Forests outside the permanent forest estate (forest reserves) play significant role in the economic, social and environmental needs of Ghana. Over the last twenty years, timber outside forest reserves has consistently represented between one third and two thirds of the total annual recorded timber harvest in Ghana. In recent years timber harvest from off?reserve areas has declined to about 30%. One major cause of the declining is the lack of economic incentive for farmers who nurture, maintain and preserve timber resources. The lack of economic incentive is as a result of inequitable policy governing tree tenure and benefit sharing relating to naturally occurring timber resources in off?reserve areas. To safeguard the future and sustainability of the resources there is the need for policy revision that recognizes the input of stakeholders involved in off?reserve timber resources management. This study sought to determine farmers’ timber tree management practices and the role, rights and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in off? reserve timber resources management. The study was conducted in the Asunafo North District of Ghana where a score of key stakeholders were interviewed and a total of eighty (80) farmers were selected using a stratified random sampling and subsequently interviewed. The study revealed weeding, thinning, pruning/pollarding, preservation of specific tree species (singling) and fire protection/prevention as specific management activities performed by farmers. Agricultural land use system was found to influence timber tree maintenance as well as species diversity, age composition, and density. Cocoa farming system hosted the highest number of timber species followed by fallow, oil palm farming system and the least was found to be food crop (annuals) farming system. The main factor influencing farmers’ management activities is perceived beneficial attributes of tree to agricultural crops. Farmers and Forestry Commission performed direct roles while District Assembly and Traditional Authorities preformed indirect roles in timber resources management in areas outside reserves. The results further revealed that Farmers, Forestry Commission and District Assembly have been able to assert their roles and responsibilities while Traditional Authorities are yet to do so. Stakeholders’ roles, rights and responsibilities were favoured as a basis for equitable benefit sharing scheme. It is concluded that there is a considerable potential for off?reserve timber resources management if tree tenure and benefit sharing arrangement can be weighed more in favour of farmers/land owners coupled with recognition of roles, rights and responsibilities of stakeholders. Stakeholders need to have tools to perform their roles and responsibilities, and that coordination and collaboration between stakeholders and transparency through information dissemination is very much important for sustainable timber resources management in areas outside reserves.
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Tropenbos International & Forestry Research Institute of Ghana