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Community forestry is distinguished by the emphasis it places on people growing and managing their own trees or forest resources on a sustainable basis. This approach asks foresters to engage in a collaborative process with community members, integrating their professional skills and training with local people's knowledge and resources in order to better address rural communities' needs. The expectation is that by focusing more on people as end users of trees, rather than solely on trees and their uses, foresters will have more success in facilitating the contribution of forestry to rural development.

This study was conducted to clarify certain institutional aspects of Sahelian forestry and, on the basis of this research, to develop a framework for the analysis of woodstock management activities. While this work is rooted in fourcase studies of forestry projects initiated over the past two decades in Niger, the framework of analysis has wider applications. Indeed many of the major conclusions are not in the least site or project specific.

Two major points come out of this institutional approach to the understanding of incentives in community forestry. First, there is a need for careful attention to the diverse economic characteristics of trees in woodstock management projects. These characteristics (what the author calls "the attributes of goods and services") have significant implications for the types of organizations appropriate to manage them. Trees may be intrinsically "private goods," "common pool resources," or "public goods." This depends both on the degree to which access to trees and the goods and services they provide can be controlled, and on whether consumption of those goods and services is separable and rivalrous or joint and non-rivalrous. Designing woodstock management systems which treat those trees which are inherently private goods as common property resources will create management difficulties and lead to unnecessary consumption of resources. Trees may produce environmental protection services, such as controlling wind erosion, stabilizing watersheds and improving air quality. If trees producing these services are inherently common pool resources, they may be overharvested or destroyed if treated as private goods. The public services these trees generate may then be severely under-produced or not produced at all.

Secondly, it is important to understand how different woodstock tenure, management and use rules, in conjunction with the nature of specific woodstock resources, create incentives or disincentives in specific situations that encourage or discourage popular participation in the preservation, enrichment and use of woodstock resources. Conscious efforts to design projects with these considerations in mind will improve chances for project success.

The book is part of the Community Forestry Notes series which is a compilation of studies that examine and develop understanding of the major concepts and issues in community forestry. It was researched and written by James T. Thomson, Ph.D., Senior and Managing Associate of Associates in Rural Development, Inc. (ARD), a consulting firm in Burlington, Vermont USA, specializing in designing programmes of sustainable natural resource use and conservation.

Support and funding for the book was provided by the multidonor Forest, Trees and People Trust Fund, which is devoted to increasing the sustainability of women and men's livelihoods through self-help management of tree and forest resources. Within FAO Forestry Department, the activities and publications of the Programme are coordinated by Marilyn W. Hoskins, Senior Forestry Officer for Community Forestry.

M.R. de Montalembert
Director, Policy and Planning Division
Forestry Department

Executive summary

This document presents a technique for analyzing community forestry problems and designing modified or new community forestry institutions. The technique has been used successfully to address other renewable natural resources problems, particularly irrigation systems and fisheries,1 but has not been used extensively to date as a tool either for evaluating current approaches to the governance and management of woodstocks (trees and bushes), or for designing or redesigning community forestry institutions.2


The analytic technique involves the use of a four-part model (see page vi). The parts, described fully in the document, are:

This framework assumes that individuals choose woodstock governance, management and use strategies in light of the incentives they face. The framework assumes that incentives and disincentives for sustained management or degradation of woodstocks are generated by the economic characteristics or "attributes" of the desired goods and services, given the technology available to produce them in a specific place and time by the attributes of communities, and by the rules -- or institutions -- that structure how woodstock resources are governed, managed and used. Depending on circumstances and production technology, woodstock goods and services can be either private, public or common pool in nature.


A framework for analyzing institutional incentives in community forestry

* This model of institutional analysis and design is derived from a series of such models developed by personnel at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.


Private goods are those to which access can be controlled (exclusion is feasible) and consumption is separable and rivalrous. Firewood cut by a farmer from a tree growing in his fenced garden and burned on the owner's hearth to heat the evening meal has the characteristics of a private good. Access to the wood is or can be controlled (the fence makes it possible to exclude other humans and animals that might destroy the tree). Consumption is rivalrous: once the wood is consumed in the fire, no one else can use it to heat another meal.

Public goods are those to which access cannot easily be controlled (exclusion is infeasible) and consumption is joint and non-rivalrous. Improved air quality that results in a region from generalized reforestation or better farm forestry is a public good. Anyone can breath the resulting healthier air. The fact that one person breathes it does not detract from the ability of others in the region to breath it and also derive benefits.

Common pool goods are those to which access cannot be easily controlled (exclusion is difficult, at least concerning some groups of users) while consumption is separable. An example of a common pool woodstock service is the protection against wind erosion produced by a shelter belt. If lands immediately downwind from the tree line are highly subdivided, so that many different farmers own and cultivate them, none of them can be excluded from the benefits of reduced wind velocity. Consumption of the service is separable however: farmers plant their own fields and no one else can derive benefit from wind erosion control on that piece of land.

Common pool goods can be usefully subdivided into common property and open access goods. By definition, common property resources are managed at least to some extent. Access to common property woodstock goods and services, and exploitation and investment rates in the woodstocks themselves, are controlled, even if only partially and not entirely successfully. By contrast, open access resources are not managed. Access and exploitation rates are not controlled, and investments are not made to regenerate such resources. When woodstocks are abundant (supply clearly exceeds demand) exploiting them as open access resources on a first come, first served basis makes sense because there is plenty for all. Only when demand begins to exceed supply does woodstock management become both economically rational and increasingly important to ensure survival of the resource as a producer of valuable goods and services.

The variable nature of woodstocks, and of the goods and services they can produce in specific environments with particular technologies, has important implications for the choice of institutions most likely to promote sustainable management of those resources. Woodstocks that produce goods and services which are private in terms of their economic characteristics can generally be managed most effectively by individuals or families, acting as private agents. Woodstock resources that generate common pool or public goods and services usually require collective action to ensure effective management. Usually this involves intervention by some government, whether formal or informal in nature. This raises the issue of working rules and institutions.


Communnity mores, standards, values, religious beliefs and practices, traditions, intensity of competition and reciprocity in intra-community and inter-community relationships, market opportunities, etc., all create incentives for different classes of actors. In this study, a number of these issues are dealt with through analysis of rules and institutions (see next section). For lack of information, others are not systematically addressed. However anyone analyzing community forestry problems should be aware of community sources of incentives, and alert to the impacts they may have on both problems and possible solutions.


This document analyzes institutions as sets of rules. The concept of institutions includes both organizations and rules regulating behavior in an area. Examples of organizations often involved in woodstock management include national government agencies such as the forest service, informal village governments, private voluntary organizations, youth groups and age grades. Institutions that are not organizations but do regulated behaviour include sets of rules governing issues like land tenure, land use management, woodstock property rights and mobilization of in-kind, labour and cash resources to finance the management of renewable resources.

Working rules are those rules that guide people when they make decisions, for instance about woodstock use. They are in all cases understood by those to whom they apply, monitored in application, and enforceable.3 Working rules may be the same as formal and written laws and administrative regulations that are applied, monitored and enforced, or they may be unwritten but applied, monitored and enforced understandings about appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Working rules (as well as formal, written rules) can be analyzed in terms of three categories: authorized relationships, authoritative relationships and determining powers of officials. An adequate analysis of working rules using these categories will reveal how any given rule generates (or fails to generate) incentives for certain kinds of activities or discourages actors from other kinds of behavior.

Authorized relationships allocate rights, duties, liberties and exposures among woodstock users. These legal concepts describe varying degrees of ability to control others, and of subjection to constraint by others. They can be thought of as positive and negative incentives, of varying strength, that induce individuals to act in certain ways and avoid other kinds of behavior concerning woodstock governance, management and exploitation.

Authoritative relationships are the mechanisms by which rules are made, enforced, modified and suppressed. Authorized relationships are only promises. They will not influence behaviour unless they can be enforced. The officials of any going concern, whether or not it is formally recognized by the national government, operate through relationships of, power, liability, immunity and disability to create, enforce, modify and suppress authorized relationships. In so doing they not only give life to the working rules, but they also adapt or fail to adapt working rules effectively to the problems of woodstock governance and management.

The determining powers of officials are the leeways or discretion that individual officials enjoy to make decisions without review or supervision by others. Officials exercising their determining powers may uphold or modify working rules governing use and maintenance of woodstocks. They may abuse their determining powers to enrich themselves, family members or friends. They may exercise determining powers to re-establish an effective balance between supply and demand for woodstock goods and services in an area. Where officials have broad determining powers there is strong potential that authoritative and authorized relationships will be manipulated in perhaps unpredictable ways. Uncertainty about the rights, duties, liberties and exposures of various persons who use a woodstock can discourage investment of individual or collective effort in maintaining and enriching that resource just as much as can inappropriate working rules that are reliably enforced.


Niger was selected as the country where the study would be conducted. The four projects were all implemented either directly by the Nigerien Conservation Service (Eaux et Forêts), or with strong involvement by Service personnel. All were either initially or after modification designed to involve local populations to some degree in woodstock management. Each of these activities had been in operation as a project for at least six years when the study was conducted.

The author was already familiar with three of the four community forestry projects selected to illustrate use of the methodology. A rapid institutional appraisal was conducted in each project area, using the categories of the analytic framework. Each project was analyzed in terms of (1) the economic characteristics of the woodstock goods and services involved; (2) the rules concerning the target woodstocks, and their management and use; (3) the interactions resulting from the strategies adopted by actors ranging from village farmers and women to transhumant pastoralists to foresters and other government officials; and (4) the outcomes.

The analysis of the four case studies is followed by a chapter containing eight recommendations. The first five address the Nigerien situation specifically. The last three are more general in nature and applicable to other countries in the francophone Sahel. Indeed they are valid as well for a large number of non-Sahelian African and other Third World countries where forestry activities are still organized through highly centralized agencies and implemented in a top-down manner with less than adequate participation by woodstock users in the management of those often vital resources.

The Nigerien recommendations begin with a suggestion that the national government publicize its official commitment to participatory management of renewable natural resources, including woodstocks. The second recommendation emphasizes the importance of structuring woodstock management efforts to allow local resource users to adapt governance and management rules incrementally to local conditions, in order to improve the fit between management institutions and local needs and capabilities. The third recommendation addresses the public finance problems inherent in many woodstock management activities, and suggests that the government might establish guidelines on these issues for use by officials of lower-echelon administrative units and local jurisdictions. The fourth recommendation suggests that any new community forestry projects should allocate much more authority to local people and communities so that they may legally devise their own woodstock management systems. Local managers and users of woodstocks should be able to exercise legal authority to make and modify rules and mobilize resources necessary to create workable community forestry systems. The final Nigerien recommendation indicates that the government, if interested in promoting participatory community forestry, should approach efforts to encourage woodstock management by resource users as ongoing experiments that can be effectively analyzed and improved using the analytic framework presented in this paper.

The general recommendations address these same concerns in a broader context. The first argues that existing forestry legislation, originally formulated in 1935 and little changed since, is generally outdated and ill-adapted as an institution to promote management or co-management of Sahelian woodstocks by those who use and depend on them for their very survival. In particular, tree tenure rules should be changed to vest rights over trees in local people (as individuals or organized groups depending on the situation), and thus significantly increase local control over woodstocks. The second recommendation indicates why rapidly changing political conditions make participatory management or co-management of woodstock resources by local people an ever more urgent policy priority. Several methods, particularly passage of enabling legislation, are suggested as ways to achieve this goal. The third and final recommendation indicates how the analytic framework can be used to design, by an iterative, incremental process that draws heavily on existing local institutional capital and human resources, community forestry activities that are well adapted to specific local circumstances and sustainable in such contexts.


In order to help the reader more easily follow the argument of the document, this glossary lists terms with specific meanings frequently used in the report. Insofar as possible, usage of these terms has been standardized in the document.

Authoritative transaction. A transaction among officials of a going concern (which see) that decides a dispute, or makes or changes a rule governing behaviour of those subject to control by officials of the going concern.

Authorized transaction. A transaction among at least two parties who have some combination of rights, duties, liberties and exposures concerning the object of the transaction.

Common pool resource. A resource (or good) from which it is difficult to exclude some or all users, and which is subject to separable or rivalrous consumption.

Common property resource. A resource (or good) which is owned by a named and known group of people, who control access to the resource and may manage it in other ways as well.

Determining powers. Those powers which an official can exercise in an authoritative transaction to determine herself or himself the working rules governing an activity.

Disability. The legal inability, in an authoritative transaction, of one official to make another do his bidding.

Duty. The subjection of an individual to control by another within an authorized transaction (strong negative incentive).

Exposure. No protection for an individual against damage that others' actions may impose on her or him within an authorized transaction (negative incentive).

Going concern. A group of individuals engaging in a productive activity according to a set of working rules (which see); going concerns may be formal jurisdictions, informal jurisdictions such as villages or quarters, private voluntary groups, enterprises or families.

Immunity. The legal immunity, in an authoritative transaction, of one official to the command of another in a transaction.

Institution. A set of rules which govern some activity of individuals and groups.

Liability. The legal obligation, in an authoritative transaction, of one official to implement the command of another.

Liberty. Protection against others interfering with her or his actions within an authorized transaction (positive incentive).

Open access resource. A common pool resource (or good) to which all have access and can exploit without any legal constraint.

Power. The ability of an official to command other officials within an authoritative transaction. Private good. A good which is subject to exclusion and is separable or rivalrous in consumption.

Public good. A good which is not easily subject to exclusion and is joint or non-rivalrous in consumption.

Right. Ability to control the behaviour of others within an authorized transaction (strong positive incentive).

Woodstock. The term "woodstock" as used in this document refers to all ligneous (woody) plants, for example trees, bushes and shrubs. The woodstock is the total of such biomass materials that exist in any given geographic area.

Working rules. The effective rules (which may be the same as or different than the formal rules) governing an activity within a going concern.

Note: One US$ was equal to 290 FCFA at the time of this study.

Abbreviations and acronyms

CARE Cooperative American Relief Everywhere

CCCE Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique

CLUSA Cooperative League of the United States of America

FAC Fonds d'Aide à la Coopération

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FCFA Francs CFA

FLUP Forestry Land Use Planning Project (cf. PUSF)

GON Government of Niger

IDRC International Development Research Center

PUSF Projet Utilisation des Sols et Forêts (cf. FLUP)

3M Arrondissements of Mirriah, Magaria and Matameye

UNCC Union Nationale des Coopératives et du Crédit (National Union of Cooperatives and Credit)

USAID United States Agency for International Development

UNSO United Nations Sahelian Office

1 For several examples of the application of this technique to renewable resources problems, see Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Resource Management, April 21-26,1985, prepared by Panel on Common Property Resource Management, Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Office of International Affairs, National Research Council (Washington, D C: National Academy Press); esp. Ronald J. Oakerson, "A Framework for the Analysis of Common Property Problems," pp. 13-29, and case studies generally structured in terms of this framework, pp. 63-257.


2 But see, in Proceedings of the Conference on Common Property Management, Margaret A. McKean, "Management of Traditional Common Lands (Iriaichi) in Japan," pp. 533-89, for a rich and instructive case study of sustained woodstock management over the last several centuries in Japan.


3 John R. Commons, The Legal Foundations of Capitalism (Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968; first published New York, NY: Macmillan, 1924), pp. 65-142, originally developed this analysis of the working rules of going concerns as part of his seminal book on institutional economics. He used the terms authorized and authoritative "transactions" rather than "relationships" to describe interactions among individuals and groups. Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 50 ff. uses the concept of working rules as one element in a sophisticated analysis of renewable resource management problems.


4 "M" is for the starting letter of the names of the three arrondissements -- Mirriah, Magaria and Matameye--in which village woodlots were developed during the first phase of the project.

5 International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.


6 Cooperative American Relief Everywhere, New York, NY, USA -- CARE Norway has supported Majjia activities since 1987.


7 Fonds d'Aide à la Coopération, Paris, France.


8 Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique, Paris, France.


9 United Nations Sahelian Office.


10 United States Agency for International Development.


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