“The Reality from the Myth”: The poor as main agents of forest degradation: Lessons from Ashanti Region, Ghana

Prince Peprah 1 , Emmanuel Mawuli Abalo 1 , Jones Amoako 1 , Julius Nyonyo 1 , Williams Agyemang Duah 1 ,  and Isaac Adomako 1
  • 1 Department of Geography and Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana


The prevailing literature on poverty-environment links mostly presents a rather deterministic view of the nexus between poverty and the environment, revolving around the negative impact of the poor on the environment. Specifically, in Ghana, empirical evidence on the prevalence of forest degradation is sparse because the requisite data are often difficult to obtain. Using a qualitative approach, data collected through in-depth interviews with 45 randomly selected participants and 5 purposively selected key informants (Traditional Authorities) and using a thematic analysis, the poverty-environment, specifically the forest degradation nexus was verified. This cross-sectional study leads the authors to posit that poverty has a minimal negative effect on major forest degradation in Ghana. The study found that the poor were rather conscious, and future-oriented with regard to the environment, specifically forests owing to how their livelihoods and survival are directly linked to their immediate environment. The results suggest that the poverty-environment nexus could be country, or context-specific and varies between geographical and historical contexts. By implication, the seemingly universal assertion that the poor are those who cause major deforestation in communities could be problematic. Henceforth, the study maintains that it would be a fallacy to make generalisations that poverty is the main cause of major forest degradation, since the link between poverty and the environment is very context-specific. We argued on the premise that reduction of poverty in Ghana may not lead to the reduction of forest degradation. Joint implementation of holistic poverty-environment strategies that incorporate both the poor and the rich should be adopted to curb the wanton forest degradation in Ghana.

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