Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Edward R. Carr


Global loss and degradation of forests are well documented, and the potential role of forests in climate change mitigation is widely recognized. While forests are key to human well-being, forest resource management in the developing world is fraught with governance challenges. Despite policy discourses that emphasize the importance of local participation in the management of forest resources, it is rarely practiced. Many national governments and non-governmental organizations have set up efforts around the collaborative management of forest resources with local communities to tackle forest loss. However, the operationalization of participatory principles and the effectiveness of these collaborative initiatives are not well understood. In this dissertation, I analyze the mobilization of participatory discourses within the context of a poorly studied community-based resource conservation initiative: a Community-Based Resource Management Area (CREMA) in Ghana. It is also a site for a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) pilot project. Using governmentality as a theoretical lens, I explore the governmental rationalities of these projects to understand how discourses on deforestation, forest degradation, and community participation were used by various actors to shape the conduct of project stakeholders and achieve the project’s instrumental objectives. This project was justified through expert discourses and knowledge that institutionalized tree planting in the thinking and practices of cocoa farmers as a means of remedying deforestation issues. As I demonstrate, farmers engaged with agroforestry because they anticipated benefits, including private property rights over “planted trees” and tradable claims over “carbon” sequestered by the planted trees. However, these global and national policies mobilized discourses of participation and safeguards to attract stakeholders at various scales, to improveforest governance or to build robust democratic institutions. The contradictions between discourse and practice in the case of this CREMA reflect larger challenges in forest governance globally, call into question the logic of conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and hamper local democratic participation and social justice outcomes that these interventions claim as expected outcomes.


© 2017, Manali Baruah

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Geography Commons