Wildfires as dominant force driving farming systems in the forest transition zone of Ghana
Wildfires have become very influential in the ecology and socio-economic aspects of the rural landscape in the transition zone of Ghana. Eight farming communities around four forest reserves with short fire-return intervals were studied to determine major changes in farming systems that can be attributed to wildfires. Results show that recurrent annual wildfires and other related factors have caused major changes in the farming systems of the study areas. Based on farmer perceptions, significant changes were found in the type of vegetation available for conversion into farms, site productivity, crops grown, labour input, and crop yields. Thick secondary forests with long rotations and high site productivity are no longer available for cultivation. They have been replaced with light grass and Chromolaena odorata fallow with short rotations and low site productivity. Other important changes are a dramatic shift from the growth of perennials (e.g. Cocoa) to annuals (e.g. maize), high labour requirements for land clearance, low crop yields, and a reduced interest in the cultivation of cocoa which used to be the backbone of the local economy. Farmers perceived these changes to be negative factors, implying that bush fires may be undermining agriculture beyond the physical destruction of farms and farm produce.