Ghana's high forests : trends, scenarios and pathways for future developments

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Oduro, K.A. (2016)
  • Publisher: Wageningen University

<p>Deforestation and forest degradation in the tropics have been receiving both scientific and political attention in recent decades due to its impacts on the environment and on human livelihoods. In Ghana, the continuous decline of forest resources and the high demand for timber have raised stakeholders concerns about the future timber production prospects in the country. The principal drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana are agricultural expansion (50%), wood harvesting (35%), population and development pressures (10%), and mining and mineral exploitation (5%). Various measures are being pursued that are targeted at addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and at increasing the forest resource base. Understanding the key driving forces behind current forest resource development trends will help to gain insights into the possible courses of action to take to improve the developments of the resources, especially where actions that are being taken today will have an impact on the forest resources for many years to come.</p> <p>In this thesis, I used interdisciplinary research methods to provide insights into the current status of the forest resource base in Ghana and into its likely and possible future developments. I addressed 5 research questions: (1) What are the trends and changes associated with the growing stock in the timber production areas? (2) What driving forces account for current trends and future developments of timber resources in Ghana? (3) What different scenarios can be identified and how will these affect future developments of timber resources in the high forest zone? (4) What factors motivate farmers to engage in on-farm tree planting and management? (5) To what extent do the current trends of forest resources drive forest transition in Ghana?</p> <p>National forest inventory data, timber harvesting data and forest plantation establishment data showed that the growing stock in both on- and off-reserve production areas have been declining since 1990. Ghana’s average forest growing stock of 40m3 per ha is much lower than the 195 m3 per ha for the Western and Central Africa sub-region. Timber harvesting records also indicate that, in recent decades, total timber harvests have mostly been substantially higher than the annual allowable cut, resulting in an increasing gap between national timber demand and supply, which drives illegal logging. Current plantation establishment efforts are not sufficient to bridge the gap between demand and supply of timber, partly due to low establishment rates and lack of appropriate management of newly established plantations. Forest governance system and resource demand are the two key driving forces that affect the current trends and future developments of forest resources in the high forest zone of Ghana. Four scenarios were developed: (1) legal forestry scenario with emphasis on improving the resource base to meet high demand; (2) forest degradation, which implies a business-as-usual scenario; (3) forest transition, with emphasis on expanding the resource base in response to environmental concerns; and (4) timber substitution scenario seeking to provide wood substitutes to conserve the resource base. Across two on-farm tree planting schemes, I found that financial benefits, educational campaigns by project teams, knowledge about current environmental issues, ownership of timber for family use and access to land, grants, farming inputs, seedlings, capacity building, and market for agricultural produce are the factors that motivated farmers to engage in on-farm tree planting and management. Currently, there is no strong force toward a forest transition through any of the five generic pathways (economic development; forest scarcity; globalization; state forest policy; and smallholder, tree-based land use intensification). This is because the existing trends of forest resources developments are either too small-scale or too ineffective. In order to accelerate a forest transition in Ghana, policy and management options should target measures that reduce current degradation of natural forests, increase the area and productivity of commercial forest plantations, promote sustainable forest management, and support and encourage forest conservation and integration of trees into farming systems.</p>
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