In a West African wildlife corridor, landscape actors unite around good governance

COLANDS stakeholder workshop clears pathways for a resilient, multifunctional landscape
Stakeholder workshop, Ghana. Photo by Samuel Adeyanju/CIFOR-ICRAF

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The Western Wildlife Corridor (WWC) is a key migration path for animals moving from the Ranch de Nazinga wildlife reserve in Burkina Faso to Ghana’s Mole National Park. As such, it has long been the focus of conservation efforts from local and international NGOs.

But the WWC also contains three community resource management areas (CREMAs), comprising numerous communities that depend on the natural resource base for their livelihood needs. Competition for land and resources is further compounded by formal and informal logging, mining, and agriculture.

Against this backdrop, the Collaborating to Operationalise Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS) initiative’s Ghana team is engaging with a broad group of representatives from a range of sectors and authorities to untangle a broad variety of land-use issues, needs, and objectives for the WWC. Through a stakeholder workshop in Bolgatanga, Northern Ghana on 13–15 September, 2022, they facilitated a significant first step towards landscape-level cooperation, by bringing stakeholders into agreement on a shared vision of good governance for the landscape.

The 60 participants present included communities, private sector, state officials, tribal chiefs, NGOs, and academia, as well as three actors from the COLANDS Zambia initiative (a researcher, a tribal chief, and a district council chairman) who had participated in a similar process in Zambia, and who shared their experiences. Such cross-site learning happens far too infrequently, and observations of where commonalities and differences occurred was fascinating.

Facilitator Emelia Arthur guided the workshop, which began with a brief presentation from Yakubu Balma Issaka at COLANDS Ghana’s implementing partner, the Tamale-based University for Development Studies. Based on previous research in the landscape, he described some of the key drivers of local land use change. Participants reflected on these issues and, working in randomized groups, found consensus on the key issues of concern.

After much consultation and the identification of over 40 issues, stakeholders agreed upon the three most important: weak governance structures (both horizontally and vertically), agricultural expansion (particularly commercial agriculture, but also local shifting cultivation practices), and over-exploitation of natural resources (including logging and mining).

Participants then returned to their smaller groups to develop a mission statement for the WWC; that is, a single sentence capturing their vision for the landscape. The groups then negotiated and synthesized these statements to develop one overarching vision, which read as follows: “developing a resilient and multifunctional landscape sustaining diversified livelihoods, biodiversity, and green value chains through inclusive and equitable governance.”

Returning to their smaller groups, participants next attempted to define the actions and activities needed to steer the WWC towards this desired future. Unsurprisingly, given the breadth of stakeholders represented, the groups had diverse near-term objectives. For example, traditional chiefs advocated for law reform, while government officials said that current legislation was adequate but local governance needed strengthening; private sector representatives stressed the importance of green value chains, while academics noted a need for sustainable financing mechanisms.

   Stakeholder workshop, Ghana. Photo by Samuel Adeyanju/CIFOR-ICRAF
   Stakeholder workshop, Ghana. Photo by Samuel Adeyanju/CIFOR-ICRAF

Through considerable discussion and deliberation, the groups eventually agreed on three key long-term objectives: strengthened environmental governance, increased adoption of environmentally friendly agricultural practices, and resilient and multifunctional landscapes. Achieving these long-term objectives, they agreed, is a prerequisite to realizing the shared vision statement. They then worked collectively to develop a list of necessary actions and activities to achieve the three objectives. Agreed near-term activities include field visits and knowledge sharing, capacity building for CREMA communities, biodiversity assessments, and identifying or establishing appropriate multi-stakeholder fora.

At the close of the day, all participants made a commitment to maintain the momentum generated over this and a previous workshop held in April, and work together to ensure the identified activities are put into practice.

Overall, it was very encouraging to see how the intense discussions over the two-day workshop revealed many issues, challenges, and disagreements, but ultimately fostered a sense of reconciliation as the group considered, rejected, negotiated, and finally accepted a common strategy for moving forward.

COLANDS is supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and is a CIFOR-led consortium of partners consisting of the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and local and political partners in the countries of implementation.

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