Development assistance in the forestry sector

Impacts over the last two decades and implications for the future

Authors:
Chris Beeko, Kwame Antwi Oduro, Elizabeth Asantewaa Obeng

 This study was commissioned under the Growing Forest Partnerships initiative in Ghana. The purpose of the study was to provide inputs that can challenge and influence the direction and quality of development assistance in the forest sector in such a manner as to return optimum contribution to the governance environment, growth of institutions, and the development of the resource. The forest sector of Ghana can be credited for the role it has played in the country’s economic development. Currently, the sector contributes four percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Over the last two decades, there have been several efforts from development partners to assist the sector improve on its contribution to national socio-economic development. Consequently, the sector has consistently received millions of dollars of development assistance from various development partners. In the past two decades, an amount in excess of US$ 643 million (in 2009 dollar value) has been pumped into the sector. This gives an average, between 1989-2009, of US$ 32 million a year (in 2009 dollar value). The forest sector aid architecture in Ghana has changed over the years.

 Development Partners have moved away from direct project support to the current sector budget support mechanisms. The institutions and actors at play in the current sector aid architecture involve over ten development partners. Both public and private sector institutions are involved in project implementation. The flow of monies through development assistance to the forest sector in Ghana has gone through three major programme phases, namely, (1) the Forest Resource Management Programme (FRMP) phase (1989-1997) where assistance was mostly on project basis; (2) the Natural Resources Management Programme (NRMP) phase (1999-2008) with donor support mainly on programme basis; and (3) the Natural Resource and Environmental Governance (NREG) phase (2008-date) with sector budget support. A fourth category might be considered to represent all the other development assistance that are given to the forest sector on individual project basis. These run parallel to the three major phases and include new international initiatives. This fourth category includes, for example, International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) or European Commission funded projects that are implemented by Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) and other institutions in the forestry sector.  Overall, priority interventions in the forest sector can be categorized into five focal areas, namely, forest management and resource development (including reforestation programmes), institutional capacity building, governance (including policy and institutional reforms), livelihoods support, and biodiversity conservation.

The state of forestry today, after more than two decades of development intervention and partnership by aid agencies, is very different from what pertained prior to the intervention. The forest sector is easily one of the best resourced sectors in the country in terms of human capital and logistics. There has been a panoply of reform initiatives that have straightened the rules of the game in the sector.  Notwithstanding the glaring and remarkable changes that have been witnessed in the sector within the last twenty years there still remains a paradox. It is still commonplace to hear statements that allude to the fact that “there has been a financing of deforestation through development assistance”. The forest resource base is, without question, in a much worse state than when all the aid money began to flow in. Law enforcement is no better than when the interventions began. Earlier studies have established that the high rate of exploitation and associated degradation is reversing the sector’s contribution to GDP in real terms. The nation also loses hundreds of millions of dollars through environmental degradation and the huge increase in the industry-installed capacity undermines the timber resource base.

The inability of the sector to keep the lid on forest degradation makes any discussion on its contribution to GDP difficult. The corollary is that the much touted exemplary management practices do not appear to have been enough to contain the consistent degradation in the forest resource base. Perhaps the above is suggestive of a disconnect between development assistance and capacity building on one hand and governance and the sustainable management of the resource on the other. The Ghana forest sector presents a clear story of how development assistance that culminates in capacity building does not necessarily result in improved forest resource integrity nor yield the concomitant improvement in the livelihoods of forest dependent communities. The combination of a dimmed innovation at planning a self-financing sector development agenda and a masked alignment to priorities of development partners could have provided some basis for the disorientation of the sector; a disorientation that can be said to be culpable for the current observable state of affairs.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it must be acknowledged that forests are a highly contested resource. On a daily basis forests experience the imposition of demands from a myriad of interest groups. These multiple interests play out in national (as well as international) level politicking, which in turn tends to dilute rational decision making on the management of the resource. In seeking scientific solutions to the many issues enumerated above, there must be an incorporation of solutions that have a bearing on the debilitating intrusions from the political dimension. With a continuation and an increase possibly in development assistance under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), the challenge would be discovering which set of dynamics to examine in order to make a difference. Without examining and solving the puzzle between development assistance, capacity building, governance and sustainable forest management, continued inflow of development aid is not likely to yield much result where it matters most, in the preservation of the forest.

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