Social capital, political empowerment and social difference : a mixed-methods study of an ecotourism project in the rural Volta Region of Ghana Harris, Leila; Ramón-Hidalgo, Ana-Elia
Claims abound regarding the empowering possibilities of community-based natural resources management (CBNRM). Social capital is seen as a key element towards that end, yet there is a paucity of critical research testing these connections. This study examines two aspects of social capital (cognitive and structural) in a community-based ecotourism (CBE) project in Ghana as they relate to social difference (notably gender and ethnicity) and political empowerment (i.e., access to political involvement, and political efficacy). Quantitative results highlight specific gendered and ethnic differences in political empowerment and social capital that, when combined with qualitative analysis, reveal how those inequities in ecotourism may be rooted in socio/cultural norms. In addition, a novel contribution from this study is that political empowerment seems to be partly mediated by peoples’ access to social capital. This suggests that, regardless of one’s gender and ethnicity, social capital helps to empower individuals. We conclude by describing what an intervention could look like in the context of this CBE project when informed by qualitative feminist as well as quantitative social capital analysis. Doing so we illustrate how a mixed-methods approach to the study of social capital and empowerment may offer important insights towards more equitable CBE.
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