«Dissertations Forestales 149 Forest law compliance in the High-Forest Zone of Ghana: an analysis of forest farmers’ livelihoods, their forest ...»
Finally, for effective implementation and to achieve the full benefits of forest law enforcement initiatives such as the EU FLEGT in Ghana, there is a need for (i) a direct focus on local and domestic forestry issues such as the domestic timber market, off-reserve forest resources, forest communities’ engagement and rights to the forest and (ii) an expansive model for a legal compliance system that encourages both the normative as well as the instrumental factors of compliance in Ghana. Concerning the former, it is important to recall that at present, the domestic demand for timber in Ghana is largely supplied by (currently illegal) chainsaw operations; farmlands are identified as the most common areas for chainsaw operations and farmers as the major channels through which chainsaw operators access the trees (Nketiah et al. 2004, Marfo et al. 2009, Marfo 2010). Without fully addressing the domestic timber market and the role of local forest users (loggers, communities and farmers) as well as the reasons for illegal forest activities, the major achievements of the Ghanaian EU FLEGT Plan may be limited to the redirection of Ghana’s timber from EU markets to less rigid timber markets elsewhere. The current study proposes that a successful policy design and implementation cannot rest on narrowly crafted assumptions and solutions. Alternative approaches to law compliance (Article III) are worth considering.
behaviour is induced thorough discursive measures, information, education, cooperation, assistance and capacity building (May 2005, Gezelius 2007). Ghana’s legal and compliance system rests largely on the traditional approaches to compliance (e.g., coercive measures and sanctions where the desired behaviour is elicited through the prohibition of undesirable behaviour by rules and measures enforced by governmental agencies). The emerging literature on rule compliance suggests that the traditional approaches encourage instrumental motivations for compliance, which is often ad-hoc and more costly to implement (Tyler 1990, Sutinen and Kuperan 1999, Gezelius 2002, 2004, 2007, May 2005). The costs of implementation are especially high in situations where forests are distant from forest offices and are populated with rural resource users, as in Ghana. In this case, a more viable option might be the cooperation with and empowerment of these users (Ostrom 1990, Hirakuri 2003, May 2005). Alternative approaches are associated with normative compliance motivations and an internal long-term duty to comply (Tyler 1990, May 2005). Farmers and local forest communities, when organised and motivated, can help monitor forest activities, report non-compliance by major law violators, and support forest officers in their efforts to promote positive behaviour and the rule of law.
6.3 Methodological and conceptual limitations of the study
This study’s limitations, in terms of the generalisability of the study results, applied research methods and conceptual framework, can be discussed. With regards to generalisability and the application of the study results to different settings, one should note that the studied issues are highly context-specific. As discussed above, the behaviour and motivations for compliance are likely to differ among different forest users and contexts;
therefore, what is relevant for farming communities in Ghana may less be so for other forest users in different environments. Nevertheless, considering the in-depth approach to studying the specific issues, as well as the general absence of empirical studies in the field, it is believed that this study contributes to the knowledge base and provides the basis for further research in the field of rule compliance in forestry. It should be further noted that the study results cannot claim wide representativeness in geographical terms. Due to budgetary limitations, the study does not cover all eight administrative regions in the High Forest Zone of Ghana—instead, the study is limited to three of them. In addition, it is noted that the representativeness of the sample in terms of gender or age is not possible to calculate due to the lack of comprehensive socio-economic data for the base population— heads of household (see Articles II and III). However, the large number sampled, including approximately 10% of the base population, greatly reduces the risk of nonrepresentativeness.
The limitations related to the applied research methods mostly relate to the challenge of assessing the meaning and importance of forest values. First, there is a general challenge to ensuring that all respondents, as well as the researcher, share the same understanding of the studied forest values. Second, due to practical limitations in the field (i.e., the high level of illiteracy among the respondents), in the ranking of importance exercise, the forest values had to be split into two groups – use and non-use forest values. The definition and categorisation of use and non-use forest values was mostly theory- and literature-based, which might have introduced a certain bias into the study. Expanding further on the methodological issues related to values, it should be noted that the study relies on statistical correlations (multilateral binary logistic regression) in assessing the influence of forest values on compliance behaviour. It is noted that this method does not provide a thorough understanding of the reasons behind the obtained relationships and results. More in-depth and qualitative methods could have been beneficial in addressing the relationships between forest values and compliance in a more comprehensive and context-specific manner.
Finally, considering the conceptual limitations, the study’s theoretical approach to the concept of law in general and compliance in particular should be noted. As this study initially aimed at focusing exclusively on the EU FLEGT VPA and the legal issues surrounding this agreement in Ghana, it followed the FLEGT approach to law and compliance, focusing only on the laws and rules established by the state. It can be said that the FLEGT VPA relies to a large extent on the tradition of ‘legal positivism’ (Hart 1997).
The classical articulation of this tradition is that law is the rule issued by the state and enforced through sanctions and punitive measures (i.e., there is only one source of law—the sovereign state). Although this conception of law may hold up fairly well in the European context in which it was initially developed, its relevance has been significantly criticised (Dworkin 1977), especially in non-European contexts, where there are often multiple sources of law (Merry 1988). Conceptualising the law in a more comprehensive way and including traditional rules and/or social norms along with state laws might have significantly added to the value of the current study. The results could have shed light on the role of the origin of rules on compliance behaviour as well as a comparison of the level of compliance with state vs. traditional rules. In addition, considering that a large portion of this research deals with the ‘compliance of the weak’ (the compliance of economically and politically marginalised forest farming communities), referring to the institutional theory and political ecology in the theoretical framework would have also been of clear value.
Nevertheless, applying such an expansive and complex theoretical framework in a single empirical study, on the other hand, might have brought additional difficulties and complexities.
6.4 Final remarks and future research
As the human pressure on the world’s forests grows, ensuring compliance with forest laws is becoming an increasingly important international issue. The economic, or deterrence, model of compliance has been the dominant model in legal systems that regulate the use of natural resources, including forests. This model portrays compliance behaviour as a function of costs and benefits, thus emphasising the importance of instrumental factors and coercive measures in law compliance. The model suggests rather simplified solutions to the problem of non-compliance (e.g., increased monitoring and sanctions), which are typically attractive and readily adopted by policy makers. As a result, governments establish regulations to control the use of forest resources, which they try to enforce by threatening forest users with legal measures such as fines and arrest. It is increasingly recognised that this model has not been successful in ensuring the sustainable use of forest resources or in resolving illegal forest activities worldwide.
An effective forest law compliance system requires a broader approach, which—given the complexity of human behaviour and that of social and environmental systems— considers various instrumental, normative and contextual factors that may influence compliance with forest rules. In particular, an effort should be made to improve the perceived fairness of rules, the incentive schemes and effectiveness of deterrents, the harmony of rules with existing social norms, and finally the perceived legitimacy of the ruling authorities. Such an approach to compliance would offer a wider array of strategies for behavioural change, including, along with coercive measures, discursive and cooperative measures such as education, cooperation, co-management, and the involvement of complying agents in decision-making as well as the monitoring of law enforcement.
Concerning, in particular, the forest farming communities in Ghana and their compliance with laws, there is a need to understand and address the driving historical, social and economic factors, including the changes in forest governance institutions over time, the benefits of illegal activities for the rural economy, and the dependence of forest fringe communities on the forest for their livelihoods. These factors often act as drivers of illegal forest practices among farmers. A revision of the current system that regulates farmers’ tenure and legal rights to manage and benefit from the trees on their land is recommended, as this system was perceived to be unfair and inappropriate. Furthermore, particular attention should be placed on addressing the existing lack of legal alternatives for farmers to obtain needed forest resources and the lack of alternative livelihood strategies, as these factors were shown to be specifically relevant in promoting non-compliance. Social norms, based either on religion, tradition or culture, that encourage positive behaviour, should be identified and strengthened.
Below, some assumptions and hypotheses resulting from this research are provided, as well as the future research needed to test these assumptions.
- With regards to the monitoring and assessment of the livelihoods of forest communities in the context of FLEGT VPA implementation, there is a need to further develop the existing monitoring frameworks to include the issues that directly influence local forest communities’ livelihoods (Article I), including participation and empowerment in decision-making processes, legal rights to forests and trees, transparency and accountability, and the bundle of rights and powers (i.e., state and non-state rules as well as non-rule-based structures, mechanisms and processes).
- The study indicates that the ways in which people perceive and value the forest may influence their compliance with forest rules (Article II). There is a need to test this assumption using a more comprehensive theoretical framework that includes a wider range of theoretically relevant variables of compliance and that would account for the role of context-specific or more immediate ‘behaviour-specific factors’ (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980, Ajzen 1991). As discussed in Article II, these specific factors are likely to hinder the assumed direct influence of values on behaviour.
- With regards to farmers’ compliance with rules, the study suggests the following specific hypotheses: (i) to the extent that forest rules decrease livelihood options and the perceived fairness of rules, non-compliance with those rules increases; and (ii) the higher the levels of social approval for non-compliance and the perceptions that others do not comply are, the higher are the rates of individual non-compliance.
Concerning rule compliance behaviour in more general terms, the following
assumptions and needs for further research are identified (Articles III and IV):
- This study proposes that contextual variables, such as market, trade, and corruption, influence compliance behaviour indirectly by altering specific motivations for compliance that operate at the individual level (e.g., costs, benefits, and norms). There is a need to identify the specific contextual variables that influence specific compliance motivations and the ways in which they do so. For instance, it is reasonable to assume that changes in a resource’s market price will influence instrumental factors of compliance such as benefits and costs. However, the impacts of other contextual variables, such as corruption, regulatory and legislative constraints, political capacity, and property rights, are likely to be more complex and manifold (see Article IV for details).
- There is a need to further study the impacts of different factors/motivations operating at the individual level on compliance behaviour. Although the impacts of some factors, such as the benefits of compliance and sanctions, are considerably more studied and understood, the impacts of norms and legitimacy are lacking detailed insights and understanding. In particular, concerning the role of norms in compliance, it is proposed that social norms will have a more significant role in the following settings: smaller groups of users with a history of collaboration, a shared sense of justice and established mutual trust.
Furthermore, more research is needed to understand and untangle the many questions concerning the role of legitimacy in compliance. Specifically, it is important to address whether legitimacy forms a part of individual motivations—influencing compliance behaviour directly—or whether it is only responsible for influencing other normative motivations, such as norms of fairness or reciprocity. To test the role of legitimacy, scholars should look at the general acceptance of the authorities, the process that they apply to gain a ruling mandate and the processes that they apply to make and enforce laws and rules.