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Wageningen University (2015)

Negotiating access to forests : the interrelation of property and authority at the development frontier of the West Gonja District in Northern Ghana

Norglo Benhardt Edem Kofi

Titre : Negotiating access to forests : the interrelation of property and authority at the development frontier of the West Gonja District in Northern Ghana

Auteur : Norglo Benhardt Edem Kofi

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2015

Résumé
This thesis is structured in four chapters. In chapter one, I provide a background of the research in which I explain that the illegal logging leads to environmental degradation and deforestation. It also affects the rural populations, especially subsistence farmers who depends on forests for their livelihoods. I briefly explain how access to forests is beginning to change with the emergence of a frontier in the West Gonja District. I also briefly discuss how access to forests is governed as new actors emerge at the frontier, and local practices collide with contemporary market opportunities. In this chapter, I introduce the concepts and theories upon which the entire thesis is written around.
The second chapter is the theoretical framework. In this chapter, I review literature from different authors on the theories of governance, access, property and legal pluralism. The chapter discusses governance as a “messy” process that requires detail observation of practices as they occur in local communities. It presents access, in line with other cited authors’ views as the ability to benefit from a resource. This chapter also argues the interrelation between property and authority, as well as access. The framework establishes that, in order to understand deforestation at the development frontier, these concepts of access, property, and legal pluralism need to be examined together to provide a clearer understanding of how forests are governed.
Chapter three contains the presentation of data gathered from the field and the analysis. The chapter shows how access to property (forests) is determined in the West Gonja District prior to the emergence of the frontier and onset of the frontier. The chapter argues that access to forests was more liberally allowed prior to the road construction project of 2011-2014. With the commoditization of the rosewood species of wood after the road project begun, access to forests begun to change. In this chapter, I show the interrelation between property and authority and how traditional authorities (chiefs) magnified their power by levying other actors who seek access to property. I show that a patron-client relationship, violence, deceit and shedding of responsibilities by authorities characterizes the frontier.
Chapter four is the discussion and conclusion. Here I state that the emergence of the frontier is characterised by a number of factors ; the road project, the discovery of the rosewood species, the intrusion of new actors, ready market and the redefining of property and access. I suggest that although no single law gains prominence in legally pluralistic localities, in the case of the frontier, it was one law that gain prominence. However, this prominent customary law was concealed by the deliberate referral by authorities to other authorities, thus shifting attention away from a dissection of the prominent laws. Authorities’ refusal to also accept responsibility for the governance of forests sustains an effort to deny the prominence of a single law. This situation leads to the superficial observation of the absence of a dominant law in a legally pluralistic frontier.

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Page publiée le 13 septembre 2016, mise à jour le 17 octobre 2018