Victor M. Agbo and Larry A. Swatuk Title : From conflict to collaboration: Atewa Forest governance through community-based ecotourism
|From conflict to collaboration: Atewa Forest governance through community-based ecotourism
Victor M. Agbo
Larry A. Swatuk
The problem of forest degradation and loss has become the concern of many countries. For this reason, many countries are adopting management collaborations for sustainable forest management to address this challenge. Successful ones recognize local participation as essential to any conservation effort. In Ghana, forests have experienced varying degrees of exploitation over the years. This has resulted in a decline in the ecological integrity of these forests. Despite its designation as a protected area for biodiversity and ecosystem services, the Atewa Forest in Ghana has been significantly impacted by humans through deforestation, illegal mining, and many other livelihood activities. To understand these dynamics, this case study research adopted the interactive governance model as a framework to identify governance challenges and to address forest governance conflicts. With its roots in fisheries and natural resources management, this model provides the basis for the whole of public and private interactions to be initiated by stakeholders and actors of natural resources to solve societal problems and create opportunities for all. The study sampled forest stakeholders in Kwabeng, the administrative capital of the Atewa West District to understand forest governance challenges in the district and strategies for overcoming them. Interview and focus group data from the fieldwork was analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six phase approach to thematic analysis. The results of the study suggest that to achieve SDG 15, a bottom-up, all-inclusive approach to the management of forest resources is the most recommended. Even though some studies have revealed many pitfalls of community-based ecotourism (CBET), this study still argues that when power relations and justice are prioritized, CBET carries the ability to deliver greater sustainable returns than alternative land-use practices. It also highlights CBET’s potential as a conservation tool for forest lands for purposes of recreation and tourism in nature-based environments. The study therefore proposes an integrative approach to forest governance, drawing on the potentials of CBET and the interactive governance approach.