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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (United Nations University, 1996, 365 p.)
close this folderIntroduction
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View the documentEconomy and society: Development issues
View the documentEnvironmental issues and futures
View the documentEnvironment and resource management
View the documentInstitutional issues
View the documentEnvironment and development in Ghana
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Environment and development in Ghana

The special problems of the host country, Ghana, provide detailed examples of the difficulties of policy implementation in resource and environmental management in relation to current social, political, and economic changes. In Ghana, legislation to protect the natural environment dates back to 1901 and the Wild Animals Preservation Ordinance, followed by the Rivers Ordinance of 1903 and the initiation of forest reservation in 1907. At present no fewer than 22 departments, commissions, research organizations, and corporations have responsibilities for land and other resources management. In 1974, only two years after the UN Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, the Ghana Environmental Protection Council (EPC) was created to organize research and educational programmes, to ensure observance of proper safeguards in all development projects, and to cooperate with national and international environmental organizations. The approach, however, was largely protectionist and cosmetic until the droughts and bush fires of the early 1980s and the realization that the natural resource base of Ghana was deteriorating rapidly.

In 1983 Ghana embarked on its Economic Reform Programme (ERP), which resulted in some environmental degradation and led the government to direct the EPC in 1988 to set up an environmental "think tank" to reconcile economic development and natural resource conservation. The ERP stopped economic decline and created some growth - especially in the rural areas, where commercial agriculture, mainly led by the cocoa industry, has played an important role in economic recovery. The terms of trade for food staples have tended to deteriorate, however. On average, poverty was reduced under the ERP, although admittedly the data are limited and there are some people below the poverty line whose condition has worsened.

The current development of palm oil provides an important special case. In the 1970s, peasant and state-owned plantation production of palm oil had failed to keep up with demand. After 1981 attempts were made to promote oil-palm plantations through private enterprise, foreign-aided government ventures, and joint governmentprivate projects. These have expanded rapidly and have made a significant contribution to palm oil production, besides raising income and employment levels locally. The costs include local resistance to land expropriation and the creation of monocultural systems of plant production, which are vulnerable to insect pests and diseases. However, the development of nucleus estates by three major plantations in cooperation with smallholders and outgrowers under contract combines more traditional farming methods on small plantations with the technical advantages of modern agricultural production on core estates and may be able to offer a more sustainable future if production becomes more diversified on the basis of organic and other ecofarming and with low external input principles.