priority tree species and their corresponding families and value as perceived by the farmers in Ghana (n = 431)




Traditional uses

Khaya ivorensis



Medicinal (fever, treating sexual weakness in male), timber for construction etc., shade on farm

Ceiba pentandra



Shade on farm, source of fibre, medicinal purpose, soil enrichment, favourable crop interaction

Aningeria robusta




Entandrophragma angolense



Shade on farm, timber, crafts (mortars, etc)

Entandrophragma utile



Timber, crafts (mortars, canoes etc)

Khaya antotheca



Timber, crafts (mortars)

Pericopsis elata



Timber, building of canoes

Nauclea diderrichii



Timber, crafts (traditional drums, mortars) bridges, telephone and electricity poles

Albizia zygia



Timber, shade tree on farms, Nitrogen-fixing, medicinal (aphrodisiac, appetizer)

Alstonia boonei



Timber medicinal (anthelmintic, asthma etc), crafts (traditional drums, stools, spoons, bowls etc)

Terminalia ivorensis



Shade on farm, timber, crafts (mortars, canoes), building of light bridges

Cedrela odorata (exotic)



Poles, building construction, energy (firewood), timber

The level of preference/usefulness is indicated by += useful, ++= very useful

3.3 Estimated farmers cost for supporting tree-based systems

The questionnaire survey showed that farmers were directly involved in the land preparation, management of nursery, planting and nurturing and maintenance of the trees together with crops. When farmers were asked about their views on the cost incurred for participating, it was shown that an average small scale peasant farmer with land holding ranging between 625 m2 and 5,000 m2 will use, as of 2004, between about one million and four million Ghanaian cedis for land preparation, tree planting and maintenance over a four year period (Table 2). It was noted that costs depended on species of crop cultivated and the kind of fertilization or pest and diseases protections that were used. The participants from Dormaa and Begoro Districts were mostly maize and plantain farmers and had little or no input of mineral fertilizer as distinct from the tomato farmers in the Offinso District, who used fertilizer and pesticide.
Table 2

The average initial cost incurred by farmers in plantation establishment in Ghana using the modified taungya system (MTS) (1USdollar = 9,000 cedis(¢)rate at 2004 August)

Farming Community

Farming activities

Unit cost/area

Total cost (¢)

Twumkrom, Dormaa district

Land clearing and preparation for sowing

280,000¢/5000 m2


Planting materials (suckers, crop seeds)


Nursery development and maintenance


Pegging and planting (crop, tree seedlings)


Weeding and maintenance




Olantan, Begoro district

Land clearing & preparation for sowing

270,000¢/625 m2


Planting materials (suckers, crop seeds)


Nursery development and maintenance


Pegging and Planting (crop, tree seedlings)


Weeding and maintenance




Binita, Offinso district

Land clearing & preparation for sowing

234,400¢/4050 m2


Planting materials (suckers, crop seeds)


Nursery development and maintenance


Pegging and planting (crop, tree seedlings)


Weeding and maintenance




Cost of land acquisition and tree seeds are excluded as they were provided free of-charge by the project. The cost incurred over 4-year period

3.4 Expectation of local communities for their inputs into forest rehabilitation

When respondents were asked about the basis for their willingness to make input into forest rehabilitation, it was clear that regaining natural forest/restored forest resources (45.9% of responses), getting money, food stuff and timber for domestic work (26.7% of responses), and having access to fertile land for farming (13.2% responses) were the top three issues prioritised by respondents. Thus, for the majority of the farmers the development of plantations through the MTS on degraded community lands is one way to achieve land rehabilitation and restoration of forest services as well as a means to secured income, food and agricultural land. Other expectations mentioned by 6.6% of the farmers were the fact that they wanted to diversify risk by engaging in the project activities. A significantly fewer number of farmers mentioned other expectations as farming tools, sharing in the benefits of trees at maturity, employment opportunities, and contribution to Ghana’ economy (Table 3).
Table 3

Farmers expectations for their input in degraded forest rehabilitation in Ghana (n = 431)

Motivational factors


1. Restore forest resources and associated values


2. Source of income, food stuff and timber


3. Access to fertile land for farming


4. Diversifying income an forest products sources


5. Incentives such as boots, cutlasses


6. Promised share in benefit of planted trees


7. Opportunity to be employed


8. Contribute to the improvement of Ghana’s economy




3.5 Immediate priority needs of local farmers for their inputs in forest rehabilitation

Asking about farmers immediate needs, the responses from 83% of the farmers interviewed indicated a need of foodstuff and forest products. The rest (17%) mentioned among other needs money, guarantee to land for farming and to planted trees. Analysing the data gathered on farmers perceived immediate benefits from the Project, it can be said that for about 72% of the respondents, access to fertile land through the MTS was considered a significant benefit (Table 4), significantly higher than the other benefits mentioned such as the benefit of money received in the form of allowances (9.8%), restored productivity of degraded lands (7.3%), improved accessed to forest and food products (8.7%) and improved living standards on the whole (2%).
Table 4

Local communities’ perceptions of Project benefits (n = 431)



1. Enabled access to farming lands


2. Money and allowances received, support for school fees


3. Allowed degraded lands to be reclaimed/revived


4. Forest tree products and foodstuff from Agroforestry


5. Improved living standards




4 Discussions

4.1 Empowering local communities through people-centered participation

For forest rehabilitation projects to be successful the involvement of motivated local communities is inevitable. Their participation is considered as one of the most essential principles in such local level development projects (OECD, 1985). However, despite this knowledge, local people are still in many cases not actively or genuinely involve in development projects in the sense that project initiators remain the main decision makers and literally give advice to farmers on what to do (Borrini-Feyerabend, 1996). This attitude has proved over and over again to have resulted in project failure and unsuccessful partnerships in forest management (Fisher, 1995). But this current project has shown that when real decision-making roles are devolved to local people and they have the feeling of shared responsibility, they are likely to foster sound environmental management. This reinforces the view of Zooneveld (2001), who studied participation in local government, and Appiah (2001) who studied local participation in forest management, that participation of individuals are higher if they felt they had shared control over development initiatives.

Participation is, in essence, the empowerment of the people to effectively involve themselves in developing programmes that serve the interest of all as well as to effectively contribute to the development process. Undoubtedly, the successful implementation of the field initiatives was in no doubt a direct result of the process of communication or consultation, characterised by arrangements that involved various degrees of authority and responsibility being shared between stakeholders. According to Berkes (1994), such arrangements in the consultation process form the basis of collaborative management and partnership, and must be developed and implemented by mutual agreement of all parties involved. The direct involvement of local farmers in deciding on the farming practice and farm species, organisation of workshops, local level meetings and the exchanging of ideas and knowledge were unique in Ghana and may have enhanced local people’s commitment and feeling of shared responsibility. Through such consultation process local people’s needs and interests were identified and that also minimised the differences in interests and encouraged greater participation.

4.2 The prospects of forest rehabilitation using agroforestry

The development of agro-forestry on degraded community lands seems to be perceived by all the respondents as an important way to achieve land rehabilitation and restoration of forest services. Elsewhere in Ghana, in other countries, these views are shared by farmers who have been planting or nurturing indigenous tree species on their farms for similar purposes (e.g. Appiah, 2001; Maikhuri and Rao, 2002; Russell and Franzel, 2004). This indicates a clear understanding of local people to their local environmental problems linked to forest loss and how they can be addressed using agroforestry. It further demonstrates that this local knowledge is not restricted to particular ethnic groups that have been indigenous to an area but that all types of people in different regions possess knowledge of their environment. Thus, it is important to take advantage of farmers’ interests in using agroforestry as the means to rehabilitation of degraded forests by supporting the available indigenous farming technologies with scientific inputs that could enhance the utilisation of diversity that is found in the indigenous tree species and increase the productivity of the systems. More interests will be generated if efforts are made in this direction (Davis and Wagner, 2003).

In the present case study area the human-influenced systems are characterised by the planting of indigenous forest tree with traditional crops. Several indigenous forest species, mostly species serving the purpose of timber and non-timber forest products were directly planted, or preserved and protected in farming systems. These indicate that, the domestication of trees was not feasible only for wealthy farmers as has often assumed to be the case (Arnold, 1992; Teklehaimanot, 2004). However, historically, the planting of indigenous tree species while maintaining and managing non-timber plant and animal resources is a new dimension of forest management and biodiversity conservation in Ghana. Of late this new trend of forest management has received a great deal of attention especially for the production of non-timber forest products such as medicinal products, fodder, cane, foods, and fibre, rather than for wood only (Ros-Tonen et al., 1995; Leakey, Temu, Melnyk, & Vantomme, 1996; Simons and Leakey, 2004). This approach is similar to that successfully used in northern Thailand (Pakkad, Elliott, Anusarnsunthorn, James, & Blakesley, 2002), highlighted in the EU-supported Project Forest Restoration and Rehabilitation in Southeast Asia (FORRSA), coordinated by VITRI at the University of Helsinki (www://www.honeybee.helsinki.fi/mmeko/vitri/index.htm).

In Ghana, where trees and non-timber forest products constitute a major source of livelihood, couple with the ability of the species to do well under the MTS, there are increased prospects to introduce them in cultivated areas, which can be considered as one of the most promising forest land use options. This will not only be an efficient way to rehabilitate degraded forests and ensure the supply of timber from the forests for the wood-based industries, but also to improve the livelihood of the forest dwellers in Ghana (Teklehaimanot, 2004).

4.3 The importance of identifying priority species

An important stage in a participatory rehabilitation process is the determination of which tree species should receive priority (Leakey et al., 1996), as local people may differ in their preferences for trees species (Appiah, 2001). In this case study, it was found that the farmers differed in their preference for tree species. It was also found that there were useful species in the area whose scientific or local names were unknown. This means that the selection of additional species for agroforestry or plantations needs to be carefully planned in consultations and collaboration with the end users as was the case in the current Project. According to Wiersum (1991) and Scher (1991) this process may enhance the willingness of the end users to accept the new species for cultivation. Farmers may not only be motivated to participate in the process, but they would also be encouraged to undertake better land management. Cultivation of new tree species could lead to the use of farmers’ inputs in their growth assessment, breeding and genetic manipulation (Leakey et al., 1996), which is recommended determining “framework species” for any effective domestication process such as the one being undertaken by the current Project (Leakey and Newton, 1994; Wiersum, 1996, 1997; Pakkad et al., 2002).

4.4 The significance of incentive mechanism

Incentives mechanism is defined as subsidies in various forms to encourage desirable action by people (Gregersen, 1984). In forest management, various incentives have been used. They include direct and indirect incentives. Direct incentives include cost sharing (in kind or money), subsidized credit, fiscal incentives, and reduction of uncertainty through loan guarantees (Gregersen and Houghtaling, 1978). Indirect incentives include market information, provision of extension services and education (Gregersen and Houghtaling, 1978). Hueth (1995) also identified some other forms of incentives in forest management to include input financing, food for work, wage payments, directed credit and special prizes for competition among farmers involved in the forest plantation. A successful long-term local people’s support for forest rehabilitation requires the application of any of these kinds or forms of incentives that recognizes local’s needs and preferences.

The most challenging issue is to determine how these different incentive structures operate in a specific socio-cultural area (Cernea, 1991). Poor understanding of these incentive structures has contributed to the often weak local participation. When this issue is properly addressed, local farmers can be encouraged to support tree domestication and management as has been shown in this case study. For the majority of farmers in the study area, the need for financial help was an issue, arguing that the partnership entails a sacrifice of time and labour, which will consequently reduce their time and labour for other agricultural activities. Financial assistance was necessary to enable them to afford to pay for the cost of health services, food, school fees and agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and boots which would have been purchased by proceeds from farming activities. The provision of direct financial aid, and agricultural inputs by the project was certainly welcomed by farmers as an initial incentive scheme and highlighted the significant positive effect that availability of financial support would have on community participation in forest management and tree domestication. This is in agreement with the findings or experiences of Wily’s (2002) from other African countries.

Furthermore, even though farmers think financial aid was important, access to fertile lands through the improved taungya system was more important and encouraged local participation. This result was expected from communities where farming is their main occupation and land for farming is often scarce. The need for food and forest products can be associated with the subsequent hope of farmers having access to land. For a cross section (6.6%) of the farmers engaging in tree planting activities this was a way to help diversify risk. This response was expected as producing multiple commodities which could reduce production risks. Diversification may also make better annual use of labour. Moreover, mixing longer-term forest production with the annual agricultural production income offsets the start-up and maintenance costs of the tree production and makes the overall system more profitable.

Undoubtedly the provision of direct financial support, access to land, free seedlings and extension services and the perceived benefit of risk diversification was seen as sharing of costs and considered to be the fundamental incentive which encouraged participation in tree planting and management. However, this also indicates that there is a wide variety of incentives that can be used in community-based activities, but reaching consensus on what kind of incentive to offer to local people, and when incentives of different types are appropriate, can be an issue. More difficult still is how to combine individuals’ interest so as to contribute to joint rehabilitation and management of the forest. The result from this case study does offer some understanding of workable incentives structures in such socio-economic settings.

4.5 Cost and benefit sharing

A key issue in Ghana concerning participatory forest rehabilitation programmes is how the cost or responsibility and benefit will be distributed among stakeholders. A framework for the implementation of benefit sharing is provided in the National Forest Policy of 1994 (Ministry of Lands and Forestry, 1994). In the area of collaborative management, relevant measures such as social responsibility agreements were included. Under such agreements, a maximum of 5% of annual royalties accruing from the operations of logging companies (concession agreements now known as ‘Timber Utilisation Contracts’) was to be used for the provision of social amenities to the population of the contract areas. This was to encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of forest resources, knowledge and practices of indigenous communities, for sustainable natural resources management. While the sums in question were modest (a maximum of US$427,630 nationally), they did mark the rural communities’ right of influence and apparently showed the political will for co-management of the forests in Ghana. Nevertheless, understanding of farmers cost for their inputs in forest rehabilitation could enhance the introduction of a better social responsibility agreement or incentive mechanisms. In this study, the estimated initial costs of plantation establishment was modest and show how little effort towards providing incentives could lead to the rehabilitation of degraded forests. The costs should also be a baseline for developing additional and preferred incentive structures for reforestation programmes in these areas.

5 Conclusion and policy implications

The outcome of the project within 4-year period of establishment is an improvement of local farming practices, and the establishment of about 250 ha of plantations using 12 priority indigenous and one exotic tree species. This further demonstrates the prospects of utilising indigenous tree species not only in plantations but for landscape restoration in Ghana.

The project’s activities enjoy a high participation rate with the local people showing profound interest in the future of the project activities and are keen to invest their own resources, time, money, and labour in the rehabilitation activities. This is because; the whole project approach was community-led and appropriate incentives (e.g. provision of farming lands, agricultural inputs, extension services, grants and domestication of small animals for food and income) were used.

This project demonstrates that reversing the tropical forest degradation is possible. For this, we need local farmers in tree domestication combined with activities that address livelihood needs (such as improvement of farming practices) and environmental concerns.

We recommend that farmers should be protected from losing their share of proceeds from trees by the provision of a national legal forest framework. When farmers are assured of their rights to the dividends due to them through legal documents, they will have more incentives to expand the existing forest rehabilitation programmes. Although a tenure system can be based on mutual agreement, only carefully prepared binding documents based on well-formulated national policy and supportive legislation can ensure lasting results in forest rehabilitation in Ghana.

Lastly, indigenous tree plantations are an increasingly significant source of wood in Ghana. The improvement of wood productivity by first determining framework plantation species should be an important economic goal.



This Project was initiated and implemented by the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) with the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR), the University of Science and Technology and Forestry Commission (FC) as collaborating partners. The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) provided the bulk of the funding while the Government of Ghana provided some funding and other logistical and technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominic Blay
    • 1
  • Mark Appiah
    • 2
  • Lawrence Damnyag
    • 1
  • Francis K. Dwomoh
    • 1
  • Olavi Luukkanen
    • 2
  • Ari Pappinen
    • 3
  1. 1.Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG)KumasiGhana
  2. 2.Viikki Tropical Resources InstituteUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of JoensuuJoensuuFinland

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