The Forest Investment Project, coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana and Ghana’s Forestry Commission, educates the public on forest conservation and includes them in the process of environmental planning and preservation.
Problems and Purpose
The Forest Investment Project addressed the challenges confronting Ghana’s forest reserve, such as depletion of wildlife and unlawfully cutting down of trees by farmers. The Goaso forest reserve in the Brong Ahafo Region is covered by different species of trees, such as teak, mahogany, Acacia and Milina tree. Community farmers unlawfully killed the trees by setting fire under and around the trees to clear more space for planting. This indiscriminate cutting down of trees by farmers has led to deforestation, depletion of wildlife and the developmental threat of climate change. The main aim of the Forest Investment Project is to make the public aware of the dangers associated with the depletion of the Goaso forest reserve, identify ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation, create bye-laws to protect biodiversity, and outline ways to contribute to sustainable livelihoods through participatory planning.
Background History and Context
The Government of Ghana (GoG) recognizes the growing costs of natural resource degradation and the developmental threat of climate change. As a result, in 2008, the government launched a Forest Investment Project to ensure public participation in decision-making on ways to preserve the forest reserve across Ghana. In 2013-2014, the project was launched in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana where the deforestation rate is 2% per year (Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource, 2014).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Forest Investment Program was organized by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana under the Ministry of Science and Natural Resource in collaboration with the Forestry Commission of Ghana. The program was funded by the World Bank, Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and International Finance Corporation.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The recruitment of participants for the Forest Investment Project was open to all the people but was done by the use of radio announcements and community meetings. For two weeks’ radio announcements were made on local radio stations within the Goaso District (the location of the project) by the organizers of the project (the Forestry Commission of Ghana and the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana) to draw the public’s attention to the program. Aside from this, community leaders also had meetings with community members to inform and educate them about the need to attend the meeting. The community leaders who attended this meeting were the opinion leaders of the community (Chiefs, queen mothers and assembly members who operate as a linkage between government and the community). They met together with the community members, especially the farmers. Two meetings were held to recruit the participants. The first meeting held was between the opinion leaders, the community members and the project organizers (staff from forestry commission and the environmental protection agency) to plan how to get people on board. It was assumed that the presence of the opinion leaders would encourage the community members to participate. The second meeting was between the community leaders, the leaders of the youth groups, and selected farmers to help them to understand the project. Initially some people thought the government was trying to deny them their source of livelihood. Finally, the entire community met. A self-selection process was used. Notices were posted at the community information centers announcing the meeting. Interested participants signed up at the community centers, and they were asked to complete a form showing their commitment to participate. This recruitment process allowed all community members to receive the information and decide if they wanted to participate. Food and drinks were given to the community farmers who attended the program except the opinion leaders and the community leader who received some stipends and food.
Methods and Tools Used
The Forest Investment Project used a citizen forum, which provided an opportunity for citizens to share their views and make decisions. This forum works like a citizen’s assembly forum (Warren & Hillary,2008), which involves citizens in decision making. During a citizen’s assembly forum contributions and consensuses built are collated, published and passed on to relevant authorities to inform and be factored into decision- making and development planning. The forum increases citizen’s participation in dialogue and identifies ideas and solutions to improve life for citizens. As in some cases of collaborative planning, the people from the forestry commission acted as the facilitators and the citizens acted as the approach group.
Tools used were invitation letters inviting the participants and the “gong gong.” Since the target happens to be community members, invitation letters were sent to the representative of the community, the community leader, to disseminate the information. Representatives from partner organizations joined the community representative to select a site for the meeting, to post meeting notices to invite participants through the local community radio and to use the “gong gong.” The “gong gong” is a local method of using round metal and beating it much like a bell. The community pays attention to this “gong gong” to learn about community meetings or important events. Two days prior to the meeting the officials from the forestry commission and the community leader bought air-time on the three community radio stations to inform the public about the Forest Investment Project and the need to attend the program. And the “gong gong” was used at several locations in the community to remind community members about the meeting.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Community forum and community meetings were used during the deliberation process. Three meetings were held during this stage. The first meeting was between the representatives from the forestry commission, Environmental Protection Agency and the community leader. The main purpose for this meeting was to inform the community leader about the decision on the Forest Investment. Again, since the officers cannot work in the community without getting approval from the opinion leaders of the community, the assembly leader served as a linkage between government and the community. As noted above, opinion leaders are the Chiefs, queen mothers and elders of the community. The second meeting was between the opinion leaders of the community and the representatives from the forestry commission. The purpose of this meeting was to inform the opinion leaders about the Forest Investment Project. The third meeting was between the between the representatives from the forestry commission, Environmental Protection Agency, leaders of the youth groups, and selected farmers to inform them about the Forest Investment Project by the government. The purpose of this meeting was to sensitize them to understand the need for the project because initially some people thought the government would deny their source of livelihood. Lastly, the meeting between the entire community members, especially the farmers, was held to deliberate on the issue, voice their opinions and identify measures to overcome the menacing problem of the depletion of the forest. Representatives from the forestry commission facilitated the meetings since they have broad knowledge on the issue to the community members who are the approach group. Before the meeting rules were set and participants were asked to respect the views of others. Some of the rules identified were:
- Participants have equal time and opportunity to answer a question.
- A participant can only answer a question by raising his or her hand, and the facilitator will acknowledge that individual.
- No participant’s view supersedes the other.
- Participants are prohibited from having separate conversations while group discussions are held.
Feedback from community members allowed for rich discussions and for a consensus on how to stop the encroaching on the forest. The members also agreed to use the already depleted portion of the forest to replant trees. These solutions were published in the national newspapers and announcement made on the local radio stations.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Forest Investment Project was able to achieve the purpose for which the project was designed for. Through this process participants have become aware of their actions which caused negative effects to the forest and have been able to identify measures and solutions.
- This project built trust between the Ghana government and its citizens.
- Farmers no longer are encroaching on the community forest and are committed to reforestation.
- Farmers have stopped setting fires to kill trees in an attempt to create space for farming, which has helped to reduce greenhouse gases.
- There has been a collaboration between a governmental body and citizens to address an issue of common concern.
- And finally, by-laws have been drafted to prevent community members and farmers from participating in activities, which will lead to deplete wildlife.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Ghana used a participatory planning process as a way to engage and involve citizens. This process has become effective in addressing a major forest issue. Community and government agencies working together was key in the planning process. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ghana Forestry Commission met with community leaders and used their staff to support the project. Without their involvement, they would have been viewed as outsiders. There are important lessons learned from this Forest Investment Project. First, it is important to have a commitment of adequate resources from the government. Second, participants must be willing to get involved. And finally, this process demonstrates the important role community representatives play in the planning process (Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource,2014). If the EPA and forestry commission failed to meet with the community or used staff from the EPA instead of collaborating with the community representatives, citizens would not have fully participated because they viewed the EPA and staff from the forestry commission as outsiders, the participants became satisfied after the deliberation process (Ministry of Lands and Natural Resouce,2014)
Adu-Kumi, S. (2013). Public participation in environmental decision-making in Ghana.[S.l.]: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/ghana.pdf
Ferejohn, John. The Citizens' Assembly Model. Stanford University. February 2006.
Ministry of Land and Natural Resource (2014) Forest Investment Project Enhancing carbon. https:ww.fcghana.org/ESMF/20Ghana /20 FIP-final 13%/ESMF/20Ghana/20.
Mark, E. Warren & Hillary Pearse eds. Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Lead Image: Forest Investment Program https://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/sites/cif_enc/files/fip_ghana_mr_workshop_2016_0.jpg
Secondary Image: Forest Investment Programme/Tropenbos Ghana https://bit.ly/2HYusJk
The original submission of this case entry was written by Eric Osei, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.