Abstract in English


On the margins of the law and in the heart of local politics. The agrarian colonisation of forest reserves in Northern Ghana

David Andrew Wardell* et Christian Lund**

*Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen **Associate professor, Ph.D., International Development Studies, Roskilde University

Forest reserves are a political creation of frontiers between the uninhabited and the inhabited based on the idea that reservation is necessary for the protection of the integrity of natural resources. Forest policy in post-Independence Ghana has been characterised by centralisation, exclusion and restrictive legislation. However, the lands seized by the government for reserves were not always properly acquired, and consequently land was, and is, still owned by the original owners, though they have formally been denied access to their property. The actual governance of resources of the forest reserves in northern Ghana differs quite dramatically from declared policies. A much more subtel, negotiated and politically sensitive form of arrangement has prevailed and prevails today. Administrative and political authorities have long tolerated that significant areas of the forest reserves have been (re-)colonised by local farmers. The frontier is porous and provides a context for monetary and political rent seeking for political agents when protectig and indulging people's exercise of rights granted them by customary authorities. This creates a complex layered tenure system tightly connected to issues of local politics and produces a continuous re-definition of legality and property rights.

Key-wors : Upper East Region - Ghana - forest reserves - land law - negociated rights - local politics.