The governance of forest protected areas has become topical in recent years due to the realization that good governance has potential to improve conservation outcomes. Forest governance can be investigated and appropriately treated on the basis of a thorough understanding of local and national history. Understanding the application of governance principles in history and their impact on forest condition can offer insights into current and future governance arrangements that can foster sustainable forest conservation. Using historical information from published works, grey literature and interviews the study analyzed the application of seven governance principles between 1920 and 2005 for six forests in western Zimbabwe and their corresponding forest condition outcomes. Results show that governance quality was high during the pre-colonial period, deteriorated with the inception of the colonial system and remained poor after attainment of independence in 1980. Forest condition also varied in tandem with governance variations showing a positive relationship between the two variables. Participation in decision making, fairness in sharing benefits and effective rule enforcement were reported to be most critical to earn local communities' support and improve forest condition. The challenges of revitalizing traditional governance systems under contemporary conditions, the folly of the colonial centralized governance system and the prospects of implementing collaborative governance arrangements under the prevailing socio-economic and legislative environment were highlighted. The paper concluded that appropriate application of good governance principles at the forest level has potential to achieve the purpose of establishing forest protected areas.
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Vol. 18 • No. 4