June 24, 2013

Small Changes for Big Impacts: Wassa Amenfi West Landscape

The importance of landscape approaches within commodity production systems is gaining increasing recognition. While many of these commodities operate at large scales with few landowners, cocoa is still very much a smallholder crop. Earlier this month the World Cocoa Foundation hosted its Partnership Meeting & Roundtable Sessions for the international cocoa community, uniting the private and public sectors in advancing cocoa sustainability. The Landscapes Blog has looked at cocoa sustainability in the past, and specifically in Ghana through a case study of Olam International from the recent Reducing Risk report and a Rainforest Alliance carbon initiative. Today’s post brings us to the western region of Ghana, an area in which cocoa is particularly important, where the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) implemented one of its Landscapes and Livelihoods Strategies (LLS) between 2007 and 2011 that elevated the importance of community participation and knowledge exchange.

The Wassa Amenfi West Landscape spans an area of about 120,000 hectares, comprised of a mix of agriculture and forest land uses, with cocoa production playing a major role. Yet, the natural systems (particularly the forests) also faced severe degradation, poverty levels were high in the local communities, and poor land tenure arrangements provided disincentives for better land management. A main barrier for long-term sustainable landscape management was the complexity of this last factor, where customary law governed most non-protected areas and planted trees, while the government imposed control on forest reserves and un-planted trees.

During LLS implementation, multi-stakeholder engagement processes involving local groups and government agencies at multiple scales, and improvements to the local understanding and practice of land and tree tenure, contributed to starting down a more sustainable path. Community tree nurseries to support the landscape restoration efforts, training around non-timber forest products as alternative income sources, and the implementation of a system for registering privately-owned trees all contributed to a stronger sense of enthusiasm from the locals to invest time and resources in better management practices.

Overall, this was a learning process, and helped to develop a better understanding of what a landscape approach meant in this context: institutional arrangements are at the core of how people interact with the land and resources; and those interactions between land uses, the various stakeholders, and external influences are important to consider in identifying solutions.

Read More:
Nyame, S.K., M. Okai, A. Adeleke, and B. Fisher. 2012. Small Changes for Big Impacts: Lessons for Landscapes and Livelihoods from the Wassa Amenfi West Landscape, Ghana. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

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