Agricultural expansion is a major cause of Ghana’s forest-cover loss. Cultivation has totally deforested some forest reserves. The situation in Ghana illustrates the trade-off between attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 1—reduction of poverty, and 2—achieving food security, are in conflict with SDG 15—protecting and restoring forests. We examined how farmers in forest fringe communities could be engaged in restoring degraded forests using the landscape approach and whether their livelihoods were improved through the use of this approach. The Ongwam II Forest Reserve in the Ashanti region of Ghana is encroached by farmers from two communities adjacent to the reserve. We employed the 10 principles of the landscape approach to engaging farmers in restoring the degraded reserve. The flexibility of the landscape approach provided a framework against which to assess farmer behaviour. We encouraged farmers to plant trees on 10 ha of the degraded reserve and to benefit through the cultivation of food crops amongst the trees. We found that access to fertile forest soils for cultivation was the main motivation for the farmers to participate in the reforestation project. The farmers’ access to natural and financial capital increased and they became food secure in the first year of the project’s operation. Effective implementation of several small-scale reforestation projects using the landscape approach could together lead to a forest transition, more trees in agricultural systems and better protection of residual natural forests while improving farmers’ livelihoods, all combining to achieve the SDGs.
Farms on the project’s land with young teak trees shown in lines beside the pegs. Source: authors’ field survey, 2018.