While the Ghana Forestry Commission battles with limited resources, staff and support to fight forest destruction by illegal logging and mining, the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) programme is empowering civil society to influence policy makers and powerful elite towards inclusive and sustainable forest governance as a more comprehensive way of ensuring conservation and sustainable use of forest lands.
The GLA programme is being led by Tropenbos International (TBI), International Union for the Conservation of Nature Netherlands (IUCN-NL) and Milieudefensie through a strategic partnership agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands government. It is an international programme being implemented with local civil society partners in nine countries: Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Philippines, Uganda and Vietnam.
The objective of the GLA programme is therefore: Inclusive and sustainable governance of forested landscapes.
It supports four natural services of forests:
Food security: forests provide a huge range of food resources and are also part of climate functions that in turn support food production systems
Water: forests play a crucial role in the water cycle; they harbor the headwaters of many rivers important for providing clean water for homes and farming; and they also help prevent flooding
Biodiversity: forests are home to a huge diversity of species, with many endemic species, and are very valuable as sources of present and as yet undiscovered medicines. Forest communities also rely heavily on these diverse forest resources for household needs, traditional practices, and as inputs to livelihood activities.
Climate resilience: existing forests capture and store huge amounts of carbon, while newly planted forest areas remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of climate change.
A basic premise of the GLA is that local communities play a key role in protecting and using the forests sustainably. Local knowledge for sustainable land-use integrated with global best practices will ensure that forests maintain their crucial ecosystem functions and continue to provide critical natural resources. Sustainable management of their lands and forests is in the communities’ interest because of their reliance on water, food, building materials, medicines and the natural processes that support their lives.
The GLA asserts that three conditions are required for communities to manage their lands in a sustainable way:
- Secure land tenure or access to land: to encourage conservation and sustainable management of lands and forests, and discourage illegal and damaging practices
- Participation in government and private sector land-use decision-making processes: although participation may be written into legislation and policies, it is often not enforced, so that communities’ rights are ignored in favour of exploitation and profit
- Other nature-based approaches for forest and land management to add to communities’ own traditional knowledge and techniques: agroforestry, agroecology, home gardens, natural forest regeneration and other methods are consistent with local knowledge and techniques, and contribute to sustaining the forests’ natural services. They are even more effective when combined with global best practices, but this does require technical skills and support and positive policy incentives if they are to be competitive with short-term profitable yet destructive alternatives.
The existence of these three conditions will provide the incentive for communities to invest in sustainable management of forests and land. But these conditions require the right local, national and international legislation and policies that support communities to engage with public and private sector stakeholders to jointly make land-use management decisions through inclusive and sustainable governance of forested landscapes. The GLA will pursue these policies and practices at local, national and international levels. Central to the GLA’s strategy is to use the experience of the GLA partners to strengthen the capacity of its other civil society organisations to technically, politically and economically empower and represent local communities and join with them in lobbying and advocating for inclusive and sustainable governance of forested landscapes.
The programme has two main components:
- Building the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) for lobby and advocacy
- Practical implementation of lobby and advocacy actions.
Capacity development for lobby and advocacy
Civil society organisations play crucial roles in society. By giving communities and marginalised groups a voice, together they hold governments and corporations to account when they don’t do what’s right. They fight bad activities to change the status quo and the balance of power. They are especially strong when they come together in coalitions to organise public pressure for change and to influence policies and actions. They support communities to use their lands in more sustainable ways and to better protect the forests they rely on. Building this capacity will ensure civil society becomes increasingly effective in supporting people’s rights and environmental protection.
Lobby and advocacy interventions
Lobby and advocacy is focused on policies and practices that enable or threaten inclusive sustainable governance of forested landscapes, the aim being to improve local livelihoods. The GLA is pressuring local, national and international governments and private sector to adopt policies and practices that secure communities’ access to land, involve communities in land-use decision-making, and use nature-based approaches to forest management. Confrontation and collaboration are the methods of intervention through which the GLA and civil society partners are representing and empowering local communities in dialogue and networking, and empowering civil society to press for change in public and private stakeholders’ policies and actions.
The lobby and advocacy strategies of the GLA will:
- emphasise the contribution made by forest users, women, forest-dependent and indigenous communities, small-scale farmers and other land users to the sustainable governance of forested landscapes;
- through innovative solutions illustrate the importance of community access to, and control over, land and resources;
- emphasise the role of nature-based approaches in solving problems such as climate change, food and water shortages, and biodiversity loss;
- press national governments to incorporate binding international agreements into national law and practice, and urge private sector companies and financing institutions to adhere to ecological and social standards in the area of climate, food and water security, biodiversity, inclusiveness and gender;
- argue for innovation in policy regimes nationally and internationally, for example for low carbon development strategies and alternatives to the food and energy systems as far as they directly impinge on forested landscapes.
Different activities are taking place in the different partner countries depending on the problems and opportunities for change that exist in each. Have a look at the Ghana programme and the activities FoE-Ghana is undertaking. The main partners for the GLA in Ghana are: Tropenbos International Ghana, A Rocha Ghana and Friends of the Earth Ghana