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The circumstances and activities of the four participatory woodland management projects are at Guesselbodi in Niger [47, 59], the Rawashda Forest in Eastern Sudan [97, 1071, the Bay Region of Somalia [17, 93] and the Turkana Rural Development Project in Kenya [6, 7, 8, 9, 60]. All of these projects have attempted to involve local people in forest management of various kinds, and all are annotated in the References.

Project rationale

Guesselbodi and Rawashda are forest reserves set aside for the provision of fuelwood to an urban area. Both had lost a good deal of their tree cover over the years, both were used in various ways by local people, especially for grazing and as livestock routes and a participatory approach was conceived of as a way of limiting the local threat to the resource by offering employment and slightly improved rights to local users.

The Bay Region project began as a forest inventory project in the area from which Mogadishu's chief charcoal supplies came. Only in the course of the project did it become clear that there were serious conflicts between the herders in the area the charcoal was coming from and the state charcoal cooperative. It became clear as well that the remaining potential charcoal supply was quite modest. Work was begun in a second phase which would pass substantial management of the resource to local people and, at the same time, would lighten the burden of charcoal offtake by addressing fuel substitution in Mogadishu.

The Turkana project was begun with the intention of helping the people of Turkana recover from the droughts of the 1980s. It always had a local focus.

Area identification

Guesselbodi and Rawashda are forest reserves, established many years ago. The projects are making an attempt to graft local involvement and management onto a pre-delineated piece of land. In the case of the Bay Region, preliminary work before the Somali civil war restricted entry was done to identify the interests of local people in forest management and to allow them to plot the boundaries of the areas they would manage, following earlier indigenous land divisions. The Turkana project is involved in many aspects of people's lives but as far as forestry goes, it too has identified the areas with meaning to the local people and is building on existing management structures to enhance tree protection in the Region.

The interest of local people in a management role

At Rawashda, local people at the seminar, reported by Vink [107], said they were keen for the benefits of the forest to go more to local people and wished to see charcoal burners dealt with severely. They did not want to take part in management, since they saw that as the Forestry Department's job, and were reluctant to enter into taungya arrangements.

At Guesselbodi, local interest in the project was minimal until it became clear that there would be financial benefits from selling the wood they cut to the fuelwood cooperative, and there was then much more enthusiasm. But villagers are not prepared to do any unpaid management work until ownership and control questions are settled.

In Turkana and in the Bay Region, individuals are already involved in aspects of forest management and see the respective projects as a way of enhancing their capability.

Project attempts to understand indigenous tenure

On the Guesselbodi project, almost two years were spent on questionnaires about forest users and forest uses before management began. However, we hear nothing about tenure except the statement that there are difficulties in implementing the French Loi Forestiere because it alienates people. At Rawashda, a 1987 consultants' report [97] points out that there is local conflict over tenure in the forest which is seen historically as tribal CPR land alienated by the government when the reserve was created. There has certainly been no move to de-reserve the land during the last three years of the project, nor, to my knowledge, has the reserve ever redesignated a local reserve rather than a central reserve for the supply of city firewood. Both the Turkana and Bay Region projects, by contrast, take indigenous tenure rules and areas as their starting point as far as possible.

Authority structures

Predictably, the Guesselbodi project in Niger and the Rawashda project in Sudan started with the assumption that the project had the authority to decide on management patterns and to fit villagers into them. It is unclear what institutions in the Sudan are being used but fortunately for the project, village sheikhs are so powerful that they can deliver an actively involved village if they wish. An excellent event was the seminar held in 1986, at which alternative management plans for the forest were discussed with local people and their views recorded.

At Guesselbodi, the management plan was presented to the people when it was already finished. No attempt to investigate local authority structures was apparently made, and a cooperative was created for handling wood purchase and sale. By 1989, it was becoming apparent that a cooperative might "not be financially or socially the best institution for local participation in forest management" [59, p. 105].

In the Turkana project of Kenya, and in the Bay Region project of Somalia, the project works with, or would work with, already respected local leaders and chiefs and build on their management strengths and capabilities.

Lessons to be drawn from the cases

It would seem that a project which starts with apiece of forest whose boundaries have been defined under one management regime, and which then looks for local management inputs, would have many more difficulties at every stage than a project where the need and interest of local people is the starting point, and forest management emerges from that commitment.

The area to be managed has to be commensurate with the management capabilities of the target local group. That is why it is so essential that local people help to draw up boundaries within which they feel competent. If a forest is essentially to change owners, it will have to be subdivided into smaller management units.

To put it another way, forest management projects are unlikely to succeed where the real intention is to protect the forest by attempting to buy off negative local use with some local involvement but no rights. As one of the officials with a responsibility for Rawashda said, "People are not that stupid." Reserved forests for non-local use are particularly poor candidates for local management since by definition these are essentially reserved from local people.

Early involvement in decision making and planning is obviously crucial, as is a relationship of equality between those who run the project and the local authority figures with whom they will work. A long-term relationship will have to be forged, of the kind that has been managed so well in Turkana.



Diverse as all the management examples gathered here are, certain themes stand out:

First, in many of these areas, there have been strong capable managers in charge of woodland management and the exploitation of trees. These are managers with a lifetime commitment to the area, who make their living from the resource they are managing just like the people they administer, and who are often related to some or all of the people on whose behalf they issue management rules. Most management rules, as a result, are very well attuned to local needs and constraints and have arisen in apt response to some perceived problem [21 ];

Second, management is as simple as possible. Unless the resource has some value or some scarcity, management will not be undertaken [ 13, 40, 77]. It is quite flexible and can be modified as need arises;

Third, management is for a set of interlocking benefits. It is quite hard to separate out woodland management from swidden-fallow management, herd management, and annual crop management. Moreover, wood is far from being the only resource for which woodlands are managed [16, and passim];

Fourth, rising population density is turning pastoralists into farmers, long swidden-fallow into short, the usufruct of clan land into individual title. So the management focus has narrowed, and in many areas the numbers of locally born and locally significant decision makers above the level of household head are dwindling; and

Five, in most places, political and economic authority has passed from indigenous managers to the state. The elders who are left can no longer command the respect they used to, so it is difficult for them to hope to manage forests or woodlands in any very complex way.


Management has changed from use rights based on clan membership and thence the right to use clan resources to the exercise of state granted privileges and management by restriction and exclusion. The insiders have become outsiders. Similarly, rangeland and pastoral systems are under stress or in a state of collapse in many countries and areas [69].

Involvement in the wider political economy undermined the political authority of the kin group and allowed increasingly unregulated exploitation of land. Unfortunately, these changes occurred during the abnormally wet 1950-1965 period, so that the initial effect of negative resource management changes were cushioned by good rains. The 1968-1973 drought exposed the breakdown in these kin structures and their careful resource management practices.

Nonetheless, centralized political authorities continue to deny, on the whole, the ability of local decision making bodies to manage their environment. Government legislation has become necessary for the smallest changes to established practice, dissuading groups from organizing [109].

Because local laws are no longer in effect, there has been degradation within the forests, with excessive lopping and pruning and ageing of the trees [25]. Forestry has come to mean forest reserves and village forestry schemes, neither of which repeat the integration with trees practised in the past [91].

The prognosis for adaptive change looks poor, from many points of view. Many previous woodland management practices are only likely to work under conditions of low population density and can certainly only work if managers are also owners. Yet it is rare for reserved forest land to be returned to the people who are being asked to cooperate in its management.

There is also the question of size. It would seem that rural people only want to manage a resource from which rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that all can benefit to some extent. Small patches of hilltop forest can be managed by small numbers of people, or made into a sacred grove if there is a political institution which can guard it. Otherwise, rural people often prefer such small patches to be looked after by the Forestry department, so that they are not involved in the high social costs for a low return.

Ironically, of course, the more tree management increases the less forest there is. Under particular circumstances, trees are managed as forest but increasingly preferred management is on farms (e.g. 108). A publicly owned forest is an anachronism in a tightly farmed landscape and often represents the superimposition of the will of outsiders on the local population.



Many of the management techniques discussed in this document are too embedded in particularity to build projects on. Of those which remain a possibility, ownership of the resource, either by descent or by residence, so long as all parties agree to the principle, is fundamental. No management will take place without it. The recognition of ownership in a public way such as in written contracts, by allowing local management preferences and skills to help to shape plans, etc., is also a sine qua non.

The importance of the investment of unpaid labour is often overlooked as a creator and maintainer of tenure. The ownership credit in the case of paid labour goes only to the payer, of course. The willingness to provide some unpaid labour is a sign that those taking part in management actions do so because they see personal benefits by their actions.

Management by area will be the other most commonly used management technique. Given the tendency for large earlier collectivities to break up into smaller groups, smaller areas for management may well have to be found. The Mwanza hilltops before the Ujamaa period, in Western Tanzania, are a good example of a small resource managed by a small number of neighbouring families [94].

The case examples strongly suggest that local resource management stands a better chance of success in a relatively remote locale such as the Bay Region, than within the catchment of a town, like Guesselbodi or Rawashda. Remoteness, low population density and, often, relatively low rainfall are key indicators of areas in which successful local woodland management might take place.

In nearly all other cases, the most promising focus for local people is the creation of tree resources on the farm, leaving patches of environmental reserve to the state - the successor of the leaders who managed sacred groves - or, in rare cases, to small local user groups who clearly define and see their own internal composition and managed resource as manageable.

When institutions of the strength of the clans and lineages break down, institutions which have allocated land for hundreds of years, we should not lightly suppose that we can create new arbitrary village institutions to do their work.

The chart (Figure 3-1) suggests an approach to the analysis of appropriate contexts for woodland management by local people and farm forestry.


Three woodland management research topics emerge from this African survey:

First, that experimentation in small-scale common property systems is clearly needed. They should be looked at as ways to combine management of off-farm tree resources shared by small groups with normal on-farm tasks. "Small CPRs" are probably

Figure 3-1

Tree Rights: When Do You Try What?
Indicators for Four Types of Areas

This chart represents four points along a continuum: from low population density and low interest in tree planting (on the left) to high population density and high interest in tree planting (on the right). In each column, indicators suggest the appropriate type of tree project for the context.


low rainfall >-------------------------> high rainfall

far from town >-------------------------> near to town

low population density >-------------------------> high population density


Area Type 1

Area Type 2

Area Type 3

Area Type 4

Extensive >----------Type of Land Use---------->Intensive

  • Pastoralism or
  • Settled home base + migrant animals or
  • Shifting cultivation, long fallows.
  • Labour the key constraint so polygny often found in this type of area
  • Settled agriculture, some on registered land, some open land between farms; fallows shortening.
  • Animals important but grazing pressure increasing; kept on nearby commons.
  • More intensive agriculture; most land is demarcated as permanent registered plots; dung or other fertilzer bought.
  • Animals fewer kept on farms.
  • Highly intensive agriculture; with all farms contiguous.
  • Increasing land prices + plot fragmentation
  • Landlessness
  • Off-farm employment increases
  • Animals stallfed or sold

Extent of Common Property Resources (CPRs)

Lots of common land; traditional management rules still extant.

Common land getting scarcer; management rules causing conflict.

All common land gone except for hilltops, etc; CPR rules no longer workable.

Scraps of waste land may still exist; management forgotten; open access only.

Likely villager interests and promising tree project intervention

  • Only homestead planting: shade, fruit hedges

Only small numbers of

  • Tree-related cash from bush products such as browse, honey charcoal, etc.
  • Only here is wood-land management with villagers worth
  • Mostly homestead planting, for shade, fruit hedging and some interest in poles.
  • · Animal damage to planted trees a common problem
  • · Cash from farm grown fruit, CPR-gathered fuelwood
  • Interest in field-boundary planting of poles, timber and maybe fuel.
  • Interest in all the homestead options.
  • Cash sales of fruit and poles. Also farm-grown fuelwood if no competition from remoter CPRs.
  • All tree needs farm grown except high quality timber.
  • Good markets for high value farm tree products.
  • Fodder for stailfed animals?
  • Alley-cropping and mulching?
  • Put whole farm under trees and work off-farm?

going to be an important new direction for research, and they need to be combined with work already done elsewhere (e.g. Nepal) on the identification and support of user groups. Because tenure modifications are needed in many places to make this possible, legal research must accompany CPR research in most cases.

Second, that the subject of reserves needs further study. No new thought on reserves has taken place anywhere in Africa for decades, yet population densities have risen and forest departments are poverty stricken. Researchers should ask: what should be the approach to all of the forest reserves still to be found in Africa? which should be retained by the state and why? (those with only diffuse and indirect local benefits, such as those to be retained for watershed or biodiversity reasons? those intended for non-local fuelwood supplies to big urban centres?) which should be broken up and allowed to become farmland? and, which might best be managed by local people as woodland?

Third, there is much data still to be collected on indigenous knowledge and practice of fire as a management tool.


There is a disquieting tendency in the literature to see local management as a cheap option for financially hard-pressed forestry departments. In such management systems, control and ownership is retained by the state, yet local people - who are mysteriously prepared to do so for no pay - do most of the managing because of their needs from the forest.

This approach must be resisted for two reasons: first, it is exploitative, or it would be if it were not for the case that, second, it usually does not work. The summaries here make it clear that management practices are only undertaken by local people if the benefits outweigh the costs. If it is simpler to leave the state in charge and to steal the benefits needed from the forest, then that is what will take place.

It is important that governments and donor organizations not accidentally endorse the weak version of participatory forest management (in which no strengthened tenure rights are envisaged) by the preparation of materials on the subject which seem to suggest that local people can be made to act in economically irrational ways off their farms that they would never condone on their own land.



Altogether 111 sources were used in this literature review, from a variety of sources. Most of the documentation came from the Social Forestry Library at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London1. Many management references, of the kind we sought, are often found in the "grey literature" (unpublished) which ODI collects. Other sources were accessed through the libraries at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), the Museum of Mankind at the British Museum, the Science Library in London, the Oxford Forestry Institute (FRI) and the Forestry Library at the Agricultural University Wageningen, Netherlands, and through the computerized data-bases of CAB (the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux), AGRIS and FAO: Forestry and Agriculture. We gratefully acknowledge the librarians and staff of these institutions and agencies for their help.

We noted three problems in pursuit of the literature. First, there are literally hundreds of references for the African areas of this study which have nothing at all in them about either land tenure or indigenous management techniques. Second, the ethnographic literature, while rich on tenurial arrangements, is poor on tree species identification and often on indigenous management as well. And, third, it was unnerving, late in the survey, to come upon J.P. Raison's work (1988) with its large francophone bibliography, and to discover how many of his references had not been identified in the multilingual databases we consulted. (See J.P. Raison's Bibliography: French, below.)



57, 86, 88, 96


28, 66, 104








4, 14, 65, 70, 71


5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 22, 24, 27, 34, 35, 36, 42, 58, 60, 63, 73, 76, 83, 100




15, 19, 29, 32, 56, 62, 98, 101, 102


31, 43, 47, 59, 85, 89, 104, 105


26, 39, 68, 72


75, 80, 87, 91, 92






2, 10, 11, 37, 45, 46, 48, 77, 87, 89, 90, 97, 107


1, 13, 44, 64, 94






3, 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 33, 38, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 61, 67, 69, 74, 78, 82, 84, 99, 103, 109, 110, 111



1 ODI manages the international Social Forestry Network, whose members receive network papers and newsletters in return for sending copies of their own writing or project documents from the projects on which they work. Over two-thirds of the references cited in this study (79 of 111) were already in the ODI library.

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