Need for Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Impact Assessment: The Case of Ghana

Author: Appiah-Opaku, Seth
This book questions and explores the appropriateness of Western models of environmental impact assessment for Third World application. The book also examines Ghana’s environmental impact assessment procedure and the potential role of indigenous knowledge and institutions in the assessment process, based on the results of a field research in Ghana. Finally, the book offers suggestions that could improve Ghana’s environmental impact assessment procedure and facilitate its adoption in other developing countries. this book will be of interest to environmental assessment professionals and students, international development agencies, NGOs, planners, academicians, and policy makers looking for bottom-up and effective ways of incorporating environmental considerations in development projects in developing countries.


“Increasingly, developing countries are implementing institutional frame-works for environmental impact assessment that are based on Western European and North American models, often with funding from donor nations. For obvious reasons, policy makers in developing countries are drawn towards international environmental prescriptions that have much stronger linkages with western science and policy than with the socio-economic and institutional conditions in their own countries. The potential contribution of the indigenous people has often been overlooked. … Based on empirical study in Ghana, this book makes the case for integration of indigenous knowledge and institutions in environmental assessment studies in Africa and other developing countries … The author is eminently qualified to write this book because of his background as the son of an African chief, and his impressive planning education and teaching experience in the western world. It is my hope that this book will attract the much needed attention it deserves from international development agencies, environmental impact assessment practitioners, planners, academicians, environmentalists, and policy makers looking for effective ways to incorporate environmental considerations in development projects in the Third World.” – (from the Foreword) George Mulamoottil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo, Canada

“This is an extremely fascinating piece of work and a long overdue addition to the literature on Environmental Impact Assessment. Seth Appiah-Opoku makes a compelling case for incorporating the hitherto ignored indigenous knowledge systems in environmental impact assessment models. This thought-provoking and challenging book will be of interest not only to academic planners and policy makers, but also to practitioners and students of environmental studies, and indeed all those interested in environmental management issues in developing countries.” – Kwadwo Konadu-Agyemang, Associate Professor, The University of Akron, Ohio

“The reader will glean from his work a number of important, strongly supportable, and universal propositions … Perhaps what makes this work especially creative is that the author is a native from Ghana, the son of an African chief, was educated in Ghana and Canada, and is now a Professor in the United States. He is one of them and he is one of us. If anyone can be said to come by a cross-cultural perspective naturally, this is the man! This book is a must read for everyone in the impact assessment field and will be a standard reference on my shelves of EIA literature.”- Professor Hobson Bryan, Department of Geography, The University of Alabama

“After well over 30 years of environmental impact assessment practice, it is possible to identify a common basic set of process design rules that are generally valid anywhere. We can do the same with best practice implementation rules based on lessons from global experience. But one of the key design rules is that any useful process must be sensitive to local circumstances, socio-economic and cultural as well as ecological. And one of the core lessons from implementation experience is that sensitivity to local circumstances demands recognition and application of local knowledge. As Seth Appiah-Opoku’s valuable new book reveals, this has important practical implications … as Dr. Appiah-Opoku argues, we are likely to do a better job of understanding the relevant systems and of making suitable judgments under conditions of uncertainty if we preserve, strengthen and mobilize the detailed knowledge and long term commitment of local citizens, community organizations and governance bodies. This insight is particularly crucial for developing countries as Dr. Appiah-Opoku shows through his illuminating examination of environmental impact assessment in Ghana. But the reader should not imagine that the book and its lessons are only about and for Ghana, or only about environmental impact assessment. The lessons here are widely applicable. They point to steps we should be taking everywhere for decision making on a wide range of locally significant matters.” – Robert B. Gibson, Professor, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Canada

Table of Contents

Foreword by George Mulamoottil, Ph.D.
1. Indigenous Knowledge, Environment and Development
2. Planning Theories Underpinning Environmental Impact Assessment: Application to Developing Countries
3. Methodology
4. Biophysical, Socioeconomic and Environmental Profile of Ashanti Region
5. Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure and Constraints in Ghana
6. Indigenous Knowledge Potential for Environmental Impact Assessment
7. Conclusions