Provisioning Ecosystem Services in Rural Savanna Landscapes of Northern Ghana: An Assessment of Supply, Utilization, and Drivers of Change
Yaw Agyeman Boafo*, Osamu Saito*, and Kazuhiko Takeuchi**,***
*Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), United Nations University, 5-53-70 Jingumae Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
**United Nations University, Japan
***Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan
As a fundamental element of human lives, ecosystems and the services they provide across all socioecological regions are now under threat from human and natural activities. An assessment of the different categories of ecosystem services at various levels has become necessary for sustainable use and conservation. This study seeks to identify and characterize provisioning ecosystem services affecting rural households in the Tolon and Wa West Districts of northern Ghana. It examines the key dynamics of these services and discusses the major factors influencing their supply and utilization. The study employs rapid rural appraisal methods, including key informant interviews, household questionnaires surveys, focus group discussions, and participatory observations for collecting primary data. Findings indicate an extensive use of all provisioning services examined: bushmeat, crop and animal production, fish catches, fodder and forage, fuelwood, building materials, fresh water, and wild plants by households at all study sites. Averagely, 80% of households across the study sites collect and utilize these variety of services to support livelihood strategies. Our study also identified major challenges for sustainable supply and use of these ecosystem services, including the growing scarcity and decline in these services attributed to closely connected drivers such as cyclical drought, climate variation, land conversion, overharvesting, and a decline in traditional ecological knowledge. This study thus demonstrates the need for an integrated assessment that examines, at the local level, the interactions of various ecosystem services and human well-being to provide a scientific basis for formulation of effective coping and adaptation strategies in the midst of these challenges.
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