Work by the COLANDS team in Ghana has been highlighted in recent months by two significant workshops: the first, a long-delayed stakeholder engagement workshop, which brought together farmers, traditional chiefs, local NGOs, and government in the Western Wildlife Corridor.
Stakeholders brought their concerns about autonomy, livelihoods and who controls the land and its resources to the workshop in April 2022. Although the COLANDS Ghana initiative began in 2019, COVID-19 pandemic control measures meant that this workshop was the first opportunity for all to meet in person. It was followed in September 2022 with an intensive Theory of Change workshop in the WWC landscape that engaged with numerous other representatives.
During the April workshop, participants emphasized the need for multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) to be inclusive, adequately funded, with strong human and technical resources to ensure these continue after specific projects end. Key objectives of these MSPs include natural resource management, governance, dialogue, and training.
Resolving conflicts over land use was a major theme throughout the workshop. A significant challenge across the tropics are land-use conflicts, where agriculture, livestock, mining, and other productive processes are in competition with environmental, social, and biodiversity conservation goals. However, these are being addressed by the COLANDS initiative, said Emmanuel Yeboah, Regional Manager of the Forest Services Division (FSD) of Ghana’s Forest Commission, during the three-day workshop.
“Though COLANDS is a research project, its findings won’t be solely academic. They will have practical applications, informing future evidence-based research, policy, and practical agendas, while enhancing stakeholder capacity to implement integrated landscape approaches,” said Yeboah.
The stakes are high: concerns were raised during the workshop about encroachment into reserve areas by farmers, driven by growing population and rising demand for land. “I wanted to bring this idea here, so that we see how best collectively we can look at it,” said one participant, concerned about the potential for conflict over land use. Multistakeholder platforms are critically important for discussions, sharing knowledge and experiences as well as building capacity, said several participants at the workshops.
“It is good for us to share information so that anywhere we find ourselves, we make good use of what someone else is already working on, to avoid duplication of efforts and to ensure continuity of what others have initiated,” said another participant.
Project implementation should give priority to CREMA landscapes – that is, community-based natural resource management areas – when selecting activities, according to a scoping mission in northern Ghana discussed during the workshop. The CREMA model was established by Ghana’s government in the early 2000s, to try to conserve biodiversity by involving local communities in the protection and sustainable use of nature.
The second workshop, held in September 2022, brought together the local communities and institutional actors to assess the ways in which all the actors manage to work together, make trade-offs and agree on a common vision for their landscape. The information generated from this workshop is still being collated and will be reported in our next newsletter.
Meanwhile, COLANDS PhD candidate Eric Bayala has been writing his thesis based on fieldwork in Ghana’s Western Wildlife Corridor (WWC) landscape, including a scoping study involving institutional actors, CREMA leaders, and local communities. These key stakeholders were identified, and data collection methods established, including the interview guides for respondent interviews and focus group discussions. Research questions focused on community engagement in the governance of the WWC landscape, as well as on the prospects for implementing an integrated landscape approach (ILA) in this landscape.
Data was collected through individual interviews and focus groups with local communities and public and private actors. These activities involved three CREMAs which represent the research sites. Interviews were held with representatives of government agencies and other organisations involved in CREMA governance or otherwise deemed important in the context of the study. Thus, members of district assemblies, CREMA Executive Committees (CECs), traditional chiefs, the Ghana Forestry Commission, ORGIIS (Organisation for Indigenous Initiatives and sustainability), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) were interviewed by Bayala.
In each of the CREMAs visited, focus groups were organised with farmers, herders, forest product operators, women, elders, and youth. The aim was to collect data related to landscape governance problems/challenges, types of stakeholders in the landscape, perceptions of different stakeholders concerning landscape governance, multistakeholder platforms and relationships between actors, decision-making bodies, and their inclusiveness. Bayala’s data collection included organizing three workshops with representatives of local communities and the public, NGOs, and the private sector. The objective was to discuss with the different stakeholder groups their desired landscape changes in terms of conservation and livelihoods.