The Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs, in collaboration with the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Ghana, has developed a Charter to guide the management of natural resources in various traditional areas in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The charter was launched in Sunyani, the Brong Ahafo regional capital by the traditional authorities, where the display of traditional regalia was at its best.
The specific objectives of the Traditional Authority Transparency and Accountability Charter (TATAC) includE: create awareness on the value of traditional natural resource management practices and develop strategies for revitalizing and up-dating them with modern law and practice.
Others are research and document past and present traditional mechanisms and customary laws and practices that protected the forests in the past and ensured transparency and accountability in the use of royalties; and the use the research findings to develop a TATAC for Traditional Authorities in the Brong Ahafo Region, based on these up-dated traditional practices and customary laws and facilitate their adoption and implementation.
In a statement during the launch of the charter by the Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD, Mr. Wilberforce Laate, who is also the Project Leader in Ghana, hoped that the development of the charter would be the first step for the traditional authorities to demonstrate that they have in place management systems that meet the needs of the present generations.
The charter, he said, justified the relevance of traditional authorities in the management of natural resources in Ghana, and will contribute to transparent and accountable governance of natural resources at the district and local level.
In his own words: "We expect that traditional authorities with the support of their community members will use the Charter as a tool to engage the District Assemblies and other stakeholders on the disclosure and use of the revenue that they receive from natural resources".
He said this will improve the legitimacy of traditional authorities and provide evidence for advocacy on community-led natural resources management programmes in Ghana.
"I must say that the mention of the development of the charter has already aroused public interest as many stakeholders continue to express satisfaction at this bold step by the chiefs. This is because there is a public perception that, traditional authorities have never and can never be accountable.
Therefore, for them to agree to develop the charter alone demonstrate a major change in transparent and accountable natural resource management processes in Ghana", Mr Laate stated.
Touching on public discloser of forest revenue, the Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD hinted that public perceptions showed that traditional authorities were contributing positively to forest governance in Ghana through the enforcement of traditional customary laws and regulations that ensure sustainable management and use of forest resources.
According to him, the traditional authorities use the revenue they receive from the forest for various activities including the preservation of their heritage, culture and traditions and the upkeep and maintenance of their palace/stool".
Mr. Laate added that some communities had received classroom blocks, computer training centres and teachers' residence through Social Responsibility Agreements with the support of their traditional authorities.
He noted that currently, the constitutional distribution of land revenue after the Forestry Commission and Office of Administrator of Stool Lands have taken their share as 55% for District Assembly; 25% for Stool Chief; and the remaining 20% goes to the traditional authority.
Mr Laate, therefore, called for the need to institute a self-regulating mechanism to address the negative tendencies associated with the management of natural resources by traditional authorities.
Addressing these negative perceptions would put traditional authorities in Ghana in a strong position to provide leadership to forest fringe communities to effectively engage with the Forestry Commission and other forest stakeholders to ensure transparency and accountability as well as fair access and benefit sharing to their communities, he emphasised.
In his welcome address, the President of Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs, who is the paramount chief of Kuokum Traditional Area, Osahene Kwaku Aterkyi II, said, traditional authorities occupy a unique position in the management of natural resources.
He indicated that "through the traditional institutions in our various councils that we work with are accepted by our people as the political, judicial and the spiritual embodiment of the communities and, therefore, take responsibility in the management of community resources."