Key Takeaways from a Forest and Carbon Consultation: Tips for Running a Successful Community Engagement Workshop.

NGPTA blog: Author, Rose Kobusinge. 

In November 2023, NGPTA and partners organised a community consultation on forests, carbon and co-benefits in Atebubu, Ghana – described in a previous blog. Here, we reflect on the key ingredients used to attain successful results in effective community engagement. 

Pre-workshop engagement, and trust building 

If asked to summarise the ingredients for a successful community carbon consultation workshop, the answer would be, that it all starts way before the workshop. That is to say, effective community engagement is a process that requires iterative and continuous participation, listening, learning and collaboration. NGPTA and implementing partners have been working with farmers, traditional chiefs, the government, and other collaborators to build trust and promote collaboration for two years – and are still on a journey for more community engagement work from now on. The workshop was just one small part of the path to building a resilient and long-term restoration project with all stakeholders.  

Indeed, NGPTA and partners have proved that it is possible to co-develop and co-deliver forest and restoration projects with communities for people and nature. That co-creation process holds the key to all success. Elena Dominguez, the workshop engineer stated We are not inviting stakeholders to be part of our project – we are building the project together with them. We are aiming to go beyond multistakeholder platforms to build long-term social alliances with communities and other stakeholders”. 

To date, NGPTA has invested in agroforestry, capacity building, training, climate change awareness, bringing different stakeholders together (multistakeholder platform), supporting local tree seedling businesses and providing participating farmers with seedlings for planting, as well as all technical assistance needed throughout the lifecycle of tree growing. To achieve meaningful community engagement, communities are closely involved in the existing project governance system:  

  • Farmers-farmer peer group made of 23 farmer representatives from each of the community. 
  • The multistakeholder platform, includes traditional leaders, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, local private companies and government representatives. Since it was established in 2021, eight multistakeholder platform meetings have been held, bringing together over 300 stakeholders. 
  • The advisory board, on which farmers are also represented.  

Additionally, the project office is planted in the community with an open door for farmers and the community – we like to call it “the farmers’ office”. Our project staff have their boots and ears on the ground, serving diligently to provide technical and non-technical expertise in agroforestry, tree planting, climate-smart agriculture and community mobilization. 

The above summary is meant to share how much the other aspects of the projects helped prepare of the workshop. Now before the main workshop, the locally based NGPTA staff carried out community-level consultations with each of the 23 communities of operations, preparing farmers for the main workshop but also engaging those who could not participate in the final workshop. Abraham Yelley, the project coordinator, said: We would have wanted to engage more farmers in the workshop since we work with about 1,200 of them. However, this is not practically possible and of course, there are always resource constraints. So, we had to engage the rest in different ways, finding them in their communities”. 

With all the pre-work and engagement done, the different farmers and stakeholders were aware and assured of the purpose of the project. It then became easier to collaborate, mobilise and bring them together for the three-day workshop. To ensure inclusion and collaboration, local leaders and partners also participated in the selection of workshop participants.  

Closer to the workshop, the NGPTA staff spent several months envisioning the workshop, co-developing content and meeting different partners to discuss the practicalities. Our “workshops engineer”, Elena also said: “One important lesson that we took from the workshop is how important that preparation work is, but also how it’s important not to be too attached to it, to be able to read the needs of the group and adapt the sessions at the last minute if needed. Most of the sessions were changed at the last minute to make sure that they were adapted to the needs of the group and the moment of the process we were in. This capacity of adaptation and ability to listen to the stakeholders and the process needs is very important.” 

During the workshop, the key pointers that worked. 

When the day finally arrived, there was great excitement and enthusiasm to see how it would all go. Andrew Heald, the NGPTA COO, remarked on the good turn-out – “but will we maintain the number until the end?”. Hint: the workshop maintained not only the numbers but also the active participation and energy in the room amidst a very hot environment. So, what worked? 

Learning is a two-way street: During the first day, after introductions, the objectives of the three days were set. NGPTA made it clear that “we are here to learn together, and this consultation is not the end of the engagements on forests and carbon co-benefits.” As the workshop went on, this statement was revisited several times. NGPTA stood on the principle of, ‘we do not know everything, but rather we stand for a two-way learning and knowledge exchange process”, taking pride in the principle of transparency, and communicating triumphs and tribulations.  

Know the stakeholders and participants: Over the last three years, NGPTA has not only mapped our audience but also been learning their strengths, interests and gaps. These shaped the workshop content and grouping of stakeholders. For instance, combining farmer groups with chiefs might have resulted in farmers taking a back seat and letting the chiefs lead in all aspects, just like in the local power structures. By contrast, having farmers in their own groups, but with an opportunity to share their thoughts with other groups, created a safe discussion space. And it was interesting to see some contradicting deliberations between the farmers and other stakeholder groups shared openly and sparking discussions.  

In addition, the local language and interpretation were used throughout because many participants, especially older farmers, did not speak English.  

Let the participants lead, and open the dialogue: Most discussions were group-based, with a representative from each group then reporting back to the plenary. Each stakeholder group was encouraged to allow all members to contribute, but initially, the same facilitators were reporting back to the plenary – all of them men. As confidence built up and people got comfortable with each other, the NGPTA team encouraged new group members to report to the plenary. Then we saw women also taking the lead, not only in the discussions but also in reporting back – a success story! 

Learn, break it down and adjust: During the workshop, you learn what works and what does not. As you so, adjust to the context. For example, in the workshop, baking a cake and fairly sharing it was used as an analogy for the carbon credits benefit-sharing concept to make it easier for the layperson. In addition, photographs, emojis, tables and shapes were used to break down concepts, especially on carbon credits.  

Take breaks, with refreshments: This might sound minor but the breaks and good refreshments to power up did the magic. Amidst hours of discussion, group work, plenaries and so much more, breaks are vital. A morning break, lunch and after-lunch break allowed the participants to get some fresh air, drinks and refreshments while the workshop facilitators adjusted the content and delivery models whenever necessary. The breaks also provide a networking opportunity. One participant reflected: “This workshop also enabled us to meet people whose names we have heard about but never met in person. It was good to make these new connections and friendships.” 

Different methods for wider engagement: Alongside the three-day workshop, a radio talk show with two farmers and two NGPTA staff. We work with 1,200 farmers but due to logistical limitations, it was not possible to engage all of them in the workshop. The radio programme was a good way to reach a wider audience, including people outside the project. In addition, after the workshop, the NGPTA met some of the other stakeholders who could not make it to update them. 

To conclude, the key takeaway is that, in the realm of transformative landscape restoration, merely inviting stakeholders and communities to the table is no longer enough. We must meaningfully collaborate and include them in the very fabric of projects and initiatives.

If you found this helpful, and relatable or would like to share your experience or to just connect, please reach out to: and to know about the project. 

The workshop showcased the success of a collaborative, transparent, participant-led approach in addressing community needs and their vision towards the future. NGPTA remains committed to ongoing engagement, learning and knowledge exchange, working towards a resilient and sustainable future. We extend our gratitude to all partners and funder AstraZeneca, for their support in organizing this inclusive and engaging workshop.