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Case studies

The following two case studies are intended for development practitioners, trainers and students in the field of natural resource conflict management who are seeking analytical material based on real-life situations. The studies illustrate how conflict management tools can be used when mediating negotiations over conflict resource uses. They build conceptually on the alternative conflict management (ACM) approach advocated in this guide.

The two case studies document the experiences of trainees in a workshop on natural resource conflict management in Ghana. These were the field cases on which trainees practised the skills that they had learned during classroom training. Trainees contributed as mediators in the conflict management process of these real-life cases. The studies document the background of the conflicts and the processes that the mediators followed to help resolve them.

Each case study focuses on five areas:

1. Key issues: What are the principal issues that can be seen in the specific case study?

2. Context: Where does the study take place? What resources are involved? Who are the stakeholders?

3. Conflict history: How did the conflict manifest itself?

4. Conflict management and resolution process: How did the mediation team address the various issues of the conflict? Which tools were applied?

5. Lessons learned: What does this case teach for other conflict cases? How useful were the tools in bringing the process forward?

Case study 1 illustrates how chieftaincy issues and user rights to forestry resources can be intertwined. Case study 2 shows the complexity of local resource use systems and the different effects that diverting a river can have on different stakeholders.


Case studies aim to build the skills to address conflicts in a participatory and equitable way. They present readers with concise descriptions of the context, interests and problems, as well as the options open to resource managers and other stakeholders in diverse situations. The case method offers a learning tool that stimulates the reader in the following ways:

Discovery: through examining key issues in natural resource conflicts as manifested in the selected case, identifying primary and secondary stakeholders, exploring the historical background, analysing contemporary causes, reviewing the roles of local and wider institutions and markets in the conflict, and assessing past and present attempts at conflict management and resolution.

Probing: through exploring stakeholder agendas, analysing the social and power relations among the interested parties, evaluating the benefits and costs of conflict management and resolution options for each stakeholder, examining the social variables that influence the implementation of conflict management and resolution processes, and considering the outcomes from the viewpoints of different stakeholders.

Practice: through helping readers build their knowledge by providing real-life examples in a clear and concise form that can serve to sharpen analytical and technical skills (such as negotiation and mediation) through discussion, role playing and other forms of learning.

Contrast and comparison: through providing situations that allow reflection on key issues regarding how and why people engage in conflict management and resolution processes, what happens when they do so, and whether what is learned from the cases can be adapted to the readers' situations.

Source: Castro and Nielsen. FAO, 2003

Case study 1: Management of Bawumpila Community Forest

K.S. Nketiah, V. Fumey Nassah, R. Afful and J.S. Adu

Guiding questions for case study one

1. Does this case study describe one conflict or several conflicts?

2. Was the conflict over livelihoods, conservation or political power? How does the framing of a conflict affect the way in which it is dealt?

3. How did the different stakeholders frame the conflict?

4. Why do you think that earlier efforts to resolve the conflict were unsuccessful?

5. Why is the way in which the mediators enter the conflict so important?

6. What skills did the mediators use in organizing the conflict management process?

7. What skills did the mediators use in facilitating the meetings?

8. Why did some stakeholders reframe the conflict, while others did not?

9. How would you have facilitated this process?

10. What other conflict management approaches could have been used to deal with this conflict? Do you think that they would have produced similar outcomes? How would their costs differ?

11. Do you consider this a successful case study? Why or why not?

Role playing for case study one

Select one of the facilitated meetings, choose appropriate roles (mediator, community elders, volunteers, royal family members and other observers) and conduct your own meeting.

Having selected the appropriate roles, conduct a detailed conflict analysis using root cause analysis, analysis of relationships, stakeholder analysis, analysis of relationships using the 4Rs, and analysis of power, positions and interests.

Key issues

This case study focuses on a conflict over user rights to forestry resources in Kumasi region, Ghana. It illustrates how multiple claims to resources, and broader struggles over legitimacy and identity are often intertwined. In this case, the conflict over resource use coincides with a chieftaincy dispute, and solving one may also help settle the other. Because of the chieftaincy dispute, there is already latent tension in the community, which makes resource use conflicts escalate more easily. The case also illustrates how legal pluralism - customary and modern systems of land rights existing side-by-side - and competing competencies for issuing rights sometimes create or foster conditions that are conducive to conflict.

Basically, the conflict centres on the use of forestry resources. One prominent, royal family has established farms in the community forest, which is supposed to be common property for the extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The community is against the royal family's establishment of farms within the forest, because it reduces the availability of NTFPs. The key issues illustrated by this conflict include the following:

At first sight, this conflict seems to represent a win - lose case. The community wants to force the royal family to vacate the land, whereas the royal family wants to protect its source of livelihood and income, which is the farmland in the forests.


About 16 percent of Ghana's land area is managed as either forest or wildlife reserves. The remaining land is owned and managed by communities, individuals and public agencies. National policy of 1994 promotes the "conservation and sustainable development of the nation's forest and wildlife resources for maintenance of environmental quality and perpetual flow of benefits to all segments of society". The policy applies to both permanent forest estates and the lands outside reserves; prior to its enactment, government officials had made no serious effort to manage forests outside the reserved lands. Indigenous owners owned the lands, but felling rights were granted by the Lands Commission, which lacked capacity for regulating forests. In 1996, the then Forestry Department assumed responsibility for regulating forest resources outside reserves. The Forestry Commission (FC) established a Collaborative Forest Management Unit (CFMU) to explore the potential of involving communities in forest management under its own supervision. Pilot programmes were initiated to find out whether communities had the necessary interest and capability to prepare management plans for their forests.

Three communities in the Assin Tosa District were supported to prepare management plans for their own forests: Bawumpila and Balumpan community forests. These were the first community-managed forests in the country, and were named dedicated forests. The Ministry of Lands and Forestry (MLF) and the FC attached great importance to these pilot sites. The chiefs and elders of Assin Opropong hold the Bawumpila Community Forest Reserve in trust for the benefit of the community. It is a stool land that has not been allocated to anyone for farming and has not been alienated in any way.

The 1995 management plan contains the following statement on user rights: "As stipulated in our statutory laws, all trees and timber in Ghana are ultimately owned by the appropriate landowning stool, but they are vested in the President so that the government can manage them on behalf of the appropriate stool or landowner. Thus the naturally occurring trees in the forest are vested in the President in trust for the people of Assin Opropong. If the forest one day gains Dedicated Forest status we would like the Forestry Department to regard the regenerated trees as either planted, and therefore wholly owned by the community (who would then have the sole right to fell and sell), or to regard the community as a type of Timber Utilization Contract holder, i.e. on payment of royalty the sole right to fell and sell the trees would be with the community" (Management Plan, 1995).

All naturally occurring NTFPs are wholly owned by the people of Assin Opropong, and are not vested in any way. The community plants additional trees to increase the production of NTFPs. According to customary law, NTFPs belong to whoever invested their labour in planting them, so these planted NTFPS belong to the community. The chief and elders can grant permits for commercial harvesting of NTFPs in return for payment.

Conflict history

In 1992, some community members asked the Forestry District Manager to help them manage their forest. Field visits were made to the community, and initial contacts and reviews were made. A small forest, which had been protected as an ancestral settlement by taboos and traditional sanctions, was being destroyed. Some youths and elders wanted to protect it, and sanctions were instituted, including a fine of one sheep for anyone who encroached. However, over time these measures were ignored, and clearing increased.

The town had been without a chief for a long time, and disagreement over which of two candidates to appoint had led to its division into two main factions. The people who first sought forest protection came from one faction of the chieftaincy dispute, so members of the other faction therefore opposed protection. At the initial meeting with the CFMU, each faction opposed strongly what the other said, no matter how useful it was. The CFMU noted that the conflict could affect the progress of its work, and therefore decided to stay away until it had been resolved. After the unit withdrew, the head of the royal family organized a community meeting, where everyone agreed to help protect the forest as their ancestral property.

The community informed the District Manager, and a pilot programme was initiated with technical and financial support from the United Kingdom's Overseas Development Agency (now the Department for International Development [DFID]). A number of forest protection options were discussed, and finally the community agreed to prepare a management plan that was similar to the FC's management plans for forest reserves. A volunteer team was formed. Volunteers from the community and surrounding areas were trained to carry out village surveys of trees, NTFPs and animals, and also in mapping. With support from the FC they collected data on their forests' tree, NTFP and animal stocks. The views, interests and fears of all stakeholders were also documented. This formed part one of the management plan.

In part two, the information gathered was used to help design programmes for forest management. As part of the improvement programme, the community agreed that all people with food crop farms within the forest areas should leave those farms after the next harvest. Those with cocoa farms could maintain their farms for longer, during which time the volunteer team would plant trees within the farms. Eventually, all the forest cultivators had left with the exception of the Alhassa family, who are part of Opropong royalty. This family claimed that their uncle, the last chief, had given the land to them. They ignored numerous invitations to discussions about this issue.

The conflict was manifested when:

The conflict escalated. Forest cultivators uprooted the trees that the volunteers had planted. The volunteers then cut down the cocoa farms in retaliation. They also reminded the Alhassa family that there were other royal families in Opropong, and that everyone had agreed to protect the area.

The Alhassa family insisted that they had the right to farm there, and that in pursuing the forest protection issue the community was seeking to isolate them. They pointed out that all the other royal families have plots of land in Opropong, and claimed that other people had taken over their mother's lands because they were not residents of the town. Land is crucial to the Alhassa family, because farms are their source of livelihood.

After preparing the management plan, it was proposed that the area be given dedicated status so that the community could exercise managerial authority. This move has not yet received official approval, but community members are promoting its acceptance at the ministerial and parliamentary levels. Until the legal status of the forest has been clarified, all trees (whether planted or naturally regenerated within the forest) can be utilized by the community with technical advice and consultation from the FC.

Once the management plan had been prepared, community elders advised the remaining forest cultivators to leave their farms. When the Alhassa family continued to claim the land as the legacy of the prior chief, the elders alleged that the late chief did not have the right to give the land away because it was a sacred area for the entire community.

The forestry volunteer team became very angry about the elders' lack of action. They decided to stop working in the forest until the elders had sacked the Alhassa family and taken over their farms.

Conflict management and resolution process

Previous attempts to resolve the conflict: Although the FC has only an advisory capacity for areas outside the reserves, it encouraged the factions to meet and resolve this issue. After the elders' efforts had failed, the CFMU tried to resolve the conflict by inviting all the stakeholders to meet with the District Forest Manager and a representative of the Regional Forest Manager. The Alhassa family walked out of this meeting because they felt that the entire community was against them. The District Chief Executive (DCE) also tried to resolve the issue. He invited all the stakeholders to discussions, but after a number of meetings the case was abandoned because the elders felt that the DCE was supporting the Alhassa family.

Later, the Lands Commission was approached to handle the issue. It started to hold meetings with the factions, and it was agreed that no further forest clearing would occur until the issue had been resolved. However, halfway through the process, the Land Commission had to abandon the case because it had no funds to visit the sites for verification. Some members of the Alhassa family unilaterally secured the services of surveyors and prepared plans of their farms. They claimed that the Lands Commission had requested this, and that therefore any resolution of the issue should be based on the boundaries that they themselves had determined (unilaterally) in 2000.

Alternative conflict management: This was the situation when the ACM process began. The mediation team first became involved in the case when a staff member of the CFMU took part in a training course on natural resource conflict management. Two other trainees joined her, and the newly formed team started to prepare for involvement in the conflict management process.

The team conducted three internal meetings at which its members shared all the information that they had on the background to the conflict. They prepared an action plan (timing, objectives) for approaching the conflict and entering the community. They selected and asked the community coordinator of the volunteer team (a teacher) to make all the necessary arrangements, and sent a message informing the community about what they, as a mediation team, could do to help solve the conflict. Unfortunately, however, misunderstandings arose when the community coordinator incorrectly stated that the team was a ministry delegation. This made entry to the Alhassa family difficult, as the team was not perceived as impartial.

First round of meetings: When the team arrived, it met first with the elders of the community and then with the Alhassa family. It then informed the district forestry office about the process.

During the meeting with community elders, the team members introduced themselves and explained why they had become involved and were offering their services as mediators. The elders appeared open to the team's ideas, especially because many earlier attempts at conflict management had failed. However, the head of the Alhassa family, a key figure, did not attend the meeting. The mediators explained to the elders that they would meet the other conflict stakeholders thereafter.

The mediators next met the Alhassa family. Again, they explained their interest in facilitating negotiation. The family were sceptical about the success of the process, and explained their case against the community. The mediators emphasized that they were involved in training with an international NGO, which would ensure a fair process and their own neutrality. The Alhassa family accepted this latter argument.

Internal meeting: After these meetings, the team met internally to conduct a preliminary conflict analysis and assess the situation. It identified the major stakeholders and their positions.

Second round of meetings: The mediators first met the community elders and volunteers and repeated the objectives of their mission - to help resolve the conflict in a collaborative manner. They also underlined the advantages of reaching a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The mediation team used "why" and "why not" questions to examine what the elders and volunteers believed about the other party. They also used such questions to determine the elders' and volunteers' feelings about preferred options for resolving the conflict. One elder who was also a volunteer outlined the volunteers' view of the conflict. When asked how the conflict could be solved, most of the people present were eager to emphasize that the forest cultivators should move out, because the land belonged to the community. Despite the mediation team's effort to find a range of possible options, the elders considered only one: expulsion of the Alhassa family from their forest farm.

When the mediators met the Alhassa family, the latter were eager to defend their position. They thought that preparation of a land registration and possession of legal documents could resolve the problem. The mediators tried to understand why the land was so important for the family and what the family's needs were. This probing revealed that the land conflict was linked to an underlying chieftaincy dispute. The discussion suggested the following interpretation to the mediation team:

Third round of meetings: The mediators tried to broaden stakeholder engagement, and contacted other individuals, e.g. witnesses in the land case, the district chief executive and other cultivators of forest land. They then met the community elders and volunteers again. The volunteers were afraid that the elders would be too accommodating because of their kinship ties to the Alhassa family. The team also met the Alhassa family again, who showed them the homes of witnesses to testify how and when the former chief had bestowed the land on the family. The mediators decided that the testimony of such witnesses would not help to move the conflict management process forward.


The Bawumpila community forest is an important area for both the owners and the entire country because of its contributions to conserving biodiversity, creating jobs and preserving culture. The conflict has therefore affected a variety of stakeholders from all sides. During the conflict analysis, the different stakeholders were identified:

  • Primary stakeholders: Assin Opropong community elders, the volunteer team and the Alhassa family;
  • Secondary stakeholders: the Forestry Commission, District Assembly, Lands Commission and surrounding communities.



Assin Opropong community elders, and volunteer team

Landowning community

Subinso 1 and 2, Brofoyedur, Ajalo, Nsutam, Fawoman, Dawomanso, Bakaapa

Villages that depend on the forest

The Alhassa family

Members of the royal family who have encroached into the forest. They are well educated and fairly rich

The Forestry Commission

Provides support to the community Uses issues arising from the management of this area to advise policy-makers

District Assembly

Local government authority

Lands Commission

Official body for managing all lands

Fourth round of meetings: Separate meetings were conducted with each of the different stakeholder groups:

At these stakeholder meetings, all the groups came up with a number of options for resolving the issue. The involvement of women helped to broaden the process. For example, the Queen Mother made a proposal that became the basis for a preliminary agreement later on. In addition, the separate stakeholder meetings allowed a deeper understanding of the conflict's causes and stakeholder relations.

The following options were identified:

These options were analysed with the different stakeholder groups, using the following three criteria, which were developed with the two parties separately:

Fifth round of meetings: The mediators conducted two further meetings, one with the community elders and one with the Alhassa family, at which to discuss the seven options. The mediators presented the options and allowed the stakeholders to develop criteria for evaluating them. The stakeholders were encouraged to identify their "no-go" options and best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), and to rank the options on the basis of the criteria. This strategy for ranking was difficult, because the stakeholders insisted on keeping several options in mind at the same time. The mediators then invited the community to select representatives for negotiations. Each stakeholder group was to have one representative with an extremist perspective on how to resolve the conflict. Different members of the Alhassa family were willing to accept different compromising options. This showed that the family was not a monolithic block, but a group of individuals with differing interests and needs.

Negotiation meeting: The first negotiation meeting was held outside the community, at the district office of the forestry services division. It was felt that this was a neutral location. The mediators organized transport from the community to the location. The community first met internally to plan strategy, but the Alhassa family did not.

The negotiation meeting was scheduled to take three hours. It included an opening prayer, a welcome address from the district forestry manager and a self-introduction from each of the meeting participants. After setting the ground rules and explaining the objectives of the meeting, the mediators had planned to invite the different parties to state their cases. However, owing to the tense mood, they decided that it would be better for a member of their own team to present each case as it was understood by the mediators. The parties would then be able to comment on these interpretations. The mediators presented a summary of the options, and asked the parties to add any others that had not yet been mentioned. This strategy appeared necessary in keeping tempers down.

The parties then started to negotiate over the preferred options. In the end, they agreed to take the situation in the year 2000 as a baseline - all farms started after this date would have to be removed. This was essentially the proposal that the Queen Mother had made earlier.

After this initial agreement, there was a refreshment break, which the parties used to plan the conditions they wanted in exchange for accepting the option. After the break, the two sides started to negotiate the conditions for bringing about the agreed option. The community insisted that all cocoa trees established after 2000 were to be felled. The Alhassa family were reluctant to accept this, and asked to be allowed to maintain the food crop farms established after this date, because they needed these for their subsistence. The community representatives were not prepared to negotiate this point further, and insisted that the fields be demarcated so that the extent of encroachment could be seen before a final settlement was reached. This demarcation was to be done multilaterally.

Demarcation exercise: During the demarcation exercise, a surveyor and representatives of the community elders and volunteers joined the mediators and members of the Alhassa family. This meant that the two sides were able to settle minor boundary disputes directly on the spot in a pragmatic manner. However, only two farms could be demarcated, because some members of the Alhassa family refused to participate in the exercise. The mediators assumed that these family members had made large investments since 2000, and were now afraid to lose these. This indicated, once again, that the Alhassa family is not a monolithic interest group, but a group of people with fragmented and partly contradictory interests. Most of the family members who attended the negotiation meeting did not fear losing much in demarcation.

Summary of achievements:

What remains to be done? At time of writing, the conflict management process is still ongoing. The challenge is how to broaden the solution to include those Alhassa family members who refused to take part in the demarcation exercise. The mediators believe that resolving this conflict should be combined with efforts to reintegrate the family into the social networks of the community, because the disputes over resource use are coupled with unresolved chieftaincy issues and fears about marginalization and social exclusion.

Ideally, the process for final resolution of the conflict would be as follows:

Lessons learned

The case study on Bawumpila community forest reveals a number of important lessons in conflict management:

Case study 2: Conflict on the diversion of Bosoko river in the Amansuri wetland

J. Parker McKeown and E. Ntiri

Guiding questions for case study two

1. How has the introduction of the Amansuri Conservation Integrated Development Project affected the handling of the conflict? How do you think the conflict would have been handled without the project?

2. How did the different stakeholders frame the conflict?

3. Was this a conflict over livelihoods, communities' rights to manage their environments, or conservation?

4. How does the framing of a conflict affect the way in which it is dealt?

5. Why were the people of Gyamozo so resistant to efforts to resolve the conflict?

6. Why is the way in which the mediators enter the conflict so important?

7. What skills did the mediators use in organizing the conflict management process?

8. What skills did the mediators use in facilitating the meetings?

9. Why did it take stakeholders in Gyamozo so long to reframe their project?

10. Do you agree with the way in which the "troublemaking" secondary stakeholders were handled? How else could their actions have been dealt with?

11. How would you have facilitated this process? Do you think it was a good idea to meet initially with only one side in the conflict (including carrying out conflict analysis)?

12. Do you think that the mediators were correct regarding the issue of obtaining external support for the fulfilment of the agreement? How would you have handled the situation differently?

Do you consider this a successful case study? Why or why not?

Role playing for case study two

Select one of the facilitated meetings, choose appropriate roles (mediator, Tufuhene [traditional authority], community members from Gyamozo [one with and one without relatives in the other communities], community members from Old and New Nzulezo [one with and one without relatives in the other communities], a stakeholder from Nzulezo who has doubts about any agreement that would allow the people of Gyamozo to escape without retribution, a project administrator [separate from the mediator], and an assembly person).

Conduct a negotiation, assuming that all the parties have come to the negotiations - willingly or unwillingly. Try to reach an agreement.

As part of the conflict management process, you may want to engage in conflict analysis using root cause analysis, analysis of relationships, stakeholder analysis, analysis of relationships using the 4Rs, and analysis of power, positions and interests.

Key issues

This wetland case shows how diverse and complex resource conflicts can be. It also demonstrates that many different benefit streams from wetland resources can be affected by conflict. The case study illustrates that even when tension is high, facilitating a process of restoring communication among the conflict parties can help to settle a conflict. It reveals the positive roles that respected traditional clan leaders or family heads can play in gaining parties' sincere commitment to finding an acceptable solution and in initiating a process whereby traditional relations can be restored constructively. It also illustrates that conflict management based on coercion and force is unlikely to be successful. Because of a difficult and troublesome history prior to the mediators' involvement, it was a long time before all the parties concerned were willing to join the negotiation table.

More specifically, the case underlines:

As in case study one, this case seems to illustrate a win - lose case. One village diverts a river to improve its own access. This affects communities downstream, who lose substantial livelihood resources. At first, the former party is not willing to compromise, and the latter wants the former to be punished for its illegal action.


The Amansuri wetland lies on the western coastline of Ghana and is within the Eastern and Western Nzema Traditional Areas, and the East Nzema and Jomoro Districts of Western Region of Ghana. The area is about 360 km west of Accra, and its closest large urban centres are Axim and Half-Assini.

Its climate is classified as equatorial monsoon, and the area lies within the wet evergreen forest zone of Ghana. The wetland and its catchments exceed 1 000 km2, and consist of ten subcatchments ranging from 18 to more than 140 km2. The region forms the watershed for Amansuri Lake and includes the drainage areas for several rivers, as well as the coastal floodplain north of Beyin. The wetland itself is more than 100 km2, including small areas of open water (Amansuri Lake). The region's coastal lagoon is of international importance for waders. The Amansuri wetland ecosystem features several wetland categories, and contains highly diverse species of wetland plants and animals. It is the only known swamp peat forest in Ghana, and the nation's best example of freshwater swamp forest characterized by black humic waters. The wetland has been selected as an important bird area of global significance, and preparations are under way to designate the Amansuri wetland as a Ramsar site (Wetland of International Importance).

The indigenous people in the conflict area are the Nzemas, but Fantes and Ewes fishers have settled in some of the coastal communities. The wetland falls within the Western Nzema Traditional Area, whose capital is Beyin. The landowners in the traditional area are family heads, but the paramount chief has final authority on land issues. Land is held under a number of different systems. Family members have user rights to their own holdings. People may lease land to settlers and non-family members under a share cropping system called "abunu" or "abusa". There are about 19 communities around the Amansuri wetland and five within it. The main means of transport within the wetland is by boat. All the communities within the wetland depend heavily on its resources for their livelihoods. The main occupations of these communities are fishing and fish processing, palm wine tapping, local gin (Akpeteshie) distilling, farming and agroprocessing, and general trading.

The Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS), an NGO, in partnership with the Western Nzema Traditional Council is implementing the Amansuri Conservation Integrated Development (ACID) Project in the Western Nzema Traditional Area's portion of the Amansuri wetland. The ultimate situation envisaged by the project is a conserved wetland system where ecological functions and scenery are maintained alongside low-impact resource use, based on the principles of sustainable management.

Conflict history

Two major and three minor rivers drain into Amansuri Lake. The Bosoke is the largest of these and serves as the shortest access route from Old Nzulezo to communities such as Gyamozo and New Nzulezo within the wetland. The people of Old Nzulezo also use the river as a route to their farms and palm wine tapping and alcohol distilling areas. The Bosoke river is the main access route to the Half-Assini-Sameneye main road from Gyamozo to New and Old Nzulezo. It is about 2 km from Gyamozo to the banks of the Bosoke, and the people of Gyamozo normally wade through the swamps for that distance before boarding their boats. During the rainy season, it becomes virtually impossible to walk through the swamps, owing to flooding.

Between late 2001 and early 2002, the people of Gyamozo diverted part of the Bosoke river through a natural channel. This enabled them to avoid having to wade through the swamps, but drastically reduced the volume of water flowing into Amansuri lake. The Bosoke has been the only major river flowing into the lake since the people of Sameneye diverted the other major river, the Ayevula, some 25 years ago.

In March 2002, the people of Nzulezo who were affected most by the diversion informed the people of Gyamozo of its effects, and asked them to restore the river to its original course. However, nothing was done. The elders of Nzulezo then reported the case to the ACID Project Management Committee (PMC), as the diverted area fell within the community nature reserve that had been established by the project. In May 2002, the PMC asked three of its members (the chief of Old and New Nzulezo, the assembly person of Beyin electoral area and the ACID project manager) to resolve the conflict by visiting the diversion site and Gyamozo. The site was visited, but the people of Gyamozo refused to meet the three PMC members on two occasions. When the people of Nzulezo realized that the PMC's intervention was not addressing their interest, they issued threats and ultimatums to the people of Gyamozo, insisting that they redivert the Bosoke.

In August 2002, the PMC reported the case to the Jomoro District Assembly (JDS), under whose administration the conflict area falls. Existing assembly by-laws prevent the diversion of natural watercourses without authorization. However, even after several attempts, JDS could not resolve the issue. Two police officers accompanied JDS staff to Gyamozo, but the villagers had left in advance in order to avoid confrontation with the police. When the assembly sent police officers on a second occasion, there were quarrels in New Nzulezo between relatives of the people from Gyamozo and the police. In January 2003, renewed tensions were reported when an Old Nzulezo resident almost shot dead a Gyamozo resident because the latter did not allow the former to tap palm wine in the traditional area. The person from Old Nzulezo argued that palm tapping had been banned in the areas traditionally used by people from Old Nzulezo in retaliation for the river diversion. Quarrels and violence between people from the two villages seemed to be breaking out over the most minor issues. Some people from Old Nzulezo said that "if the assembly cannot solve the problem, we will solve it in our own way" (meaning by force).

Conflict management and resolution process

It was in these highly charged conditions that an ACID staff member suggested using a collaborative approach to resolve the conflict.

Preliminary conflict and stakeholder analysis: First, ACID staff members who had assumed the role of mediators conducted an internal meeting to assess the current situation in the area. They determined who the stakeholders were and planned a strategy for entering the conflict setting, including whom to contact first. This newly formed mediation team planned to meet the Tufuhene, the second in command in the chief system, who lives in New Nzulezo. The team recognized that, as staff members of ACID, they were secondary stakeholders because the conflict was having a negative effect on the work of the project.




Interested Parties

Old Nzulezo

Ghana Wildlife Society


New Nzulezo

Jomoro District Assembly






Stakeholder consultation: During the first field visit, the mediators met the Tufuhene to obtain permission to mediate a settlement to the conflict. The Tufuhene agreed to this, but expressed his doubts that the people of Gyamozo would do the same. He fixed a date for a community meeting. The mediators then planned to meet people in Gyamozo, and contacted an elder in New Nzualzu, who sent a message to Gyamozo. However, the people in Gyamozo were not willing to accept the mediators and did not attend the meeting. The mediators presumed that some people in Gyamozo perceived them as biased because of their earlier involvement in the conflict as ACID staff members.

After this failure, the mediators invited people to conduct a root cause analysis in Old Nzualzu. Two opinions emerged as potential reasons for people in Gyamozo to divert the river: 1) to secure access in times of flooding; and 2) to destroy the palm wine, which some people from Old Nzulezo obtained from nearby forests. By diverting the river, these palm wine resources would virtually dry up, and reduced competition in palm wine production would enhance the value of products from Gyamozo. The mediators then conducted an effect analysis of the river diversion, and identified more stakeholders, such as farmers whose fields became inundated, and fishers from neighbouring Beyin who could no longer fish in the dried out wetlands.

The mediators realized that families from Old Nzulezo, New Nzulezo and Gyamozo had kinship relations. Many people in New Nzulezo, although affected by the river diversion, continued to have close relations with their relatives in Gyamozo. The mediators then divided the stakeholders into two groups depending on how they were affected by the river diversion. One group was comprised of farmers, fishers and traders, and the other of tappers and distillers. When the mediation team returned to New Nzulezo it met separately with farmers, palm wine tappers and alcohol distillers. This allowed the mediators to improve their understanding of the different ways in which these stakeholders were affected.

Stakeholder engagement: The mediators presented their preliminary findings at a public meeting in Old Nzulezo. The initial response from villagers was that Gyamozo should redivert the river and should be punished for having diverted it in the first place. After the analysis, they realized that sticking to this position would not help them. At the end of the meeting, the people of Nzulezo softened their position and suggested that the only way to bring the people of Gyamozo to negotiate and resolve the conflict was to ask the elders of New Nzulezo (who had good relations with Gyamozo) to convince them to attend a negotiation meeting. In the meantime, Old Nzulezo villagers were the ones to suffer most from the river diversion. They were ready to meet the other party and negotiate a settlement of the issue.

The mediators then explained that they would meet with the people in Gyamozo to increase their readiness to negotiate with Old Nzulezo. Three moderate elders from Old Nzulezo then accompanied the mediators to meet with elders from New Nzulezo. The New Nzulezo elders readily agreed to ask the people of Gyamozo to come to their community for a meeting.

However, the people of Gyamozo had already refused several times to become involved with the mediators. The family head of New Nzulezo sent a linguist to the community to invite its members to meet on common ground. Such an invitation has very strong traditional implications. Subsequently, three men from Gyamozo attended this meeting. They were all palm wine tappers, although the mediators had asked that a range of different stakeholders came from Gyamozo. The representatives from Gyamozo explained that they wanted access to the road. Overall, they presented their case in a moderate way, arguing that access to their village would be extremely difficult during the rainy season. They stated that they did not aim to destroy the livelihoods of their brothers, but they urgently needed road access.

The mediators asked them whether they were aware of the effects that the river diversion had had on the other communities, and showed them the effect analysis. The people from Gyamozo responded that they had not been aware of the severity of these effects. At this stage, the family head of New Nzulezo confronted them with the difficult situation in Old Nzulezo and explained that its people now suffered from access problems, in addition to the destruction of their livelihoods. At the end of the meeting, the mediators asked the participants whether they would be prepared to negotiate if nobody from the police or assembly was present, and suggested New Nzulezo as neutral ground.

After this meeting, the mediators analysed the situation. They realized that people would recognize ACID staff members who had been involved in the conflict earlier, and would perceive them as biased. So, the mediators invited a third person to join as the lead mediator. This person had not been involved in the conflict before.

Negotiation meeting: During the meeting, the mediators allowed each party to make its statement. Although the mediators had asked the two parties to send ten representatives only, a huge crowd was gathered in the surrounding area. Ground rules were very effective, partly because the Futuhene and family head were present, as well as a representative of the assembly. The representatives from Old Nzulezo made their case first. They came up with their position and took a hard line ("redivert the river and face punishment"). The family head cooled tempers by pointing out that the two parties had met to negotiate, not fight. The representatives from Gyamozo stated that they were happy with what they had done. They then brought up an old story in which the incumbent chief had not enforced action against individuals who had broken resource use rules, which had been to the cost of people in Gyamozo. This, they claimed, gave them legitimacy to break the rules as well. At this stage, the family head brought the situation under control again. The mediation team presented the results of the effect analysis, as well as a relationship diagram emphasizing the kinship relations across the village divides. They invited the two parties to consider a solution that was acceptable to both.

Various people started to make suggestions. People from New Nzulezo argued that the river should be rediverted. They discarded the arguments about the old case, and insisted that the issue should be resolved. When the mediator asked "who owns the place?", all the stakeholder representatives fell quiet and looked down, it had really hit them. The family head replied that nobody owns it, but everybody has access to use its resources. The site is for all three communities. One person from Gyamozo said: "We have done more harm than good. We did not understand the seriousness of the effects. So, we should redivert the water. If there is a funeral in Old Nzulezo, we cannot go because of this issue". This was a turning point in the negotiation process, and other people from Gyamozo agreed with this statement.

Once general agreement had been reached that a rediversion was essential, the family head suggested that the three communities should work together to restore their relationships. One person from Old Nzulezo raised the issue that the access problem to Gyamozo still needed to be solved. The meeting agreed that a footbridge should be constructed. The mediators asked both parties to select representatives to finalize the detailed agreement.

Troubles: After this meeting, some palm wine tappers, mainly young men, from Old Nzulezo started to talk badly about people from New Nzulezo. The mediators returned to Old Nzulezo to clarify the issues. Some people complained that they were contributing to the river rediversion and building of the footbridge, even though the problem was Gyamozo's. The proposed solution had created resentment. The mediator realized that there had been a miscommunication about the negotiation meeting's process and outcomes, and clarified these issues. As a result, some young men went on to develop additional ideas for joint work with the other communities to restore relations. When some people realized that there had been miscommunication, a dispute arouse in Old Nzulezo. The mediators then learned that a powerful stakeholder from outside the village had influenced some people to pass on misinformation about the negotiation meeting and its outcome. They decided to resolve the issue at a community meeting with representatives from New Nzulezo and Gyamozo. At this meeting, those who brought the misleading message were confronted. The family head warned them against fuelling conflict, and new community representatives were selected.

Draft agreement: At a subsequent meeting in New Nzulezo, the parties agreed on the procedure to follow - first construct the footbridge and then redivert the water. They acknowledged that the agreement involved costs for materials, a chainsaw operator, fuel and labour, and asked the district assembly and the ACID project to provide funds for the bridge construction. The agreement is now being drafted. However, no development funds have yet been raised, and so the parties are unable to implement it. In the meantime, the negative effects continue.

Lessons learned

In particular, this wetland case study shows the following:

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