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Regional themes > Environment and climate change Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

The impact of community based management and joint forest management on the forest resource base and local people's livelihoods:
Case studies from Tanzania

GC Kajembe, J Nduwamungu & EJ Luoga

Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) & Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

SARPN acknowledges permission from PLAAS and CASS for posting this document.
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Prior to colonialism, traditional land use was in harmony with the environment, because over the centuries societies had developed their own social customs and regulations, which ensured sustainable use of land-based natural resources from one generation to the next. Individual land use practices were governed by customs and regulations in such a manner that they were considered socially acceptable (Kowero 1990). Local communities relied on natural resources around them and thus exploited them with restraint (Western & Wright 1994).

During the colonial era, natural resources conservation policies were introduced, which meant taking large tracts of land away from rural people for the establishment of protected areas and removing their jurisdiction over the land (Murphree 2000). Thus protected areas were established at the expense of local people and often deprived them of their traditional economic livelihoods. As a result, local people considered protected or reserved areas as constraints to their livelihoods. Since it was not possible to create rigid separation between land used by local people to obtain natural resource products and those designated by governments as protected areas, encroachment, poaching, and degradation were inevitable (Primack 2002).

Unfortunately after political independence most governments in Africa embraced and continued colonial biodiversity protection policies. Due to poor outcomes associated with government-centred policies, many conservation policies in Africa failed because traditional local authorities that once controlled these resources have been disenfranchised (Agrawal & Clark 2001). Local people’s cultural and socio-economic values regarding the natural resources around them were ignored in most state-centred management activities. According to Agrawal and Clark (2001), if local communities were effectively involved in conservation, the benefits they would receive would create incentive for them to become good stewards of natural resources. On the other hand, if communities are not involved in active management of natural resources it is likely that they will harvest resources at an unsustainable rate.

In this regard, effective decentralisation and devolution of power and control over resources from the centralised state to local communities has become a pressing policy issue throughout the world today (Brown 1999). The involvement of local communities in the management of forest resources can take several forms, depending upon the environment and the degree of involvement. According to Alden Wily (2002), depending upon what is actually agreed in terms of management agreements or contracts between the government and the community, with over-simplification participatory forest management in Africa may broadly assume the following typologies:

  • consultation where community roles are limited to simple consultation (such as expressed in the forest-farmer commissions in Ivory Coast or the forest committees in Ghana)

  • co-operant management where the community is assigned more responsibilities, but its roles and powers are limited (for example, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Benin)

  • contractual partnership where community roles are more substantial but still inequitable (for example, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Sudan, Niger, Mali and Guinea Conakry)

  • consigned management or joint forest management where the community has all operational powers apart from ultimate authority (such as is being promoted in the Gambia and Tanzania in national forest reserves)

  • community-based forest management where jurisdiction is fully devolved to the community and sometimes includes ownership of the estate (such as is found in the Gambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda).
There is need to evaluate the impact of these forms of collaborative forest management on resource base and people’s livelihoods and to analyse critically the reasons for success or failure so as to design appropriate ways forward for ensuring sustainable management of forest resources.

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