IUCN's Pro-Poor REDD+ Project in Ghana
Ghana is located on the coast of West Africa and can be divided into a high-forest zone in the south and a savanna zone, mostly in the north. The forest zone accounts for about a third of the land area. According to the FAO, Ghana’s forest cover decreased from 35% to 22% between 1990 and 2010. At the beginning of the last century, tropical forests in the high-forest zone covered 8 million hectares. Today only 1.6 million hectares are left. In the first decade of this century, deforestation rates were 2.1% per year (FAO, 2011). Many local groups in Ghana are recognised as forest-dependent communities.
REDD+ in Ghana
Ghana’s REDD+ readiness process is relatively advanced. Ghana has reached the piloting phase of the REDD+ readiness process and has received support from the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. The government is currently conducting studies and consultations for the development of a national REDD+ strategy and in preparation of REDD+ implementation. Despite ongoing education and sensitisation efforts by key organisations, the understanding of REDD+ among national and local interest groups is however still weak. Policymakers and NGOs that are well informed operate mostly at the national level. The engagement of forest-dependent communities and other local level stakeholders in the decision making must be strengthened.
Lack of clarity around the rights over trees and carbon are a challenge in Ghana and this is partly a result of conflicts between statutory and customary laws on land administration. Landowners do not automatically hold ownership over the trees that grow on their lands. This means that people are often not incentivised to protect trees because the government can give concessions to contractors to come in and cut them. Because such operations often cause damage to crops, people regularly try to destroy trees before they grow to maturity.
IUCN’s Pro-Poor Project in Ghana
IUCN’s pro-poor project in Ghana has focused on the strengthening of links between local and national REDD+ activities. The Government is enthusiastic about pro-poor REDD+ but is relying on contributions from civil society in the building of a national REDD+ process. A lot more has to be done to ensure commitment and leadership from the government. Currently a thorough assessment is needed of the social and cultural implications of REDD+ and the potential risks it poses to the livelihoods of forest communities and other vulnerable groups. The project contributes to the development of a strategy for the consultation of stakeholders and the transfer of knowledge.
The pro-poor project is contributing to the discussion on land and tree tenure in Ghana. The lack of clarity of land and tree rights can make it difficult for local people to share in benefits. This in turn will make it more difficult to implement REDD+. Those currently involved in the discussion are civil society organisations and the government. Representatives from NGOs have made recommendations to the National REDD+ Steering Committee based on the outcomes of consultations. It is clear that the issue has to be addressed through multi-stakeholder dialogue and the discussion therefore has to be taken directly to the communities.
The Pro-Poor Pilot in Wassa Amenfi West District
The Wassa Amenfi West District has a population of 186,000 including native people and large numbers of immigrants from other parts of Ghana. Migrants settled there in the past as part of the cocoa frontier and have contributed to a complex and rich social mosaic. The land tenure system is based on customary arrangements, but tree tenure is effectively under state ownership. The application of IUCN’s Poverty Toolkit shows that forest dependency is high. Many people rely on both cash and non-cash produce from forests. Forest functions compete with agricultural production such as maize, cocoa and other food crops. Palm oil is now also entering as an important cash crop.
The IUCN pro-poor project has organised a number of consultations and is analysing options for the incorporation of customary law and administration into legal options for benefit sharing. The transfer of knowledge and information to grassroots organisations and communities has priority, and the establishment of a community level pro-poor REDD+ multi-stakeholder platform is planned.
Results of the Pro-Poor Project in Ghana
The pro-poor project has carried out studies that inform decision making processes in Ghana on a range of key issues:
- The participation and potential contribution of women;
- Current capacity of key stakeholder institutions and gaps that need to be addressed;
- Options for equitable mechanisms for the distribution of benefits.
Progress is being made with the collection of local information for the development of systems for the distribution of REDD+ benefits. Stakeholder discussions for example have indicated how such a system can be modelled on existing arrangements:
- Reform of existing benefit sharing mechanisms for timber can be an example for REDD+ benefit distribution;
- The payment of royalties to traditional ‘stool’ authorities as part of customary law can be reviewed to include landowners and land users to provide solutions as part of REDD+ arrangements.
The project helps build the capacity of interest groups to negotiate, represent themselves and participate in consultations. Because resource management is marred by disagreeing interests that can lead to conflict, attention is drawn to the need for conflict management arrangements.
Another important area is the link between REDD+ and livelihoods. Forests play an important role in sustainable development and the mitigation of poverty. In Ghana, poverty reduction efforts have to be integrated into Ghana’s REDD+ strategy. This is crucial in order to generate support for REDD+ on the ground. The issue of the livelihoods of the poor is also related to competition between agriculture and forestry. This has contributed to increasing discussions in Ghana over the development of strategies that also take the agricultural sector into account.
The government of Ghana recently made significant headway on the issue of rights over trees. It came to an agreement to register the ownership rights of planted trees to individuals including farmers and private land owners. The process to develop legislation to back this tree policy is ongoing. This is critical for REDD+ since security of tenure over trees by those that plant and protect them is essential to build systems for equitable benefit distribution. Progress booked so far shows that REDD+ can contribute to the transformational change that is needed to stem deforestation while addressing the interests of forest-reliant communities.