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This section of the document decribes an eight-year-long effort to develop a participatory, sustained-yield, common property management system for a degraded national forest, Guessel-bodi Forest, located 35 kilometers east of the capital city of Niamey.61 The case is significant for several reasons. First, it pioneers a forester-producer collaborative common property management system. It combines Forest Service technical control, supervision and back-up enforcement authority with producer participation through a cooperative organization. Collaboration occurs in adapting the forest management plan over time to local circumstances and in implementing major elements of the management system. Second, it shows how a complex set of renewable resources can be placed on a sustained-yield footing, with costs of management largely covered by product sales. Third, it establishes a precedent for commercial exploitation of national forests by residents of neighbouring villages which, if extended to less degraded forests of the "protected domain," could make a major contribution to meeting Niger's urban and rural domestic energy demands. Fourth, it demonstrates, albeit with very high levels of assistance, the technical feasibility of regenerating a severely degraded eco-system.

The Guesselbodi Forest management activity was organized as one element of the Forestry and Land Use Planning Project (FLUP). This project has been financed by USAID and implemented since late 1980 by a succession of Nigerien foresters and technical advisors. The FLUP Model Sites component was designed to demonstrate how management techniques could be applied to specific Nigerien environments in order to enrich the renewable natural resource base. An important criterion guided selection of approaches from the range of possible techniques: local people should be able to adopt approaches if they proved technically successful. Thus, while heavy equipment was used at several points in testing approaches to eco-system regeneration, a consistent effort was made to use simple, low-cost, labour intensive techniques. The three major goals of the Guesselbodi activity are

The general strategy adopted was to work towards participatory, sustained-yield management of a multi-purpose forest resource by treating it as a common property. A named and known group of individuals, following access and use rules established for the forest, would exploit the resource. The technical approaches to management of degraded resources have to a great extent been tested elsewhere. They are combined in the Guesselbodi Forest experiment, sometimes in innovative ways, after appropriate adaptation to the local context.

Of the four project elements noted initially, the two most important for the present study are (1) the demonstration that brushwood exploitation, grazing, and hay and straw making are economically feasible and (2) the attempt to organize a common property forestry management system in Niger. If the Forest Service/producer management system proves viable, it will significantly alter the prospects for preservation and development of national forest resources, and forest resources generally in Niger.

This project, it should be noted, is quite different in intent from the first three projects in this chapter all of which are agroforestry operations. These three seek to improve yields of agricultural production systems by reinforcing or creating positive roles for trees in those systems. However, the Guesselbodi model site is primarily a forestry project, albeit quite nontraditional in approach. It involves some direct agroforestry activities within the confines of the forest. There are interesting technical implications for managing brushwood -- the only woodstock now remaining in most of Niger -- as an integral part of farming production systems (to produce forage reserve, fuelwood, building poles, windbreaks, hedgerows and honey through apiculture).

The main thrust of the project, however, is multipurpose forestry rather than agroforestry. This explains the higher-profile involvement of foresters in the joint management system. They are to play an active role as leader-technicians in supervising forest management, although always in close collaboration with rural producers organized in cooperatives (or perhaps eventually in private enterprises).

Once again, this section analyzes the Guesselbodi National Forest Project using the four categories of the analytic framework, that is, attributes of goods and services, institutions, interactions and outcomes.

The project


The character of most forest products depends on both economic feasibility of exclusion and on land tenure patterns. The products which Guesselbodi forest does or could produce are multiple. This reflects both the diversity of terrain and soils, and the degree to which different parts of the forest area can be restored to productive uses. Products include primarily firewood, forage (hay, straw and browse) and building poles, for which strong local and regional demand exists. Agricultural uses are possible where soil conditions permit. Residents of neighbouring villages cultivated arable lands in the forest area before they were expropriated in the 1950s when the national forest was created.62 Additional valuable secondary products such as honey, thatching grass, pillow stuffing material and medicinal plants, can also be produced in the forest in commercially marketable amounts.

Private goods. Of these various products, only the goods resulting from agricultural uses are intrinsically private in character. Field crops including grasses used in hut construction and fencing, which are frequently grown in fields, are subject to exclusion under typical Nigerien farming conditions. Exclusion is economically feasible in such systems because farmers patrol their fields during the growing season and through the harvest period as an indirect side effect of cultivation. Their physical presence in cultivated areas generally suffices to prevent unauthorized use. Consumption of field crops is rivalrous.

Other forest products such as wood, forage and honey, are private in nature only if they generate enough revenue to make exclusion economically feasible. Circumstances of the Guesselbodi site are favourable in this respect with a range of marketable products for which strong demand exists in a nearby population centre. Earnings are sufficient to finance exclusion through a system of continuous organized patrols. However, a private individual, enterprise or cooperative would have to control a parcel of forest land large enough to provide economies of scale to make the patrol system economically feasible. Consumption of the goods is competitive.

Common property goods. Most stationary consumable forest products are not inherently open access or common property in character, since exclusion is feasible and consumption of most forest products is separable or competitive.

One class of goods is, however, potentially a common property resource: the wildlife species which have filtered back into the forest as the ground cover has been gradually enriched to the point where animals can again find both food and shelter. Wildlife movements cannot be economically controlled, but most animals remain within the forest boundaries because adjacent environments are less attractive. Thus those who control forest lands or have access to them can exploit wildlife species. If a single individual or firm controls the forest area, the wildlife population could be managed as a private good. If multiple individuals or concerns control land, then the wildlife automatically becomes a common property good.

Public goods. The forest as currently managed generates an increment of improvement in environmental quality in the surrounding area which is available to all who frequent the area. Consumption of improved environmental quality is joint and non-rivalrous. Figure 17 (see the opposite page) arrays those goods and services in the standard table.

Figure l7 - Types of goods arid services


Attributes of forest goods and services

given existing use patterns and technology without rules








Public- goods and services

Toll goods and services


    - environmental



Common pool goods and services

Private goods and services

Common property


    - wildlife population

(consumptive products)

    - honey

    - wood

    - browse

    - hay and straw

    - medicinal products


    - field crops


According to national framework legislation, embodied in the current Forestry Code, national forests are common property goods. They are to be managed by the Forest Service as national-level common property resources. The Forest Service is to control access, regulate use and undertake investments necessary to ensure the survival of these resources. The set of potential users is national or even international.

The current constitution and policies of Niger mandate establishment of assemblies entitled Development Councils at each level of society. Sedentary villages and "nomadic" tribes, sedentary cantons and "nomadic" groups, arrondissements, departments and the nation now all have these councils. Likewise, cooperative organizations are to be established at each of these levels.

As part of the forest management structure, the FLUP Project organized a cooperative. Members are residents of the nine villages bordering the forest. They are organized in village mutual groups, each with its own set of officers. All village residents are ex officio members of the mutual assembly. Assembly members elect a president, treasurer and secretary. These three individuals make up the mutual's administrative council. The assembly also elects two comptrollers, who constitute the mutual group's accounting branch.

The five officers of each mutual group compose the assembly of the cooperative. They, in turn, elect from their ranks a cooperative president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, three advisors and two comptrollers. The first seven make up the administrative council of the cooperative while the last two are its accounting branch. This gives each village a member of the inner circle. The cooperative provides a manager for the Guesselbodi forest stocking centre. The manager is to supervise wood cutting activities and wood sales, and ensure that the cooperative market runs smoothly.

Given successful regeneration of ground cover and woodstock during the 1980s, development of a functioning forestry cooperative, and requests from FLUP Project personnel that the cooperative be given exclusive rights to exploit forest products in return for financing recurrent costs of ongoing management, the Minister of Hydrology and Environment in late 1986 signed a contract with the Guesselbodi Cooperative.

This contract effectively converted Guesselbodi Forest from a largely unmanaged open access resource to a managed common property resource. The management group -- those who are at liberty to exploit forest resources -- are all cooperative members. They are required by contract terms to execute the management plan developed over eight years of experimentation with woodstock and pasture management in the forest area. The forest manager is a full-time employee of the Forest Service, permanently posted at the forest. He is supervised by the head of the Kolo Arrondissement Forestry Service. Once the system is fully operational and the manager, cooperators and forest guards have demonstrated their ability to execute their roles effectively, the Kolo forester will devote progressively less time to direct supervision. He will, however, continue for the foreseeable future to exercise a periodic oversight role.

Under the institutional structure established by contract, cooperators enjoy a right that all others will avoid exploiting forest products without express authorization from the forest manager. Outsiders, with the exception of herders, are not allowed at present to exploit forest products. Even herders are under a new duty to comply with grazing regulations -- part of the conversion of Guesselbodi Forest from a formerly open access resource, as far as herders were concerned, to a managed common property resource.

Cooperators are at liberty, within the terms of the management plan and cooperative regulations, to exploit several forest products. Regulations are relatively complex. They reflect the management plan goals of maintaining and enriching the overall productivity of the forest while also ensuring a flow of three major products: firewood, forage resources (standing grass, hay, straw and browse) and building poles. The key is apportioning demand for these various products to supply (resource carrying capacity) to preserve resource productivity.

Demand is to be annually apportioned to supply by two general systems, within limits set by the management plan. The management plan establishes an overall multiple-year strategy. The nearly 5,000-hectare forest has been divided into 10 roughly equal parcels. These form the basis of the management system. They are to be harvested for firewood and building poles over a ten-year rotation, at the rate of one parcel per year. Cutting regulations specify the type and size of wood (dead, live mature and live immature stems) to be harvested in each rotational sequence. Once a parcel has been cut, it is placed off limits for a period of at least three years, to permit harvested live brush to coppice new stems and reach a size and height where browsing will not impede further growth. Grasses are also allowed to regenerate during this period, under protection of the total ban on use. Selected planting of brush and grasses is programmed as necessary.

The management plan also provides for alternate years of grazing with hay and straw cutting on the regenerated parcels. Grazing apportioned to the specific carrying capacity of a parcel in any given year will make efficient use of the forest's pasture resources and will also recycle nutrients in the form of manure to the grazed parcels. During alternate years hay making (during the rainy season, when grasses are flowering and contain high levels of essential nutrients) and straw cutting (in the dry season, when the content is valuable only as bulk cellulose) will make less thorough use of the pasture resource, but will ensure that seeds of perennials as well as annual grasses are plentifully distributed throughout forest soils.

The rotational sequence is designed to avoid harvesting neighboring parcels in consecutive years. The purpose is to ensure that herders can move their animals easily to those parcels among the shifting set of seven where, in any year, controlled access will be authorized for purposes of pasturing livestock.

Rules have been developed that govern access to forest wood and pasture resources. The resident forest manager provides cutting permits to the cooperative. Participation in the wood cutting trade is possible only through membership in the Guesselbodi Cooperative. Members may purchase cutting permits, currently priced at US $3.30. Permits are valid for a period of one month and for specified amounts of firewood. Cooperators must cut wood in designated parcels according to management plan regulations. They must sell exclusively to the cooperative. Cash is paid for all wood delivered. Rule violators can be deprived of their permits and excluded from cutting activities in the future. The cooperative in turn resells at a profit to wood merchants who buy at the roadside market. Some cooperators buy back firewood wood at the wholesale price and market the wood themselves.

Proceeds of wood cutting permit sales are banked in a special account used to fund investments in up-grading the forest. Proceeds from the sale of forest products are deposited in a revolving fund. Money in the fund is used to finance purchases of cut wood from participating cooperators. In principle, the amount in the fund will grow as a function of the margin between purchase and resale prices and the amount of wood (and other products) sold from the forest.

At the end of each year, exploitation costs and investment costs are to be deducted from the gross profit realized by the cooperative. The former are occasioned by the organization and implementation of the cut. The latter arise as a result of joint forest manager/cooperative decisions to invest in up-grading forest resources or infrastructure. Investments are the property of the cooperative, but cannot be sold without the concurrence of the National Direction of the Forestry Service. Net profits are divided in the ratio of 25 percent for the cooperative and 75 percent for the forest investment plan. The cooperative's share is rebated to the members. Monies allocated to the forest investment plan are earmarked for recurrent costs, for example, paying guards and marking seed trees which are to be left to promote reforestation after the cut.

A similar system will be employed to organize pasture exploitation. In those parcels where grazing is to be permitted in a given year, an estimate of the carrying capacity over the coming dry season will be worked out by the forest manager.63 As experience accumulates, estimates of forage amounts will be made on the basis of visual aspects of the resource. The estimate will include both grass and browse components. The forest manager will then deliver grazing permits to the cooperative. The cooperative manager will sell them on a first come, first served basis.

Arable land is another forest resource of major interest to cooperators. Several parcels have been identified as appropriate for crop production. Access to these fields is allocated on the basis of a simple lottery among cooperators from the nearest villages who wish to participate. Names of interested parties are placed in a hat. Winners in the drawing are accorded conditional access to the fields. To retain control, they must comply with forest management rules. They are required to plant live hedges around the perimeters of their plots, and windbreaks and, scattersited trees within them. The lotteries have attracted solid interest. Many who would like to farm in the forest cannot be accommodated.

The rules concerning access and exploitation of the common property forest are enforced by the forest manager, a team of mounted guards hired by the project and the cooperative manager.64 The forest manager is responsible for overall supervision. He checks periodically to make sure that cooperators are observing cutting regulations in harvesting firewood. He will also have general authority to backstop application of grazing regulations. The guards patrol the forest parcels under regeneration and also make sure that no cutting occurs outside the parcel currently being harvested. The cooperative manager is responsible for enforcing rules about access to the wood-cutting trade and enforcement of details of the marketing system.



The Guesselbodi joint management system is very new. Commercial operations under the new rules commmenced in March 1987. Comments on interactions thus reflect only preliminary experience. These must be seen against the backdrop of earlier patterns of interaction concerning the forest.

Despite its unquestioned legal authority to do so, the Nigerien Forest Service has had great difficulty over the past three decades in controlling access to a number of the country's ninety-odd national forests. Wood resources in many have been seriously depleted by commercial firewood cutters. In some cases farmers have moved back into forests to cultivate cleared lands, often reasserting claims to land they or their parents lost through expropriation proceedings when the forests were created.

In the case of Guesselbodi Forest, the national army was largely responsible for systematic logging of marketable trees. The army operated in the forest from 1955 to the mid-1970s. Much wood was consumed in army cooking fires and a substantial amount was apparently charcoaled and sold in Niamey. The army left the forest in severely degraded condition.

Some illegal harvesting of forest products by villagers and woodcutters undoubtedly occurred, but on balance in Guesselbodi Forest this was a minor problem. The forest was easy to control because of its proximity to the highway. Abundant sources of fuelwood existed elsewhere in the Niamey region. This reduced the temptation to poach wood in the national forest.

Herders over the past several decades may have represented the greatest demand on the forest's resources. They enjoyed unrestricted access to the forest. Many used it as a grazing reserve during the rainy season when owners are required to keep their animals out of growing crops. Many area farmers turned their livestock over to local herders and the latter pastured these herds in the forest. Over-grazing may have occurred, leading to degradation of perennial grass stands, undue pressure on brush Combretum spp. stands, soil compaction and reduced ability of forest pastures to reconstitute themselves.

New system interactions

The Guesselbodi Cooperative, while still new, appears to have gotten off to a solid start. The cooperative has been under development since 1985. An ex-agent of the now defunct National Union of Cooperatives and Credit (UNCC) has been responsible for working directly with villagers in the Guesselbodi area. Technical assistance is being provided by a representative of the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA).

During the start-up period occasional infractions of the new management rules have occurred. These include stray livestock wandering into cut parcels where no grazing is permitted for at least three years while woodstock and pastures regenerate, and occasional violation of the firewood cutting plan. Both have been corrected by forest guards. Animals are taken to a pound, established in each of the nine mutual group villages, and controlled by the village headman. Owners must pay a fine before they may reclaim their animals. Woodcutters who fail to abide by prescribed rules have lost their permits. Cooperators generally support these rules because they have been involved to some degree in developing them. They understand how respect for the rules will benefit them over the long haul by making the forest a more valuable resource. The exploitation contract provision which vests in cooperators a right against all others that they will avoid using the forest seems thus far to be sustained in practice.

The forest guards have been hired from outside the nine local communities. The reasoning was that outsiders would more likely apply regulations in an even-handed manner, whereas local guards would be tempted to ignore infractions committed by members of their own communities, while punishing all others. Thus far the policing system staffed by outsiders has apparently given satisfaction.

Policing by outsiders involves certain disadvantages however. It reinforces cooperator dependence on the forest service management decisions in hiring and firing guards. Non-local guards are not amenable to local legitimate decision-making processes, except as these are mediated through the forest manager. Cooperative autonomy is impeded. It may be possible, however, to develop management systems which provide for protection of the forest by cooperative members themselves. This would be desirable because it would build group solidarity over time, and confidence in the group's ability to enforce a reasonable rule system.


The woodstock cutting system has worked efficiently thus far. Two parcels (about 1,000 hectares) have been harvested. The entire product has been sold to wood merchants who come to the roadside market to purchase wood supplies. Participating cooperators have made considerable money, mostly in payment for wood harvested. However, rebates have been sizeable enough to finance down payments on a number of donkey carts. With the carts, woodcutting cooperators have increased their daily harvest, earning proportionately more money. Many have paid off their cart loans within the space of a single harvesting season. The carts are of course useful for agricultural work as well as commercial hauling.

The wood-cutting system seems to be equitable. It has been designed to reward hard work. Those who cut more wood will in principle make more money. It is impossible to tell without more field work whether the system performs as designed.

The pasture management system may involve a weakness, notably the possibility that the politically powerful will systematically arrive first at the head. of the "first come, first served" queue. However, other systems also have design weaknesses. An auction system might increase grazing revenues, but would bias the system in favour of the wealthy. A system limiting access only to cooperators might exclude many area herders who have traditionally used the forest as a wet season refuge where animals can be pastured without danger of damaging crops. The system may be modified as experience over several years reveals ways to strengthen it.

While the system for distribution of agricultural land within the forest was not able to meet demand, this is a function of an imbalance in supply and demand, rather than any flaws in the efficiency of the management plan. Equity, defined here as an equal chance in a drawing for available lands, seems to have been served.

System performance is hard to estimate at this early date. Costs of the forest management operation are subsidized to the extent that the forest manager's salary is covered by the national civil service budget, rather than by proceeds from sales of forest products. However, if the project gradually meets its design objectives, it will be successful in the sense that the Nigerien forest service and Guesselbodi cooperators will have preserved a valuable but threatened resource. If the forest continues to produce highly valued products in the future, it will serve to improve the living standards of surrounding villagers and will also contribute significantly to meeting capital city needs for domestic energy, straw and hay, and other forest products.

If the project can be extended to other areas of "useless" brush in the vicinity of Niamey, as seems highly likely based on preliminary work along these lines, it will have made a very substantial contribution to both environmental stabilization and economic development in Niger.

61 Ministry of Hydrology and the Environment/Forestry Land Use and Planning Project (MHE/FLUP). "Guide to Forest Restoration and Management in the Sahel, based on Case Studies at the National Forests of Guesselbodi and Gorou-Bassounga Niger," prepared by John Heermans and Greg Minnick, drawings and editing by Cecilia Polansky (Niamey, Niger, July 1987). This entire chapter draws very heavily on this document. It provides an historical overview of the eight years of experimentation at Guesselbodi.


62 James T. Thomson, "Guesselbodi Forest: Alternative Frameworks for SustainedYield Management,." prepared for Niger Forestry Land Use and Planning Project, Purchase Order No. 683-230-1-016, 25 August 1981, pp. 6-8.


63 James T. Thomson, "Guesselbodi Forest: Alternative Frameworks for SustainedYield Management,." prepared for Niger Forestry Land Use and Planning Project, Purchase Order No. 683-230-1-016, 25 August 1981, pp. 6-8.


64 See MHE/FLUP, "Guide to Forest Restoration ...," pp. 112-22, for details of the range management system.

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