Traditionalists are conservative and closed off to new ideas and Christians are modern and open to change. This is how some would assume the story goes but is this the case in perceptions of Ghanaian community-based conservation?
Community-based conservation is a now popularised method of engaging local communities with the conservation of areas. This seems logical, as they are the people who live nearest to these areas and because of that feel the biggest impact of the conservation efforts; positive and negative. To be able to have a level of community-based conservation, it seems logical that the input of local communities is necessary for a system that works. This is however the most difficult part.
Because of the wide possibilities of outcomes that community-based conservation offers. These can be socio-economic, organisational and ecological and even within these outcomes, there are many discussions on what is the best way of going about it. The article by Grant Murray and Andrew Agyare (2018) attempts to detangle some of the community interests when it comes to community-based conservation in Ghana with the use of a mixed methods approach. To do this they focus on the relationship between religion and the perceptions of locals on Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs). Murray and Agyare focus on religion as it is a key aspect of life in Ghana and a shaper of cultural identity and beliefs.
But how can mixed methods be of help when researching the role of religion in community-based conservation research? Well, first of all using a mixed methods approach helps to go beyond the disciplines both authors have. It helps in creating research that Murray, an environmental and conservation specialist, and Agyare, a geographer and part of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, might not have been able to do on their own. The skills they both bring to the research help broaden the research and connect different interests.
Second, the use of mixed methods in this article makes it possible to use both qualitative and quantitative data. The research made initial use of the qualitative method of interviews of individual focus groups that helped with the designing of surveys and a wish list regarding CREMA results. Here the authors were able to represent the locals per economic and social group. After this, the authors conducted the second phase that made use of quantitative methods. They took surveys with almost 1000 respondents from different communities all over Ghana in CREMAs. The data that was gathered here were then analysed with SPSS and give the main results of the research.
When looking at it, it seems that the second quantitative phase of the research is more important and is there a mixed method being used? But without the first qualitative phase, the basis of the quantitative phase could not have been built. The interviews allowed the authors to build the survey criteria and gave context to the datasets that came out of the survey results. However, the authors also chose to do another round of qualitative research, as they did follow-up interviews to help them interpret the results. Here they were asked to reflect on the results and patterns the data offers.
By using both methods, the authors allowed the research to be a more complete picture of the role of religion on the perception of community-based conservation in Ghana. Only using qualitative methods would not have had the reach to form this picture, and only using quantitative methods would not have been able to give colour to the picture with the use of context. Both methods and methodologies feed off and onto each other.
The research found that religion, education and nativity to a region impacted the perceptions of CREMAs. The survey results show that these demographic characteristics are correlated, this relationship came also forth in the interviews the authors did with the locals. Christians, educated people and non-natives to the area place more importance on CREMAs as a positive impact than Traditionalists, uneducated people and natives to the area do. The difference seems to be in the level of trust people have in outside ideas and a socio-economic gap. In the interviews, respondents shared that their perception of the results was also focused on the openness of communities and their acceptance of CREMAs. The research underlines that the perceptions of people of different religious groups are systemically different and that these have clear implications on how to monitor the performance of CREMAs in Ghana.
Source: Murray G, Agyare A (2018) Religion and perceptions of community-based conservation in Ghana, West Africa. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0195498. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195498 Link to text