Non-Timber Forest Products Could Alleviate Rural Poverty

Non-Timber Forest Products Could Alleviate Rural Poverty

Ghana - 31 October, 2016

A critical analysis of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) within the context of Ghana has revealed that they can play an important role in rural poverty alleviation instead of merely serving as a safety net for rural farmers as they are presently being utilised.

However, this feat can only be made possible if a premium is placed on NTFPs by promoting co-governance in products such as the bush meat trade. There is therefore the need to research into NTFPs’ value chains such as their production, collection, processing, storage, transport, marketing, and sale to tap into their full potential as a sustainable livelihood venture.

This was contained in a presentation delivered by Dr. Mrs Mercy Derkyi, a lecturer at the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Ghana and a beneficiary of TBI Ghana’s scholarships for professionals in the forestry sector to further their education.

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Dr. Mrs Mercy Derkyi giving her presentation during the symposium

She was speaking at a symposium in Kumasi on October 13 to mark the end TBI Ghana’s five-year phase. The presentation sought among other things to identify prevailing gaps in forest livelihood research.

Dr. Derkyi said globally, NTFPs such as food items, medicinal plants, bush meat, forage and fibre play an important socio-economic role at subsistence and commercial levels as well as for their cultural and spiritual values. However, in Ghana, while they do provide cash and non-cash income for forest fringe communities, they function merely as safety nets and gap fillers in times of emergency and low agricultural productivity instead of as a potential route out of poverty.

She said forest based poverty alleviation can be in two forms; poverty mitigation under which forest resources merely meet subsistence needs, fulfil a safety net function in times of emergency or gap filler in seasonal periods of low income or as a tool for poverty eradication where it helps lift rural households out of poverty by functioning as a means of savings, investments, capital accumulation, asset building, and lasting increases in income and wellbeing.

She noted that forest resources in Ghana are plagued by a myriad of problems that militate against their effective governance and undermine their contribution to the country’s development.

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These problems include inadequate incentives for forest communities engaged in forest resource management, inadequate exploration of opportunities for improving forest employment, and more importantly, a lack of proper analysis of forest-dependent livelihoods resulting in deficient decision making which has resulted in the inefficient use of NTFPs. This hinders their promotion as assets for livelihood improvement.

Furthermore, inherent conflicts in livelihood activities relating to forest and tree resources, illicit use of forest resources, restricted access coupled with competing claims that undermine their importance to forest dwellers and the nation have created an unfavourable governing system that poses serious challenges to the forestry sector.

Dr. Derkyi undertook her doctoral studies at the University of Amsterdam with sponsorship from TBI Ghana. Her thesis entitled ‘Fighting over Forests: Interactive Governance of Conflicts over Forest and Tree Resources in Ghana’s High Forest Zone’.