The pursuit of politics of sustainable livelihoods : focus on governance in Ghana



Anani, Kofi Vincent

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University of Guelph


This study is about opening political spaces for the poor in rural Ghana to sustain and transform their livelihoods--the pursuit of politics of sustainable livelihoods. The underlying philosophy is that identifying the problems of governance in a society through critical assessment of participation in common resource management could lead to designing of institutional frameworks for the collective empowerment of the poor. Specifically, the research investigated which organizational knowledge, principles and authority figures--modern or indigenous--are instrumental in the management of common property resources upon which rural livelihoods depend; and the extent to which the corresponding leadership arrangements are utilized in prevailing modern local governance practices. Some livelihood mechanisms selected as common property resources were operationalized as variables to induce critical considerations of the relevance of their underlying values in fostering good governance strategies. Data collection was done in ten rural communities in the Kpandu and Hohoe districts of the Volta Region of Ghana between July and August (phase one), November and December 1998 (phase two). One hundred and forty randomly selected respondents were interviewed alongside participant observation of the indigenous and modern assemblies, and discussions with key individuals from the parallel administrative structure. A major finding is that the socio-cultural realities of life and the philosophical orientations of the rural majority are quite different from those of the urban minority in terms of suitability of arrangements to participate in decision-making and common resource management. The findings validate the principal hypothesis of the research that the indigenous leadership arrangements have a greater capacity to mobilize rural dwellers to participate in common property resource management than the modern local authority arrangements. Therefore, they are more likely to ensure good governance in the rural communities. Despite this revelation, indigenous leadership occupies a subordinate and peripheral position in prevailing local governance arrangements, and is restricted to marginal roles in major development initiatives in the communities--a clear anomaly in political organization, planning and administration. Fostering good governance strategies is a situational initiative that requires interdisciplinary research into local knowledge, values, principles, culture and indigenous participation in institutional designs rather than a normative approach that seeks to adapt and implant best practices from outside onto the local context. A theory and praxis of governance of sustainable livelihoods derived from the pressing need for an effective blend of indigenous and modern leadership have been outlined. Further, the policy actions, expectations and opportunities under the emergent governance arrangements have been provided.



Ghana, Sustainable livelihoods, Pursuit of politics, Poor, Empowerment