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Recommendations specific to the Nigerien situation

The first five recommendations do not focus on the projects taken as case studies as such, but rather on the general policy sector of woodstock management in Niger. They are divided into two groups, (1) those concerning substantive policies and (2) those having to do with woodstock project design procedures.


As the four case studies demonstrate, over the last decade Niger has permitted and promoted several interesting experiments with popular participation in woodstock management. The attitude of the Forest Service towards these experiments has changed over time, from initial hesitancy to increasing support. This slow shift is probably appropriate. The project experiments have proposed very radical changes in woodstock tenure rights. Nigerien foresters, trained in a tradition that emphasizes state regulation of the environment and environmental resources, still find this a very significant departure from the standard operating procedures of forestry in Niger as recently as a decade ago. Some today undoubtedly still consider these new departures a mistake. Nonetheless, the Forestry Service is slowly reorienting its approach to promote more popular involvement in woodstock management.

Substantive recommendations concern the apparent desirability of localizing control over tree tenure. It seems likely at this point that the proposed Rural Code will adopt this approach when and if it appears. In its interpretation of the Forestry Code, the Forest Service can in the meantime promote a gradual increase in local responsibility and opportunity for woodstock management. Such a policy would find strong support in the current Nigerien national commitment to make the Development Society ideals of local participation in and local responsibility for development at the local level.

Recommendation 1 - Publish a document on policy issues relevant to participatory natural resource management

The GON might consider publishing a document highlighting the implications of the Development Society decentralization and participation policies for natural resources management. Such a document might promote, among other goals, local management of woodstocks.

Simple, uniform recommendations about how tree tenure rights should be allocated at the local level are not possible for two reasons. First, efficiency considerations make it desirable that local communities undertake policing of their own local woodstock regulations. Second, equity considerations may council in favor of managing woodstocks as common property resources, to ensure that the least well off are not excluded from access to firewood, building poles and other forest inputs indispensable for survival in rural Niger.

Allowing communities to police their own local tree tenure and woodstock management rules would introduce an element of ambiguity as well as of local choice into the rule elaboration process. In some communities, for example, those similar to the south-central Hausa villages of the IDRC project area, individuals or families may prefer to invest in tree or brush production on their own lands. Under such circumstances, privatizing tree tenure would appear to be the appropriate solution. In others, the consensus may favour joint management of some or all woodstocks on village lands to ensure that all have access to necessary wood supplies. Equity concerns might motivate such a decision. Efficiency considerations might as well: it may be that management system rules would be successful only if they do not create strong incentives for people to cheat.

Recommendation 2 - Encourage a localized approach to woodstock management in rural communities

To increase the degree to which tree tenure and woodstock management rules are in fact adapted to local conditions, and thus become attractive to rural producers, the GON might consider allowing such rules to evolve through a series of local experiments. Through a process of experience, local people could gradually amend and modify rules over time to meet the conditions of the diverse environments within the country.

Establishment of this localized approach to woodstock management in rural areas may well require more than a public consensus to that effect within a given community. The issue is rule enforcement and whether a particular local system opts for privatization of the local woodstock, common property management or some combination of the two. Unless regular surveillance on a year-round basis is possible as a consequence of land use patterns -- which is typically not the case, although exceptions exist -- it may be necessary to mount a system of organized patrols.

How such a system might be set up and financed is a critical question. Several experimental options might be considered, for example, landowners providing their own family members or dependents as guards on a rotating basis; financing of village-level guards by landowners on a private and voluntary basis, similar to the way stock owners hire shepherds in some areas to care for their animals during the rainy season; or some form of public finance system supported by all community residents through taxes paid in cash or kind.

Recommendation 3 - Promote different approaches to financing woodstock management by local officials

In the event that the GON were interested in promoting more intense involvement by resources users in the governance and management of those resources, it might consider examining the public finance issues related to increased responsibility for local woodstock management. Depending on the results of that examination, it might consider providing guidance on legitimate approaches to financing woodstock management for lower echelon administrators, traditional officials such as village and canton chiefs, and the Development Society Councils at all levels.


None of these substantive policy changes, or their translation into reliable woodstock management systems at the local level, are likely to be easy, even if the GON decides to pursue measures similar to those outlined above. Piecemeal experimentation, continuing along lines similar to those adopted by the four woodstock management projects, thus appears advisable.

Any new forestry or woodstock management projects which envisage increased popular participation in management, as well as any existing projects which may be redesigned in the near future to promote more participation, must address the policy questions just outlined. Various approaches will be appropriate in different settings. It is not clear that project designs should be dominated by equity considerations in all or even in most circumstances. This is a problematic issue. Under some circumstances, simply allowing local elites to devise woodstock management systems may be the most effective way of preserving the woodstock over the long term.

It would appear highly desirable that project designers clarify for themselves the probable consequences of competing approaches to woodstock management. They should make conscious choices in light of the advantages, disadvantages, certainties and uncertainties of existing options. They should at all costs avoid simply assuming that "the villagers will do it" without, (1) assessing the implications of that statement and (2) ensuring that appropriate framework rules are in place. Framework rules should be developed for both institutional and public finance aspects of woodstock management. If the investigations of the project preparation phase indicate that simple privatization of the local woodstock will not suffice to foster effective management, then authorization of appropriate framework rules should become a condition of project financing.

Recommendation 4 - Design projects which enable local communities to develop and staff their own woodstock management systems

In order to increase the likelihood that users of resources will participate actively in their governance and management, project designs should give wide leeway to local communities to work out their own woodstock management systems. If the GON wants to heighten the attractiveness of renewable resource management for local people, close attention should be paid in project designs to ensure that local communities have the rule-making, rule-application, rule-adjudication and the public finance authority necessary to make such local management systems feasible.

Parallel to a possible policy emphasis on promoting increased local responsibility and autonomy in the development and operation of woodstock management systems, as a strategy to encourage participation in this area, project designers and particularly project implementers might want to work closely with local officials (elected and ex officio Development Society politicians, administrators and traditional leaders) to explore the impact of the economic nature of woodstock goods on the probable performance of management systems established on the basis of private tree tenure and management systems, common property and open access tenure and management systems, and public good tenure and management systems. Final choices about what system will work best in a given setting must be left up to local people. However, advice which highlights the advantages and disadvantages of different systems, and the need to ensure that management systems reflect and are appropriately adapted to the nature of the woodstock good or goods under management, might gradually improve the quality of participatory woodstock management. This would be particularly so if the GON were to authorize local communities to make incremental adjustments in tree tenure and management rules at low cost, as experience demonstrates weaknesses in existing systems, and new approaches are proposed.

Recommendation 5 - Employ a flexible approach to woodstock management systems responsive to local circumstances

If the GON is interested in fostering participation in the management and governance of woodstock resources, it would be advisable to-conceive and implement popular forestry and woodstock management projects as ongoing experiments, informed by the theory of public goods, and to develop woodstock management systems which take account of the nature of the goods under management, as well as of local social, economic and institutional circumstances.

Both the theory of public goods and common pool resources, and the approach to institutions, discussed in Chapter 1, Analytic Framework, can be useful in understanding how to make woodstock management more attractive to Nigerien rural producers in specific local contexts. The positive and negative incentives inherent in different types of goods -- private goods, common property versus open access, and public goods -- for investment in woodstock management and against free riding are significant. The ways in which rules can be formulated to encourage certain types of behavior, by vesting individuals and associations with rights and liberties, have been suggested in several of the substantive chapters.

Recommendations generalized to other Sahelian countries

As stated in the begining of this chapter, the five preceding recommendations are formulated specifically for the Nigerien situation. However they apply in general terms to many other francophone Sahelian countries which confront similar issues. The common issues include:

The relevance of three additional recommendations in the more general geographic framework of the francophone Sahelian countries will be explored in the remainder of this chapter. This discussion necessarily situates the problems and opportunities for woodstock management in the wider context of contemporary discussions of the allocation of decision-making power within these countries. Sustained-yield, productive woodstock management and woodstock governance will only be possible on a significant scale if specific institutional changes are introduced in those states.

Recommendation 1 - Revise tree tenure rules to promote local control of woodstock resources

Many west Sahelian states continue to rely heavily on the general principles of resource management enunciated in the French colonial forestry code of 1935. Yet radical changes in population, man-land ratios and forestry resource availability have clearly increased the incentives that local people have to manage renewable resources generally, and woodstocks in particular. Most Sahelian rural populations are now engaged in the painful process of shifting from extensive production systems characteristic of relatively resource rich environments to more intensive production systems where renewable natural resources are comparatively less abundant.

Under the condition of relatively limited population pressure found throughout much of the Sahel until the mid-twentieth century, most Sahelian environments could be, and were, managed adequately by various forms of shifting cultivation and grazing. Under those conditions it made little sense economically to engage in active management of woodstocks: most regenerated adequately if left alone after a period of moderate use. Thus personalized property rights in trees, with the exception of those producing valuable food crops, made little sense. Colonial foresters, grappling with this problem and fearing an eventual overexploitation of woodstocks, nationalized control over forest resources.

Since 1950, population pressure has increased dramatically in most Sahelian states. Now individual farmers, farm families and pastoral groups have increasingly strong incentives to manage woodstocks in all forms, in order to ensure themselves supplies of wood for consumptive uses such as construction, fuel, fencing and browse, and for on-site uses such as watershed management and aquifer recharge, wind erosion control and nutrient pumping to maintain or increase the fertility of arable soils. However, the rules of woodstock ownership have not changed. The transaetions costs, in time, energy and money, of establishing title to planted or naturally regenerated trees are often so great as to sharply discourage rural producers from making those investments. Thus most national forestry policies and projects effectively discourage local investments in woodstock management. This is particularly appalling in light of the ostensible commitment of most Sahelian national governments to the so-called fight against desertification. It is even more appalling in light of the unceasing requests for foreign assistance to finance state-initiated anti-desertification activities.

Sahelian national governments should facilitate self-help in woodstock management whenever possible. The Nigerien case studies indicate some possible paths to promote greater self-help in this sector. However, until local people and local communities obtain authority to establish and modify their own systems of tree tenure and woodstock property rights, sustainable woodstock management systems will likely remain ideals rather than effective operations.

Recommendation 2 - Devise strategies to promote participation in woodstock management

Sahelian national governments can change policies besides tree tenure rules to encourage rural populations to manage or co-manage woodstocks more effectively. Management or comanagement involves a capacity to decide upon and then enforce desirable patterns of behavior. In terms of the analytic framework used in this paper, authorized relationships -- rights, duties, liberties and exposures concerning woodstocks -- of rural populations and other actors must be changed to increase the chances that local people will find management legally and political feasible, and economically attractive. To ensure that new authorized relationships are respected, authoritative relationships will also have to be modified, particularly concerning the allocation of powers, liabilities, immunities and disabilities relating to creation, enforcement and modification of woodstock management rules. Finally, the determining powers of officials under any new system must be examined to determine whether they do or do not advance the interests of those affected by the management of particular woodstocks. Mistakes in institutional design are likely. Changing conditions are likely. Both will create temptations to cheat on authorized relationships concerning woodstock management. If new authoritative relationships do not vest in local officials the authority to modify woodstock property rights and management rules, probabilities are very great that management systems will prove unworkable and will fail.

Policy reforms designed to increase the incentives for woodstock management should also recognize the fact that collective organization is never costless. If decisions about tree tenure and management systems are to be made, monitored, enforced, modified in light of experience, and disputes concerning these systems are to be resolved, at the very least somebody will have to invest time in seeing that these things happen. Even if various "somebody's" volunteer their time to carry out these tasks, the outlay of effort is unavoidable and not costless. In many other situations sustained management may simply not be possible without local capacity to mobilize resources regularly and reliably, for example, to monitor woodstock and land use patterns, to build and maintain fencing, or to collect and plant seeds or seedlings.

In situations where the economic characteristics of desired woodstock goods or services indicate that some or all aspects of woodstock management should be implemented as collective operations, it is imperative that local communities be given authority to mobilize resources necessary to finance management activities. Obtaining such enabling legislation will not be a simple issue however. It involves rather dramatic changes in the way public finance authority is distributed in most francophone Sahelian countries. At present, taxation authority is highly centralized. Occasionally local communities -- villages, small groups of villages, cantons -receive grants in aid from the national government to provide certain public services. Usually these amounts are very limited, and are earmarked for specific purposes rather than being discretionary funds. Local communities should be vested with the authority to mobilize resources on a discretionary basis to deal with issues they consider important. If woodstock management is one of those issues, they should be allowed to tax themselves in kind, labour or cash to finance necessary investments and maintenance activities, including policing.

Enabling legislation offers one way to address such issues. Enabling legislation could be formulated authorizing local informal communities such as villages to obtain formal recognition as autonomous local general purpose governments with limited, defined powers. Enabling legislation could also be drafted to authorize interested local populations to create special purpose districts, that is, single purpose governments established and mandated under enabling legislation to address a specific problem such as woodstock management.

Clearly these are not issues of concern only to foresters. The health or degradation of Sahelian local environments affects their residents first and most dramatically. In light of the institutional failures that have plagued many top-down, nationally-organized efforts to manage woodstocks, a strong argument can be made that the local rural populations who bear most directly the consequences of effective management or mismanagement of woodstocks should be given greater authority to seek their own solutions to these problems.

Recommendation 3 - Design woodstock governance and management activities with, by and for woodstock users

The analytic framework presented in this paper focuses attention on two major sources of incentives for better woodstock management or conversely for practices that degrade the same resources. The first of these is the economic nature of the woodstock goods and services targeted for management. These include for example the consumptive products like fuelwood, building materials and browse, and on-site services such as soil erosion control, nutrient pumping, watershed management and delimitation of property rights, that trees and bushes produce. The second major source of positive or negative incentives for woodstock management are the rules concerning tree tenure, local collective action and mobilization of in-kind, labour and cash resources to manage woodstock renewable resources.

Why is it important to analyze the economic nature of goods and services, and the character of the rules affecting resource management? As the case studies in this document demonstrate, it makes a considerable difference whether the resource in question has the characteristics of a private good, a common pool resource, or a public good. When the demand is substantial and the supply limited for a good or service that is private in nature -- exclusion is feasible and consumption rivalrous -- people can be expected on their own initiative to invest in producing more to meet their subsistence needs, and perhaps for market. On the other hand if the good or service is public in nature, even if demand is substantial individuals on their own initiative as individuals will not likely try to produce more of either. If they do, others will derive most of the benefits of their efforts, by taking advantage of the characteristics of the good -- exclusion is difficult and consumption is joint -- to ride free on those voluntary provision efforts. Like public goods, common pool goods can only be managed in a sustainable manner through collective action once demand exceeds supply. Failure to take account of the basic economic characteristics of goods and services can lead to inappropriate institutional designs for their governance and management.

The same advice holds true concerning analysis of rules that make up tree tenure and woodstock management institutions. Whether the rules in question are formal, as in forestry code provisions, or informal, as in the mobilization of labour to plant seedlings at the village level, the authorized relationships they create will influence behavior. If rights to exploit trees in a village common property woodlot are not clear and clearly understood by all potential users, the value of those rights is ambiguous, and the incentive for investments by those who hold rights to the woodstock is weakened. Similarly, if the authoritative relationships implicit in formal or informal rules are not clear, or if officials charged with enforcing authorized relationships enjoy wide determining powers, then the security of right holders is reduced and the likelihood of free riding, shirking, corruption and outright theft increases.

Clarifying rights, duties, liberties and exposures, and the authoritative relationships that underlie them, will make calculation of the incentives inherent in rules and institutions easier. It will not automatically ensure appropriate allocation of incentives to act and remove constraints on behavior concerning woodstocks. Therefore existing and proposed rules should be examined to see how they affect behavior. If the cost in time and energy of obtaining a wood harvesting permit is high, as under most current Sahelian forestry codes, the likelihood that trees will be cut illegally increases. If rural tree users can easily and cheaply resolve disputes about who has rights and liberties to use a given woodstock, it is likely that rules will be well understood and infractions of tree tenure rules dealt with in a reliable manner. If authoritative relationships concerning woodstocks prohibit local communities from enforcing their own local tree tenure rules, it is not likely that rules will be adapted rapidly to deal with changing circumstances.

Rules only become working rules when they are generally understood by those whose behavior they are meant to affect, and are monitored and enforced.65 If woodstock users have authority to modify working rules in light of experience, the likelihood that rules will be improved overtime is much greater than if the transactions costs of modifying rules are very high. A peasant trying to change the forestry code illustrates the concept of high transactions costs. If transactions costs for woodstock users of modifying the working rules of woodstock use are modest, then local people are likely to bring to bear on woodstock management issues the wealth of local knowledge they possess concerning existing land use patterns, personalities, topography, variability of biomass production within the local environment, competitive and complementary uses of the same woodstocks, etc.

Those interested in designing sustainable woodstock projects would do well to begin by trying to find out about local institutions governing woodstock use, preservation and destruction. This includes local institutions that people know about, whether or not they still function. In many francophone Sahelian countries forestry codes have been used to weaken and often even destroy local woodstock management systems, although this is not a necessary outcome of code provisions. Local management institutions should be considered as potentially valuable institutional capital, perhaps impaired, but in many cases still useable. If local people understand local former or existing woodstock management institutions, so that the rules constituting them are or could easily become working rules, monitored and enforced by local people, the potential for rapid evolution of effective systems is great. Designers should draw on local people who know local institutions in preparing proposals for woodstock projects, in order to avoid squandering existing institutional capital.

The importance and the pay-offs of respecting local knowledge and institutions can be considerable. Conversely, the costs of neglecting local knowledge and institutions can be devastating. If designers proceed as if no local institutions existed, they impose on woodstock users and would-be managers the burden of learning an entirely new set of imposed rules, how they relate to each other, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how weaknesses can be remedied. It is by no means clear that woodstock users will be sufficiently interested to make the attempt, or successful if they do.

Project designers should also assume that their design efforts, and those of the locals with whom they collaborate, will not be perfect. In other words, they should make provision for design failure, and for rectifying design errors. In working with local people, they should build into the project design the capacity for local woodstock users to modify institutions in light of the lessons of their experience with a specific resource governed by a particular set of working rules in a given local socio-political and bio-physical environment. Local people can be expected, in an informal and incremental fashion, to analyze the attributes of woodstock goods and services they are trying to produce, and the usefulness of particular rules in promoting that end. Their ability to learn over time, and to improve the structure of local woodstock management institutions by rectifying design mistakes and taking account of new conditions, is an extremely valuable form of human resource that should not be wasted.

65 Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of lnstitutions for Collective Action (Cambridge Mass: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 51.

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