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Who benefits from community forestry — and who gets left out? Soon after it emerged as a significant trend in the global South in the 1980s, practitioners, advocates and scholars began to ask such questions of community forestry. The distributional impacts of its more recent development in industrialised countries have been less examined. More unusual still has been the explicit attempt to exchange experience between North and South. In response, a symposium was organised to bring together participants of two Ford Foundation-funded projects on community forestry in the US, Nepal, Kenya, and Tanzania. Enriched by additional cases from the United Kingdom and Asia, this introductory article and issue report on the symposium's results. These include the finding that, while community forestry can reduce social inequity, it generally does so by generating positive change at community and higher levels, rather than by delivering benefits directly to poor and marginalised households.
Community-based forestry (CBF) in the US involves a diversity of activities that can occur on public or private lands, and extends beyond land ownership and management into the processing and marketing of forest products and services. Like CBF in many other parts of the world, it shares the interdependent goals of achieving ecological health and social well-being. Actual benefits achieved through CBF are not yet well documented in the literature. This paper illustrates the diversity of CBF activities in the US through the participating projects of the Ford Foundation's Community-Based Forestry Demonstration Program and examines programme outcomes with attention given to the conditions under which benefits accrue to poor and marginalised people. The discussion reflects on the importance of looking at institutional change as well as project level benefits when assessing environmental and social outcomes.
The Black Belt region of Alabama is endowed with immense forest resources. However, land-loss, high poverty, unemployment, and low education levels have persisted among African Americans, the majority population in the region. This paper discusses the approach, the challenges and the lessons learned by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in their adaptation of a community-based forestry approach with a focus on social, economic and political benefits for private landowners. Education and technical assistance, coalition-building, networking and cooperative development strategies were used to increase land-retention, improve access to public and private services and implement land-based income-earning opportunities. This approach resulted in the engagement of a marginalised people in land-based poverty reduction strategies. However, many of the poorest have not yet realised the direct benefit of the community-based forestry approach because of its low credibility among private and public land managers and agencies, the time it takes to develop collaborative processes and the Federation's limited resources.
Vermont's programmes for conservation of forest land do not generally address the increasing disparity between the wealth of those who own land and those who do not. A pilot project was conducted under the Ford Foundation's Community-Based Forestry Demonstration Program to see if a typical conservation project could be modified to allow people to own land who could not otherwise afford to do so. Forest land was acquired by a conservation organization. Some of the rights - the rights to manage and profit from the forest - were sold to a group of community members who own those rights in common. A covenant restricts the sales price so present and future members can expect their stewardship to yield a modest return on their investment. The project's experience suggests ways in which existing conservation programme can be revamped to incorporate opportunities for people of lower incomes and build community around the forest.
An understanding of how community-based forestry (CBF) generates benefits is required in order to explain their distribution. To examine this question, this paper develops a conceptual framework for understanding CBF dynamics that rests upon the fundamental premise that its transformative potential derives from a change in who gains access to resources and decision-making power. Applying the framework to several pilot cases in the Ford Foundation's US Community-based Forestry Demonstration Program, the study finds that improvements in equity, economy, and ecology may follow in sequence (and with uneven emphasis), rather than simultaneously as premised in the prevalent ideal of CBF promoted by the programme. Who gained access and decision-making power largely predicted who benefited individually, although indirect benefits at higher scales were significant. Moreover, the direct benefits of community forestry generally extended to marginalised groups only when they were specifically targeted.
This paper presents the results of a three-year action research project, which investigated the impacts of participatory forest management (PFM) on poverty. Beginning with an analysis of over 30 cases reported in the literature, the project went on to undertake field research in Kenya, Tanzania and Nepal, three countries representing very different stages in and approaches to the implementation of PFM. PFM typically provides a new decision-making forum and may reroute previously direct household benefits to the user group or community level. Regardless of PFM model, the research shows that the key to providing rural people with a sustainable and equitably distributed stream of net benefits is to adopt poverty reduction as a stated objective, allow for both subsistence and commercial use of forest products, design appropriate PFM institutions, introduce transparent and equitable means of benefit-sharing, and provide sufficient support during establishment of PFM initiatives.
Participatory forest management (PFM) is being promoted throughout Tanzania as a means of achieving conservation and improving livelihoods. This paper presents the results of a study in nine villages in the Eastern Arc Mountains to investigate the impacts of two institutional forms of PFM — Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) — on the livelihoods of different well-being groups within communities. PFM was found to provide a new, though small, source of community-level income that was used to improve community physical capital. Household incomes from PFM forests generally increased slightly for most groups. However, technical and administrative obstacles prevented the poorest from taking full advantage of the benefits of forests under CBFM, while benefits from JFM-related income-generating activities were captured by village elites. Overall the results suggest that PFM implementation in Tanzania is improving forest conservation but not realising its potential to contribute to reducing poverty and social exclusion and, in the case of CBFM, may even be increasing the gap between rich and poor.
In spite of the impressive scale of community forestry in Nepal over the last three decades, and its apparent benefits in terms of improved forest condition, there are concerns that the main economic benefits are not equally distributed and that the community forestry process perpetuates or even reinforces social inequity, economic and environmental injustice. This paper presents the findings of a study investigating the livelihood impact of community forestry in eight community forest user groups in the Churia part of the Terai region. Impacts were found to be very variable within and between user groups and not easily explained by any single factor. A general finding, however, was that, community forestry shifts benefit flows from individual households to the community level. This means that promotion of fair representation and active participation by the poorest is needed to ensure that they gain access to the new community-level decision-making fora and the resources managed at this level.
Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) has attracted significant attention in Asia in recent years, with around 25 percent of forests currently outside direct State management. Advocates of CFM suggest that it has the potential to achieve sustainable forest management in a way that improves the welfare of the rural poor. Whether this potential is realised in practice largely depends on the type and scale of benefits created through CFM relative to costs, whether communities are able to secure any of these, and how they are distributed locally. This paper provides an overview of benefit sharing from community-managed forests in Asia based on a recent joint initiative of some key international CFM support organisations. The paper examines why the flow of benefits from community-managed forests to local actors is lower than it could be, highlighting institutional and policy constraints that need to be addressed for this to change, as well as the role and arrangement of community-level governance.
Community forestry is evolving in Great Britain across a variety of social and environmental contexts. Following devolution, England, Scotland and Wales have separate forest strategies. In England ‘community forestry’ often refers to management of new and existing woodland in areas of urban regeneration for public benefit. Social activism and policy changes in Scotland have led to a twofold model of urban regeneration, and community ownership and enterprise in rural areas. In Wales community forestry has developed through efforts led by rural communities and project funding, with results now incorporated into a new forest strategy. After outlining the historical context of forestry in Great Britain the paper examines developments within each country, and compares them with aspects of community forestry identified globally. The paper highlights the fit of community forestry with wider policy goals including urban and rural regeneration, alleviating social deprivation, and partnership between government agencies, non-government organisations and communities. It indicates the diversity of tenure arrangements, motivations and project support for community forestry, and challenges including sustainability and wider networking and capacity building.