Enhancing community participation in wildlife conservation in Ghana - the experiences of kakum national park and its environs.

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Human socio-economic activities in Ghana particularly during the last couple of decades have had a profound impact on the natural environment in general and wildlife conservation in particular. Wildlife conservation in Ghana through the traditional approach to protected area management centering mainly on strict policing and guard patrols dating back to the colonial times has proved insufficient to halt wildlife loss without the involvement of the local people who live with and close to the resource. Increasing depletion of the national wildlife resource stocks has raised practical questions concerning present and future generations. The declining numbers are causing concern in the country and the world. In line with the universal recognition in wildlife conservation of the necessity of community participation, this study was undertaken in the Kakum Nalional Park (KNP) and its environs to examine wildlife conservation. This study investigated the role played by the local communities in wildlife conservation and their impediments to do so. It explored measures to enhance community participation in the KNP and its environs. The study was guided by the hypothesis that wildlife conservation programmes with the involvement of local people are more effective, efficient and sustainable in the long term than those that do not. To achieve the study objectives, data were collected from three sets of respondents- the local communities, the park staff (administration and protection staff) and selected district departments (District Assembly and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture personnel). The simple random sampling technique was used to select a total of eight (8) communities of the possible thirteen for the study. The stratified random sampling technique was used to obtain samples of the local communities based on the population of each village. A total of 120 local community members were interviewed and these provided the bulk of the information contained in this study. Relevant District Assembly personnel involved in wildlife conservation were selected for the study. Data collection involved the review of secondary materials (desk research), questionnaire administration, informal (individual and group) discussions and observations. The data was analysed using simple statistical techniques such as percentages, calculation of measures of central tendency and measures of variation. Tables were used to present the data. The analysis of the data revealed that the local communities living adjacent to the Kakum National Park are not involved in wildlife conservation. In addition, the communities suffered great disadvantages from the existence of the Kakum National Park because of the increasing crop raiding by elephants from the park. This together with the non-disbursement of the benefits from tourism to the local communities and the denial of access to the park resources have made them hostile to the park authorities. The study showed that there were no local organisations for wildlife conservation and that the structure, systems and personnel policies of the Game Wildlife Department (GWD) are centralised and designed to maintain control by the top giving little room for the bottom up approach and hence not compatible with enhanced participation. This has compromised efforts to conserve wildlife especially outside the park. The legislation in the country has marginalised landowners from wildlife conservation- it does not provide any incentives for them to conserve wildlife resources. The legislation in addition focuses predominantly on wildlife in the park thus creating conditions favourable for over exploitation of wildlife outside the park. The study established that wildlife conservation and development are not separate challenges but are directly linked and cannot be addressed in isolation. A number of proposals have been put forward to solve some of the problems hindering community participation in the Kakum and solicit the involvement and support of the people. The formation of local wildlife institutions at the unit, district and regional levels to conserve wildlife, review of legislation to create incentives for private landholders to conserve wildlife on their land and thus incorporate them as co-managers with the state, involvement of local people in the KNP management and the intensified promotion of rural development in the communities were recommended. Though the challenges for wildlife conservation in the country continue to be increasingly complex and complicated, the proposals made above if adopted will see enhanced community participation in wildlife conservation in the Kakum National Park and can be extended to other parts of Ghana and hence make wildlife conservation sustainable.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi In partial fulfilment of the requirement for award of the Degree of Master of Science (MSc) in Development Planning and Management, 2000