Governance and the making and breaking of social-ecological traps

Published

Journal Article

© 2018 by the author(s). Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have areas of significant ecological importance that overlap with pressing development needs and high levels of natural resource dependence. This makes the design of effective natural resource governance and management systems both challenging and critical. In Ghana, this challenge is made more complex by the necessity of connecting formal, state-led systems of governance with Ghana’s informal governance systems through which customary authorities exert considerable control over land and resources. We present findings from two multimethod research projects in two regions of Ghana that have significant issues related to resource exploitation and that have experienced extensive management interventions. The goals of the research were to characterize the social-ecological traps from a local perspective, to describe how governance and management structures interact with and relate to those traps, and to discuss the strategies used and challenges encountered when community-based natural resource management initiatives seek to reverse persistent social-ecological traps. In both case studies, participants described persistent cycles of resource dependence, overexploitation, and unsustainable land-use practices, which are exacerbated by illegal logging, intensive agricultural development, and population growth. Findings highlight how natural resource management is constrained by a lack of capacity to implement and enforce state policies, ongoing tension between customary and state institutions, and ambiguity regarding management responsibility and resource tenure. Interventions included targeted governance reform that centred on improving linkages between customary and state institutions, new and nonlocal actors, and complementary investments in capacity building and training. We conclude with a discussion of implications for the design of effective natural resource governance regimes in Ghana and beyond.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Baker, DM; Murray, G; Agyare, AK

Published Date

  • January 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 1

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1708-3087

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.5751/ES-09992-230138

Citation Source

  • Scopus