Since the 1980s, developing countries have invested increasing efforts in decentralization initiatives intended to achieve development goals, improve governance and enhance popular participation in the management of natural resources, notably forests. However, better understanding of the issues pertaining to, and the challenges facing, the decentralization of forest management is paramount for the success of such initiatives. This study examines the issues and constraints related to implementation of a decentralizing, participatory forest management program in the Centre-west region of Burkina Faso. For this purpose, information was gathered through a literature review and focus group discussions involving government authorities at various levels, local Forest Management Groups (FMGs), technical support staff and the regional association of fuel wood wholesalers. The acquired data show that Forest Management Units (FMUs) established by the State are not clearly demarcated, and in some cases fall within several administrative units, creating difficulties in devolving responsibility for resources to specific local administrations. This problem is compounded by conflicts over decision-making power among actors, especially elected local leaders, traditional village leaders and representatives of FMGs (which were officially established to manage resources at local level within the FMUs). The central government has also retained substantial control over forest resources through its Forest Service. Thus, the FMGs have little institutional strength, and their authority is further weakened by limited local competence and a lack of transparency and robust accountability mechanisms. Hence, adjustments to the decentralization reforms are required to transfer forest management power to local levels more effectively, which should enhance access to forest resources, thereby increasing benefits for local communities.
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Vol. 13 • No. 4