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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

7 - The Rent of Nonenforcement: Access to Forest Resources

Summary

They have committed false report; moreover they have spoken untruths;

Secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady;

Thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Introduction

Two apparently contradictory forest policies have been pursued in northern Ghana as in much of West Africa. On the one hand, various forms of local natural resource management policies, in the form of indirect rule or newer approaches to decentralization and popular participation, have been encouraged. On the other hand, colonial and postcolonial administrations throughout West Africa have frequently usurped local rights to woodland resources as state laws restricted or suspended customary communal use rights, which were regarded as being inconsistent with rational forest management (Elbow and Rochegude, 1990; Ribot, 1995, 1999). Despite policies of decentralization, Ribot (2001) points out how government agencies have often maintained their influence through the continued exercise of state-granted privileges and management by restriction, exclusion, and fear.

The literature on law and land in Africa tells us that rules enshrined in formal law provide only part of the picture (Berry, 2002b; Blundo and Olivier de Sardan, 2001a and b; Chanock, 1991a, 1998; Comaroff and Roberts, 1981; Juul and Lund, 2002; Lund, 1998; Mann and Roberts, 1991; Moore, 1986, 2001). People's practice as citizens and public servants often differ significantly from what the law(makers) could be held to expect.

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