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Tree registration to counter elite capture of forestry benefits in Ghana’s Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions

Johnson Gaither, Cassandra, Yembilah, Rita, Samar, Sparkler Brefo
Land use policy 2019 v.85 pp. 340-349
capital, chainsaws, crop damage, farmers, farms, felling, forestry, nongovernmental organizations, social responsibility, trees, Ghana
The regularization of rights to commercial tree species, or “tree registration,” is being promoted by the State (Forestry Commission of Ghana) and non-governmental organizations in Ghana to help minimize elite capture of forestry benefits. Our study examines smallholder farmers’ response to tree registration in selected Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Region communities. Responses are considered in light of persistent constraints farmers endure, including crop damage from tree felling and non-remission (to communities from timber concessionaires) of social responsibility agreement (SRA) benefits. Nearly one-half of farmers said trees had been removed from their farms resulting in crop damage, but virtually no one could verify SRA benefits. Most farmers were unaware of tree titling, and no one had completed the registration process. The multilayered landownership and tree tenure structures in Ghana make registering difficult, if not impossible for smallholder farmers, many of whom are without the requisite social or financial capital, to follow through on instructions given to complete registration. Respondents cite a number of benefits gained by registering such as reductions in non-consensual chainsaw timber felling. However, filial and community piety (the obligation to respect and honor one’s family and extended relations) may undermine farmers’ use of statutory empowerment (gained through registration) to minimize elite capture.