Details

  • Type: KPMG information
  • Date: 12/18/2013

Local community asserts environmental rights  

In Ghana, a community evicted a mining company whose operations were causing environmental damage. Four other communities followed this example and prevented mining companies from working in their communities. This led to the adoption of new District Bylaws to guide and regulate the activities of extractive companies in their engagement with forest communities. The 83,500 population of Wasa Amenfi East District will benefit from the codification of the way their elected representatives conduct themselves regarding natural resources management and benefit sharing, and from the increased transparency and ‘checks and balances’ that are a part of this.
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Key elements of context

 

  • In Ghana, the state controls all public forests, even though the Constitution recognises that they are actually owned by local communities. This hugely disempowers people, who feel they have no control over the natural resources on which their day‐to‐day lives depend. The arrangement also nurtures a culture of secrecy, whereby logging or mining companies can access resources without anyone really knowing whose permission they obtained.
  • This has been a long‐standing issue, and since the 1994 Forest Policy enabled recognition of community forests, the necessary laws to put this in place never happened. Nowadays, local civil society groups are increasingly disillusioned with the potential for meaningful policy and legislative reforms.
  • People are also concerned that local law enforcement agents are often unable or unwilling to take action, particularly against illegal mining operations. They feel they can’t wait for national level policy reform, but need to play a more immediate role in bringing illegalities to the attention of officials, and at times to use the media to do so.
  • Whilst local forest‐dependent people will openly talk about the problems that face them, they lack sufficient knowledge of the law, or confidence to organise and present their concerns effectively. They are hungry for support to do this.