Forest Dependence among Rural Households in Southern Ghana: Implications for Conservation and Poverty Reduction
While it is widely acknowledged that an understanding of the determinants of rural households’ forest extraction and dependence on forest resources is important for policies on forest conservation and rural development, the factors that determine Ghanaian households’ dependence on forests are neither adequately explored nor well-understood. Against this background, this paper examines the extraction and dependence on forest resources among rural households in the forest communities of Southern Ghana. Data were collected through a household livelihood survey and in-depth interviews in two forest communities. Regression models were then used to investigate key factors that condition the households' dependence on forests in the study communities. The findings indicate that almost all households are engaged in forest extraction. The average overall contribution of forests to household income in the study communities was 21 percent and constituted the third largest contributor to household income following crop income and non-farm income. The findings also indicate that forests also play an essential safety net role in the face of unforeseen income shortfalls and ultimately, in poverty alleviation. The results further reveal that the rural household's extraction of forest resources and consequently its dependence on forests (livelihood strategy) are a function of its access to other livelihood assets, its vulnerability context as well as other context variables. Recommended policy interventions for forest conservation and sustainable rural development include securing the natural resource base, broadening poor people's livelihood options and improving access to education in rural communities.