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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Imagined Forestry: The History of the Scientific Management of Ghana's High Forest Zone

Christian Pilegaard Hansen and Jens Friis Lund

Environment and History 23 (2017): 3-38. doi: 10.3197/096734017X14809635325548

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This paper examines efforts at forest conservation and management since colonial times in the ‘High Forest Zone’; the southern part of present day Ghana. It provides a detailed historiology of attempts to apply scientific forestry principles and depicts how these ideals have crumbled in the face of material, financial and politico-economic constraints that have largely determined how control and management have unfolded in practice. Thus, the paper illustrates how principles of scientific forestry have come to follow, rather than precede and guide, practices of forest exploitation, and how investments in forest management and silvicultural practices aimed at nurturing the long-term productive value of the forests have been few and far between and rendered ineffective by weaknesses in their theoretical basis and a lack of forest ecological data. Our account of the history of scientific forestry in Ghana is relevant to scholars of empire forestry through its attention to what notions of scientific forestry meant in practice, but also to today’s policy makers and practitioners in areas such as timber legality verification, forest certification and decentralised forest management where the challenges discussed in this paper live on.

KEYWORDS: Scientific forestry, timber management, forest policy, scientific knowledge

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