Home > Uncategorized > Natural Resource and Environmental Governance: The Role of Civil Society

Natural Resource and Environmental Governance: The Role of Civil Society

Fifty years after the Mole Game Reserve was established, displaced inhabitants of the area and communities along its fringes still do not understand what the issue of wildlife conservation is all about.
“We are waiting for government to decide whether we should die for the game reserve to exist”, Alhaji Ibrahim Awudu Jaa, chief of Laribanga near the game reserve told RUMNET.
The 4,480km2 Game Reserve situated at Damongo in the West Gonja District of the Northern Region saw the displacement of several communities, including Kunkua, Dushie, Gbantariga, Jang, Belipong, Salakowo and Bugubeli.
For Chief Awudu Jaa, the establishment of the Mole Game Reserve in 1958 is the bitterest experience that he and his people were forced to endure, with the wounds still bleeding even after 50 years.
“We lost our crops; millet, maize, cassava, yam and even mango plantations”, he moaned.
The affected farmers were forced to move their farms as far as 10 miles away from their original farms. But even then, nemesis caught up with them.
“Due to constant invasion by elephants, we do not harvest much. The elephants have also muddied our dug-outs and ponds from which we used to drink so we do not have clean drinking water”, Chief Awudu Jaa said.
The scenario enumerated above simply illustrates how painful the opportunity cost of attempts at conservation, management and exploitation of natural resources can be to those directly affected if it is not implemented with a human face.
This then calls for a change in policy in the implementation of such programs since certain sections of the population cannot always be forced to sacrifice their homes, farmlands and other sources of livelihood without the commensurate compensation in addition to programs to equip them to move on with their lives.
It is in this regard that the proposed program document on Natural Resources and Environmental Governance (NREG) which is being supported by the International Development Association (IDA) is a step in the right direction.
In its definition of ‘what is Natural Resource and Environmental Governance’, the program spells out seven essential elements.
These include “institutions and laws relating to who makes and enforces rules for governing natural resources, participation and representation of the public, authority level(from local to international ) over natural resources, property rights and tenure over natural resources, impacts of markets and financial flows on natural resources and the environment, how ecological and social science is incorporated into decisions on natural resources use to reduce risks and identify new opportunities and accountability of those who manage natural resources and transparency of their actions.
Clearly, most of these elements were left out in earlier programs that bordered on natural resources. Taking the Mole game reserve again as a test case, the indigenes living in and around the Game reserve were never informed, let alone consulted, when Government decided to establish the game reserve. Thus, the participation and representation of the public was overlooked.
According to a research conducted by Mason in 1993, the first time the indigenes realized the fauna and flora which had provided them with food and meat for generations was no longer in their possession was when a newly appointed Game Warden and his rangers made their first arrest of a hunter in the area for hunting within the boundary of what had become the Mole Game reserve.
Unknown to them, the paramount chief and the Damongo Traditional Council had been consulted on the issue. The phenomenon of chiefs not informing their subjects about decisions they have taken that affect their livelihood persists even to this day.
The people of Jangol-Nakura, a village near Kpacha on the Yendi road were never informed when their farmlands were leased to Biofuel Africa for the cultivation of jatropha. According to Alhassan Wumbei, caretaker chief of the village, he was never consulted.
“The other chief (meaning the paramount chief) gave the land to them (meaning Biofuel Africa). It consists of several hectares of land. I have never seen it (jatropha). It was not there when we first settled here. We do not know anything about it. We do not know its benefits”, Naa Wumbei said.
When asked what he and his inhabitants did when they saw this strange plant growing on their farmlands, Naa Wumbei said “We have shifted our farms further inland. The land belongs to the paramount chief. We were not consulted before it was given out. We have no say”.
Normally, it is due to the failure of government and other implementers of programs on natural resource to court the interest of communities that have been directly affected that makes them feel alienated and hostile to such programs.
Hostilities between game wardens and indigenes of the Mole Game Reserve are rife. Game wardens have been mandated to shoot poachers on sight. Hence, a number of poachers have been shot dead while Game Wardens have also come under fire by poachers who believe they are being denied what is their rightful heritage.
The protection of natural resource dependent communities was listed as one area where the government faces serious challenges under the objectives of the IDA document while a Letter on Development Policy by the government under its NREG program has also identified insufficient involvement of communities in resource management as a problem.
The NREG is being funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Department for International Development (DFID), the French Development Agency, the European Union and the World Bank.
It is in this vein that the government hopes to strengthen the participation of civil society in natural resource policy making so that it can contribute to arrangements on resource allocation. This would also make the dissemination of information at the grassroots to those directly affected by natural resource programs more effective.
Such a step, however, necessitates that civil society should be given the ability to perform; so one of the aims of the NREG is to enhance the capacity of civil society to engage in the policy dialogue and to be able to hold government accountable for its actions.
Thus, a civil society facility, KASA that would support the capacity of civil society organizations was designed last year. It would among other things help improve cross- sectoral environmental management by being involved in the formal inter-ministerial forum on environment and sustainable development.
The KASA Programme, which is being jointly implemented by CARE, ICCO and SNF and supported by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, is running an Interim civil society support mechanism for two years.
The programme seeks to strengthen the capacity of civil society, research and media organizations to advocate in a concerted for equitable access, accountability, and transparency in natural resource and environmental governance throughout Ghana with the aim of reducing poverty.
Given that Ghana’s economy has long been fuelled by natural resources, which make up 15 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generates 25 percent of government revenue and accounts for 60 percent of foreign exchange, with over 70 percent of its population dependent on natural resources for food, water and energy requirements, the establishment of KASA is long overdue.
This is because the exploitation of natural resources cannot be halted in as much as people cannot be asked to stop drinking or eating, nor can the government put a halt to the exportation of produce from our natural resources because it constitutes one of the strongest pillars of its financial base.
What is needed then is to apply wisdom and caution in the exploitation, management and conservation of natural resources so that one does not exterminate the “goose that lays the golden eggs” nor bring untold hardship to some sectors of its population. This exactly is what is being spearheaded under the NREG.
For instance, a Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) conducted in 2007, revealed that Ghana’s natural resource base is at a transition point with its forests and non-timber forest stock rapidly depleting while wildlife populations and biodiversity are in crucial decline.
So apart from protecting natural resource dependent communities, one other challenge the government seeks to redress under NREG in a bid to secure the natural resource base is to reduce environmental degradation.
In line with this, KASA would provide platforms for civil society dialogue on key issues in the NREG program and support some organizations with core grants or project grants in addition to providing training to civil society and the media in advocacy and research.
Perhaps, if a mechanism such as KASA or the NREG programme had been in place 50 years ago which allows the participation of civil society in the management, allocation and exploitation of natural resources, the establishment of the Mole Game Reserve would not have brought in its wake massive distress and disintegration of indigene communities.
This is because, since the establishment of the game reserve, there has been a steady decline in the socio-economic status of households and individuals among communities in the area. Rural urban migration is at its peak with young boys seeking jobs as farmhands and teenage girls working as head-porters (Kayayee) on farms and in cities in the southern sector respectively leaving behind ‘ghost’ communities.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    It’s difficult to find experienced people for this subject, however, you seem like
    you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    • February 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks for your compliment. I am still a novice in Natural Resource and Environmental Governance (NREG);it is such a broad area and I have a lot more to learn. But the good thing is I am learning. Cheers!

  2. April 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I seriously value you producing this valuable content.
    It is the instant suitable for Ghanains to advance, welcome in unison and therefore identify exactly how we can keep moving this nation
    in the right direction as to get over the latest concerns.
    Thank you for such insightful post.

    • April 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks for your compliment, Claudine. I agree with you that Ghanaians have to take the issue of natural resource governance seriously now in order to move the nation forward.

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