, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 738–750 | Cite as

Deforestation and the Limited Contribution of Forests to Rural Livelihoods in West Africa: Evidence from Burkina Faso and Ghana

  • Mariève Pouliot
  • Thorsten Treue
  • Beatrice Darko Obiri
  • Boureima Ouedraogo


Forest degradation in West Africa is generally thought to have negative consequences on rural livelihoods but there is little overview of its effects in the region because the importance of forests to rural livelihoods has never been adequately quantified. Based on data from 1014 rural households across Burkina Faso and Ghana this paper attempts to fill this knowledge gap. We demonstrate that agricultural lands and the non-forest environment including parklands are considerably more valuable to poor as well as more well-off rural households than forests. Furthermore, product types supplied by the non-forest environment are almost identical with those from forests. Accordingly, forest clearance/degradation is profitable for and, hence, probably performed by rural people at large. We attribute rural people’s high reliance on non-forest versus forest resources to the two countries’ restrictive and inequitable forest policies which must be reformed to promote effective forest conservation, e.g., to mitigate climate change.


Agricultural expansion Climate change Environmental incomes Forest rights Population pressure REDD+ 



We wish to express our gratitude to the 1014 households who have participated in this study. Field work for this research was supported by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), and the University of Copenhagen. We also thank the participants in the PEN science workshop at the University of East Anglia in June 2011 for their inputs to an earlier draft of this paper. Finally, we are grateful for the constructive and critical comments from two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariève Pouliot
    • 1
  • Thorsten Treue
    • 1
  • Beatrice Darko Obiri
    • 2
  • Boureima Ouedraogo
    • 3
  1. 1.Danish Centre for Forest, Landscape and PlanningUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Forestry Research Institute of GhanaKumasiGhana
  3. 3.Département de SociologieUniversité de OuagadougouOuagadougou 03Burkina Faso

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