The World Bank/WBIs CBNRM Initiative

Case Received: February 3, 1998

Author: J. E. Hagan, GIMPA

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The Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve


Identification of the case

Ghana is located on the Greenwich meridian, the zero degree longitude and about five (5) degrees latitude above the equator. Ecologically, the country is divided into three vegetation zones; the Southern Savanna, the forest zone of the middle belt and the northern savanna. The Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve lies in the Ashanti Region of Ghana which falls in the forest zone. It boarders two traditional areas of the Region, the Kumawu and Kwamang traditional areas. The area stretches along the Afram Plains of Ghana, a wide expanse of flat arable land. The geographical location of the area places it in the transitional zone, separating the southern forest from the northern savanna regions.

The Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve is a natural preservation area set up to protect the ecology, check the downward drift of the savanna grassland and to promote scientific research, particularly on how nature revitalizes itself after major disasters. Historically, the area constitutes the site where the two traditional areas, Kumawu and Kwamang, by treaty joined forces to fight invading enemies in one of their last victorious tribal wars. The area therefore is held as a sacred place for both traditional areas and each lays claim to it. Economically, the area is very fertile and constitutes a

break on the northern savanna. Besides, being part of the Afram Plains, it constitutes a major bread basket of the country, and forms a gate way to the larger plains.

The Reserve area was acquired by the Government of the colonial Gold Coast in 1952 as the Kujani Bush Forest Reserve. In 1962 it became a fully fledged Forest Reserve, set up by the Forestry Department, to preserve the natural vegetation and animal life and to check the downward stretch of the savanna. The major objectives that informed the sitting of the Reserve in the area were to:

     "(i)maintain the forest cover in order to protect the head waters of the

tributaries of the Sene and Afram rivers and to prevent the spread of the

Savanna conditions;

     (ii)protect the area from the south from harmattan and to maintain

conditions favourable to the growing of agricultural crops in the area; and

     (iii)maintain the high forest as a major and minor forest

produce from the surrounding population."

The Initial Situation

In 1971, the Wildlife Department took over the Forest Reserve from the Forestry Department and turned it into a Strict Nature Reserve, devoted solely to scientific research, still guided by the initial objectives. The Department began expanding the boundaries of the Reserve with the view to protecting more rivers' sources and bringing a larger area of the forest under protection. This became necessary since studies conducted by the Department also indicated that, in the dry season the animals in the reserve, depended on the rivers in the unprotected areas for survival. The extension of the holding was also to protect the animals who often fell prey to hunters and farmers in the area.

In undertaking the extension, the Wildlife Department also took population density into consideration, and expanded the reserve into areas with little or no human activity. Indeed, only two hunting settlements were in the area, and these were established when the reserve was Kujani Bush Reserve. Extensive consultations were held with indigenous communities around the area and agreement was reached on the acquired areas and a fixed boundary.

State Lands Act of 1962, Act 125 stipulates that when the State acquires land compulsorily, those on the land must be resettled and adequate compensation paid to them. No assessment of properties for the purpose of computing compensation has been done, because there were no settlements in the areas taken over to create the Kogyae Reserve. Notwithstanding this arguement, traditional authorities and families heads who by customary and traditional rights, owe such lands, are by this Act, to be adequately compensated.

While the Forestry Department allowed local inhabitants living around the reserves to exploit specific categories of non timber forest products, the Wildlife Department did not and does not allow any form of human activity in its reserves. It follows fromthis policy that the Department actively discourages settlements in its reserves.

Since the early 1980s however, a number of migrant farmers from other parts of the district have encroached on the area and have established large tracts of farms in the reserve. As at now, six major communities, with an estimated population of one thousand, six hundred and forty-nine (1649), have been established in the reserve, contrary to the Legislative which established it, which also prohibited the establishment of human settlement and activities in the reserve. The Wildlife Department has therfore, been making efforts at evicting the settlers, most of whom have doing extensive commercial farming over the past decade and half. This had been informed by the realization of the Wildlife Department, that the extent of farming in the reserve is so extensive that the activities of the farmers, if not checked was going to threaten the ecology of the area.

One identified farmer alone, cultivated 18.2 hectares yearly between 1990 and 1994. According to statistics compiled by the Department of Agricultural Extension of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, as at 1994, there was an estimated number of three hundred and thirty one (331) farmers, each cultivating an average of 2 hectares annually, in the reserve. This brings the average annual area of land cleared in the reserve for farming to six hundred and eighty-eight (688) hectares. The seriousness of the environmental degradation lies in the fact that most of the farmers cultivate Yams, whose agronomic practice require that the land must first be stripped bare of all vegetation to facilitate the making of mounds for the cultivation of the crop.

Faced with the problem of active and extensive encroachment on the reserve, the Wildlife Department has, since the issue came to a head in the 1980s, been trying to eject the settlers from the reserve. The efforts of the Department in achieving compliance have not been successful due to several factors. For example, support from the traditional authorities in the area, the Kumawu and Kwamang traditional councils has not been forthcoming.

With the area held sacred by both authorities, one would have expected the traditional councils to support the Department in upholding the sanctity of the forest as an ancestral sacred grove. However, since each of the councils is claiming ownership of the reserve area, each is expecting to be the recipient of compensation from the government after assessment of the acquisition is completed. Any support to get the settlers out will therefore mean ejecting people who normally owe traditional allegiance to the council and therefore the weakening of claims to the reserve lands.

Lack of coordination and support among governmental agencies and departments in the district also tend to endorse the right of the settlers to perpetuate their stay and engage in unrestrained farming activities in the reserve. For example, between 1990 and 1994 one of the settler farmers cultivated 18.2 hectares of Yams annually in the reserve. In 1991, this same farmer was adjudged the best farmer in the district by the Ministry of Agriculture and the farm was used by the Extension Services Division of the Ministry as a demonstration farm for Yam farmers in the district.

The problem of encroachment of the reserve and the refusal of the settler farmers to stop their farming activities and quit the reserve is very well known to the political authorities at both the district and regional levels, the District Authority and Regional Coordinating Council. Indeed, the heads of these bodies have tried several times in the past to intercede in the several conflicts that engulf the area. Yet, the Wildlife Department has not received any clear and unequivocal backing of the political authorities to compel the settlers to move out of the reserve.

It is obvious that if the problem persists, the entire reserve area will inthe very near future be encroached upon by migrant farmers in search of fertile farming lands. The forest land which serves as a break between the southern forest zone and the transitional zone to the northern savanna will be completed lost with its attendant ecological woes. In addition, with the loss of the forest, the wildlife which is found in the area will all disappear.

The reserve also serves as the source area for some major rivers such as the Afram. The river faces a great threat from the extensive farming which is systematically destroying its forest cover. Indeed, in recent times the Afram, which used to flow steadily and smoothly throughout the year, breaks into pools during the dry season. The Afram is one of the major rivers that flow into the Volta River which supplies water to the hydro-electric dams at Akosombo and Kpong. Threats to the Afram will have a devastating effect on power generation at the two dams.

The Reform Process

In 1992, the Wildlife Department became a beneficiary of the Forest Resource Management Project, an on-going donor assisted project managed by the Forestry Commission. With the support it received for the project, the Department initiated a programme to systematically assess all protected areas and to make management plans for the improvement of the areas. Technical assistance for the assessment was received from the World Conservation Union, (IUNC).

Socio-economic concerns of population around areas designated as strict reserve had not received much attention from the Department until the assessment studies began. Its pre-occupation had been with securing the reserves. Faced with the alarming rate at which encroachment and settlements had threathened the reserves, the Department initiated studies into the socio-economic perspectives of the reserves as an input into the management plan.

To reverse the several problems that were retarding the development and management of the reserve, measures were taken, as part of the study to address some of the socio-economic concerns of the population. The Department, after extensive consultation and negotiation with the population, agreed to shift the Southern boundary of the reserve northward, to exclude all the settlements and the areas developed into farms. This had legal implications which could delay implementation of the agreements reached with the population. For example, there was a need to redemarcate the areas to exclude all the settlements.

The Department was not in a position to immediately redemarcate the area along the agreed settlement between the Department and the settlers due to financial constraints. There was also the need to change the legislation establishing the reserve to legalise the new boundaries. To circumvent the problems and restore the purpose of the reserve, a tacit understanding was reached with the population on the ceding of the new lands. It was also agreed between the Department and the settler farmers that after the redemarcation, the inhabitants of the non-ceded areas will pull out.

The Outcome

Despite the tacit agreements entered into with the inhabitants of the reserve, the Department has not succeeded in getting them to pulling out. The Department has held several consultations with the regional and district political authorities to assist in reclaiming the reserve but no solution has been achieved.

To avert confrontation with the settlers who refuse to move, the Department has bent backwards to allow them to stay, on condition that they will agree to desist from making new farms. The settlers have also not kept this latest agreement. Instead, the settlers have intensified their economic activities in the reserve, including farming, felling of timber logs, hunting and chopping down trees to burn charcoal. Despite all the overtures from the Department, the settlers have remained obstinate and have resorted to harassment and detention of officials of the Department who interfere with

their economic activities.

It appears that the Department of Wildlife has exhausted all avenues to halting the encroachment of the reserve and the attendant ecological damage. In the face of the apparent helplessness of the officials of the Wildlife Department to reclaim the reserve and maintain order in the area, the World Vision International, Ghana and the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development through Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Partnership organized a Conflict Management Workshop to resolve the difference between the Department of Wildlife local officials and the communities around the reserve. This has been the latest initiative at addressing the lingering problem posed by the encroachment of the reserve.

The Lessons Learned

Several important issues emerge from this case. The Department of Wildlife has no doubt, perhaps for the first time, realised the need to undertake socio-economic surveys in reserve areas as a necessary input to addressing the concerns of population within the immediate vicinity such reserves. This has been a valuable lesson which can guide other future investments by the Department as well as other community based projects initiated by other agencies.

The need for regular dialogue and interaction with local population has also been highlighted. The case has underscored the fact the legislation alone cannot deter people form changing habits and resolve. Effective communication and public education aimed at securing understanding, goodwill and cooperation serve as more potent building blocks at achieving common purpose. Governmental agencies, it has become clear from this case, owe it a duty to the public to establish avenues for effective dialogue on a sustained basis, with the view to gaining public support.

The case has also highlighted the need for prompt payment of compensation to land owners for all properties acquired by government and its agencies for development projects. The failure by Government to honour its obligation of compensating land owners for lands acquired compulsorily under the State Lands Act of 1962 has created many problems in several parts of the country. The delay, and in some cases failure to paying compensation has resulted in conflicts, and in some cases violent confrontations between land owners and local population, against executing agencies. This has resulted in the delay in implementation, suspension or failure of many urban as well as rural based public projects.

The complementary role of international non-governmental and development agencies in assisting communities and institutions in resolving conflicts is commendable. The expertise in doing this needs to be imparted to opinion leaders and other indigenous groups to ensure that conflicts are resolved peacefully to forestall their entry onto community and national agenda.