Community participation in environmental and natural resources management: a case study of selected socio economic activities in Yilo Krobo District, Ghana

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Sound environmental management and economic development are complementary aspects of the same agenda. Without adequate environmental protection, development will be seriously undermined, and similarly, without development environmental protection will fail. Implicit in the above statement is that as long as majority of the population remains in abject poverty, efforts to protect the environment will be particularly cumbersome. The poor are seen as both victims and agents of environmental degradation. This situation holds true for Yilo Krobo District Assembly. There is evidence of population increase, poverty and environmental degradation in Yilo Krobo District, a situation that demands deliberate interventions. For instance, the district’s population has doubled in the last thirty years (1970-2000); that is, population growing from 59,521 in 1970, to 118,880 in the year 2000. The steadily increasing population implies rising demands for food, fuel wood, timber, fibre and other mineral resources in the district. Meeting these demands necessitate more intensive and extensive exploitation of many natural resources, especially agricultural lands, forests, water, and fisheries. As such there has been a gradual degradation of natural resources, which has apparently reached critical levels, such that if nothing is done to halt the trend, there will be serious consequences. Improving environmental and natural resources management, however, requires that those businesses, households, farmers and government institutions, directly interacting with, or extracting environmental resources, fundamentally change their methods of appropriating such resources. Previous environmental management studies indicate that the essential prerequisites to proper management of the ecology are entrenched in the very communities that depend on the affected resources, and as such they must be involved in planning, management, monitoring and the overall rehabilitation of the natural environment. The purpose of community involvement, is based on the recognition that the people (especially the poor), who directly depend on the fragile ecosystems for their livelihoods know their priority needs and problems better than any outsider does. Therefore, they are better positioned to halt or mitigate the effects, when properly mobilised and encouraged to take action. On the one hand, community involvement in problem identification and programme planning envisages greater relevance and commitment to environmental projects or policy objectives. While on the other hand, however, participation is seen as a development paradigm favoured to promote an array of objectives ranging from economic and practical concerns associated with project efficiency, to equality and empowerment. The nature and scope of beneficiary involvement, however, vary accordingly. The objectives of this study therefore are premised on the quest for a deeper understanding into the extent of community participation in environmental and natural resources management; taking a case study of Yilo Krobo District. More so to assess the extent to which environmental considerations influences decision making during project design and implementation by the District Assembly and other stakeholders. The study was based on simple random sampling technique to select 100 households from four Area Councils out of the total of seven. Four (4) focus group discussions were also conducted, targeting between ten and twelve people from each of the study Area Councils. The institutional interviews were conducted in six purposively selected departments; and they included the District Planning and Co-ordinating Unit and the departments of Forestry, Town and Country Planning, Environmental Health, Food and Agriculture and District Fire Service. The study’s findings show that there is little being done consciously or deliberately to halt environmental degradation in the district for reasons ranging from lack of awareness to land shortages and scarcity leading to over cultivation. Thus, appropriate steps and interventions to preserve the environment have been suggested in this study and they need to be taken into serious consideration. These will include (but not limited to) improved farming practices, population control, conservation strategies and education, appropriate technologies, personnel and conservation training, re-forestation programmes, land-resource data banks, and strict land use planning among others.
A Thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 2000