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Library Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness

Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness

Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness

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Date of publication
February 2016
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Community-based forestry (CBF) includes “initiatives, sciences, policies, institutions and processes that are intended to increase the role of local people in governing and managing forest resources” (RECOFTC, 2013). It includes formalized customary and indigenous processes as well as government-led initiatives. CBF covers social, economic and conservation dimensions in a range of activities including decentralized and devolved forest management, smallholder forestry schemes, community−company partnerships, small-scale forest based enterprises and indigenous management of sacred sites of cultural importance. In this review, CBF is taken to include both collaborative regimes (forestry practised on land that has some form of formal communal tenure and requires collective action) and smallholder forestry (on land that is generally privately owned).

The publication examines the extent of CBF regimes globally and regionally and assesses their effectiveness in delivering on key biophysical and socioeconomic outcomes, i.e. moving towards sustainable forest management (SFM) and improving local livelihoods. It focuses on formal CBF regimes (those that are defined by a legal framework, with rights formally recognized by governments) while acknowledging that informal regimes are widespread, are often of very long standing and can be locally effective. In the absence of a legal framework, informal (de facto) rights can be easily challenged and changed, or even extinguished, by bureaucratic discretion, and thus are not secure. Confusion and ambiguities between de facto and de jure CBF regimes are common in many countries.

CBF regimes can be categorized according to the tenure rights enjoyed by stakeholders. These rights largely determine the extent of empowerment. This information is key to assessing the effectiveness of different regimes but is rarely specified by analysts or reviewers. The spectrum of generic types of CBF (see graphic opposite), in order of increasing strength of rights devolved, includes:

  • participatory conservation,
  • joint forest management,
  • community forestry with limited devolution,
  • community forestry with full devolution,
  • private ownership.
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