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Great expectations, not-so-great performance: IBCP co-authors new paper on community-based natural resource management in Ghana

30 April, 2024

Reducing illegal logging is a high priority for participants in community-based natural resource management projects in Ghana; here, IBCP team member Kolani Zébigou stands at the site of a recent illegal logging operation. Photo by Nico Arcilla.


Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) projects have been encouraged worldwide for decades, and have been implemented in Ghana in the form of Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) for more than 20 years. CREMAs have recently been endorsed by the government of Ghana for sustainable forest management, but their effectiveness remains the subject of debate. In a new publication, IBCP collaborated with scientists in Ghana to evaluate participant views of CREMA outcomes through 881 interviews with people in 89 communities associated with eight CREMAs. Our findings suggest that communities realize substantial benefits from CREMA participation, but that performance failed to meet participant expectations for all 33 outcomes evaluated. CREMA participants expressed particular disappointment with conservation outcomes including reduced illegal logging, which depends on government effectiveness in law enforcement.

Improving children's school attendance is another high priority for participants in community-based natural resource management projects in Ghana. Photo by Richmonbash1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Participants also reported disappointment in economic outcomes including insufficient credit and financial assistance, employment, and income generation, and in sociocultural outcomes including educational scholarship, all of which rely largely on external agents for financial and logistical support. These findings highlight that although CBNRM projects can play important supporting roles in conservation, such as through raising conservation awareness and providing buffers to protected areas, they strongly on external support. Moreover, CBNRM may complement, rather than replace, long-standing conservation strategies such as effective law enforcement and protected areas. Gathering empirical data to compare with participant assessments, such as quantifying wildlife parameters, to assess their correspondence to participant-reported conservation outcomes, will be essential to measure their ultimate success.

A tree stands tall at the edge of rainforest in Ghana. Photo by Nico Arcilla.



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