Skip to main content

page search

Library Prosperity prospects in contested forest areas: evidence from community forestry development in Guatemala and Nicaragua

Prosperity prospects in contested forest areas: evidence from community forestry development in Guatemala and Nicaragua

Prosperity prospects in contested forest areas: evidence from community forestry development in Guatemala and Nicaragua

Resource information

Date of publication
December 2016
Resource Language
ISBN / Resource ID
License of the resource

Tropentag, September 18-21, 2016, Vienna, Austria

“Solidarity in a competing world —

fair use of resources”

Prosperity Prospects in Contested Forest Areas: Evidence from

Community Forestry Development in Guatemala and Nicaragua

Dietmar Stoian


, Aldo Rodas


, Jessenia Arguello



Bioversity International, Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, France


Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Guatemala, Natural Resources and Agrotourism,


Independent Consultant,


Community forestry is carried out under diverse institutional, environmental, and socio-economic

conditions. Local communities may have

de jure

rights to forest resources, but

de facto


is often weak. This study focuses on 25-year community concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve

(MBR) in Guatemala and indigenous territories in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region

(RACCN), Nicaragua. In both cases, communities are struggling to enforce their rights as powerful

external groups seek to expand cattle ranching, cash crops, tourism, and oil exploration. We found

evidence that community forestry can generate significant socio-economic benefits that, along with

contributions to forest conservation, substantiate the communities’ claim for strengthened and

extended community forest stewardship. We selected six community forest enterprises (CFEs) along

a business development gradient and assessed their context, economic viability, and livelihood

benefits among randomly selected CFE members (n=180). Adopting an asset lens, we determined

human, social, natural, physical and financial capital endowments at household and enterprise

levels. Enterprise assets varied widely, both within and across countries. CFEs were well endowed

with natural capital (7,000–54,000 ha of broadleaf forests) but highly dependent on precious woods,

such as mahogany (

Swietenia macropylla

) or andiroba (

Carapa guianensis

). Human capital was

sufficiently developed for managing forests, but less so for processing wood and doing business.

Social capital has been built in Guatemala through internal organisation, bringing CFEs under

the umbrella of a regional association, and developing relationships with buyers. In Nicaragua,

however, building of social capital has been insufficient for inducing a self-sustaining process of CFE

development. Physical capital for logging and wood processing was moderate but, in Guatemala,

conditions facilitate significant value adding. CFEs there were profitable, while those in the RACCN

struggled to break even. Household assets varied widely but, in the MBR, we found evidence that

forest-based income can lift people out of poverty. Our analyses reveal that critical success factors

for community forestry to reduce poverty, conserve forests and enhance equity are: secure long-term

forest usufruct rights or ownership, efficient business organisation, credible advocacy, a conducive

service environment, and differentiated opportunities for women, men and youth.

Share on RLBI navigator

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

Stoian, D.
Rodas, A.
Arguello, J.
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Guatemala)

Corporate Author(s)
Data Provider
Geographical focus