BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
Bern Open Repository and Information System

The politics of decentralization in Ghana : impacts on natural resource management, sustainability and gender relations

Adam, James Natia (2022). The politics of decentralization in Ghana : impacts on natural resource management, sustainability and gender relations. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

22natia_j.pdf - Thesis
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY 4.0).

Download (1MB) | Preview


Decentralization has become a key component of contemporary development policy and practice. Its basic notion is simply the withdrawal of the state. As such, several programmes and projects are working on transforming these thoughts into solid practices. Nevertheless, translating theory into everyday practice poses a huge challenge. Drawing on ethnographic research in northern Ghana, I seek to question the mainstream views on decentralization that local level institutions can be intentionally fashioned to enroll the participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups, including women and people with reduced mobility in decision-making concerning natural resource management. The study uses institutional economics to complement social science discourse to analyze the impact of decentralization on NRM, sustainability and gender relation. I ask: How do decentralization reforms modify the balance of power between public administration in charge of land administration, customary authorities, and resource end-users? How is it to be explained that, paradoxically, the decentralization of the formalization of rights in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has promoted informal ASM leading to a negative impact on social, economic, and environmental sustainability? How do intersectional gendered power relations in mining communities of Ghana impact on women’s access to power and ability to transform patriarchal social structures? I used focus group discussions, expert interviews, semi-structured household interviews, participant observation and transect walk. This enabled for the collection of in-depth insights of rich data for further interpretation and analysis. I demonstrate in this dissertation that decentralization–presented by governments and many scholars–as merely organizational and technical, hides its political and ideological dimensions. Although, decentralization reforms are unlikely to unleash passions, I demonstrate that decentralization initiatives aimed at empowering local actors and improve democratic decision-making lead to the emergence of diverse and often unexpected dynamics that are quite different from the original policy intentions. These ground realities highlight that decentralization provides both opportunities and constraints leading to the emergence of few winners and many losers. The huge challenge for decentralization, therefore, is to circumnavigate the thin line between the creation of inclusive room for local citizens’ participation in decision-making, and the risk of fueling social exclusion and further marginalization by the very intention of re-distributing power.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 26 January 2022
Subjects: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
900 History > 910 Geography & travel
Institute / Center: 08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2022 11:59
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2023 23:25

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item