The dynamics of property and other mechanisms of access: The case of charcoal production and trade in Ghana

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An analysis of the dynamics of access to resources is important for a fuller understanding of rural livelihoods especially with changing times and technology. This paper uses benefits from charcoal production and trade in the forest savanna transition zone of Ghana as a case to explore the dynamics of access in time and space and the mechanisms various social actors apply in order to benefit. The study applies an analytical framework combining the revised property rights framework with “A Theory of Access”. Participatory rural appraisal methods, stakeholder meetings, document reviews and interviews were conducted with social actors along the charcoal commodity chain in Ghana. The paper shows that the ability to benefit from charcoal is more dependent on property than other mechanisms of access, and both customary and statutory institutions are involved in mediating access to charcoal in the area. The realization of economic benefits of charcoal led to a contestation between chiefs and family heads over rights to trees on family lands in some communities and changes in the mode of payment for trees used in producing charcoal. Scarcity and concern over sustainability of trees have also driven the dynamics of the access mechanisms. Chiefs have strengthened their authority in charcoal-producing communities and the low presence of statutory institutions with de jure mandate to regulate the charcoal sector in those communities has implication on plans by the state to formalize and regularize charcoal production and trade in the country. We envisage four adverse effects from the government’s attempt to formalize the charcoal sector – elite capture, exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized people, criminalization of livelihoods and loss of rights. We recommend that the planned formalization should be devoid of directives that would make charcoal production and trade prohibitive for low-income households.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105152
JournalLand Use Policy
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 249910572