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Ghana - 18 July, 2018
While in the past, traditional customary laws were enough to keep people from trespassing on certain parts of forested landscapes such as sacred groves, which often served as a repository of the original fauna and flora of a forest, and from hunting, farming and fishing on specified days and periods which also sought to arrest the overexploitation of forest and water resources, the advent of Western Civilisation saw the demise of these laws.
In the absence of these laws, a local natural resource management gap was created which could not be filled by modern laws which were enacted at the national level and imposed on communities. This is due to the fact that local communities often felt alienated from these laws which were passed without their participation as well as the lack of enforcement of these laws by the law enforcement agencies.
The result was an atmosphere of ‘free plundering’ by all since local communities had not only lost their fear of punishment from ‘ancestors and idols’ whipped up in the past to make them comply with these customary laws but also their sense of collective ownership of these natural resources which in the past bestowed on them an ingrained responsibility towards their preservation for generations yet unborn.
Re-enacting these traditional laws may therefore help to restore a sense of collective ownership and responsibility towards the use of natural resources and help manage them sustainably.
In this regard, the Green Livelihoods Alliance Programme (GLA) being implemented by Tropenbos Ghana in the Juaboso-Bia Forest Landscape has through a series of training and engagements motivated Traditional Authorities in the area to re-enact these traditional customary laws in a bid to promote the sustainable management of natural resources at the community level. The chiefs were also taken through Ghana’s Riparian Zone Policy and their role in safeguarding land and water resources.
The re-enactment of customary laws that promote sustainable management practices demonstrates the commitment and willingness of Traditional Authorities to support national and global efforts towards sustainable and integrated land and water management.
The Traditional Authorities therefore called for their continual involvement in natural resource management issues and appealed for renewed legal support to back the effective and sustained enforcement of customary-based natural resource practices.