In a bid to strengthen the role of local communities and relevant stakeholders in decision making processes and management of the Atewa Forest Reserve for which a campaign is currently on going to foster its conversion into a national park, Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana has undertaken a Stakeholder Analysis at Atewa and its environs as a first step towards achieving this end.
The Stakeholder Analysis was carried out under the ‘Strengthening Local Communities for Improved Participation in Decision Making Processes’ Project being implemented by TBI Ghana as a component of a bigger project, the “Living Waters from the Mountains Project” being run by A Roacha Ghana.
A Roacha Ghana, a non-governmental organisation working in the field of conservation has being in the forefront of the campaign for the transformation of the Atewa Forest Reserve into a national park to ensure its protection in the face of numerous threats to its integrity.
These threats range from the activities of timber contractors, illegal gold mining, hunting, farming and illegal logging to the granting of leases to mining companies for gold mining and more recently, attempts to lease out parts of the forest for the mining of bauxite.
This is in spite of the fact that the Atewa Forest Reserve is an important ‘Water Tower’ housing the headwaters of three important rivers, namely, Birim, Densu and Ayensu, which provide water for domestic, agricultural and industrial activities in three out of the ten regions of Ghana. Consequently, the proposal for the Atewa Forest Reserve to be converted into a national park in order to protect it by A Rocha Ghana was received with enthusiasm by all stakeholders on the project but unfortunately, most of them lack good managerial and decision making skills and need to be trained in these areas for their effective participation.
The Stakeholder Analysis which was carried out in ten communities in the East Akyem and West Akyem Districts of the Eastern Region of Ghana was undertaken through a Literature Review, Reconnaissance Survey, Focus Group Discussions and Consultations with various stakeholders aimed at identifying the right stakeholders, assessing their needs and developing training sessions based on these needs to strengthen their decision making and managerial skills.
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods and tools were used to analyse the different interests, power relations and potential conflicts among the various stakeholders whilst a validation session to rank and prioritize stakeholders’ importance, power and influence was also undertaken.
Based on the Stakeholder Analysis, the primary stakeholders of the Atewa Forest Reserve were identified as Traditional Authorities, chainsaw operators, the Forestry Commissions (FC), illegal gold miners, law enforcers, community members and farmers. The Stakeholder Analysis also revealed perceived conflicts amongst the stakeholders and hence outlined strategies for addressing them. It recommended that the “Living Waters from the Mountain Project” adopt a mechanism for handling such conflicts so as not to create conditions that would spiral these conflicts to ensure the successful implementation of the project.