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Strengthening community-level organizations for the improved management of forest resources is an interesting strategy, following decades of poor experiences with centralized state management schemes in some countries as well as the environmentally costly exploitation of forest resources by private individuals or corporations.

The factors which converge to make collective forest management a success or failure are complex and, admittedly, poorly understood. Due to the relatively recent attention being paid to efforts based on collective management of forest resources, there is little consensus as to what the critical factors are or what their role is in improved forest management. This literature review and discussion is a start towards filling this void. Rather than providing a list of the recipes or formulae for success (or failure), however, we have identified ten critical issues, the resolution of which appears important in considering community-based forest resource management that aims to be environmentally sustainable, economically attractive and socially equitable. In particular instances, the salience of these issues will differ, as will their resolution. Research is needed on the conditions that accentuate these ten issues and on the conditions that favour their resolution. The issues are framed in the form of researchable questions.


First, how do individual and family interests in forest resources merge sufficiently to permit collective management?

Communities are composed of individuals interacting among themselves and with varying survival strategies and relationships with forest resources, including complex rules of access and various uses. Communities are not necessarily homogeneous nor cohesive, yet they have to deal with diversity and complexity in managing forest resources.

The building of a community organization for the management of forest resources does not necessarily involve the formation or strengthening of collective action involving all or even most community inhabitants. Some people typically join together to achieve certain goals, for defending a basic set of beliefs or attitudes or from an apprehension concerning the impacts of outsiders or natural disasters on their environment and the potential for resource competition and shortage. The impact of outsiders might be timber extraction, oil exploration, mining, and road building, while natural disasters are volcanic eruption, earthquake and flood.

In such cases, there may be a "community of interests" which draws people together to deal with particular problems through the identification of common goals and solutions. Individuals who gather in groups and coordinate their actions have decided that there is something in collective action that allows them to pursue individual or common goals in a more effective manner. For the strengthening of collective management capabilities, it is critical not to assume that all of the actual or potential users of forest resources will necessarily agree on how those resources should be managed. Common interests in relation to forest resources have to be forged, in most cases, under conditions of isolation and diverging interests. Much more research is needed on the nature of common interests and the techniques for the development of such interests in relation to forest resources.

Second, how does the empowerment of local groups affect the management of forest resources?

Management implies the control over resources; communal or collective management implies collective mechanisms for the coordinated action of a group of people to exercise that control over resources. There appear to be three conditions for the empowerment of community groups to engage in effective collective management of forest resources.

Internal organizational effectiveness involves the expression of clear objectives and an agreement on well-defined tasks and communication procedures, as well as a fair distribution of benefits and responsibilities. Group work has advantages and disadvatages. Its advantages are that it lessens effort, multiplies the results, shares risks and responsibilities and strengthens member morale. Its disadvantages are that there may be misunderstandings, jealousy, problems with setting common goals or opposition to making collective investments. Groups must develop mechanisms for minimizing the difficulties of coordination while learning to achieve the positive outcomes. The conditions under which such mechanisms emerge as well as the variety of viable means for group decision making deserve careful research.

These three elements of secured collective tenure, internal organizational effectiveness and external linkages contribute to a fourth: the empowerment of local groups. Research is needed on the evolution of such empowerment and on the connections between the elements of empowerment and the effective management of forest resources. Research is also needed on the means for dealing with the products of such empowerment, including efforts from competing groups and interests to weaken collective management.

Third, what changes in state-community relationships are needed to encourage collective management of forest resources ?

The relations between community groups and the state appear to be of critical importance for collective management of forest resources. The devolution to the community of power formerly held by distant state agencies to manage resources is often an issue. The state has the effective authority to define rules of property and access to forest resources including land, trees, water, and wildlife. Special legislation is often needed to recognize and encourage the management of forest resources by the community.

The centralization of the power to define rules of property and to exercise rights of access to forests in distant and bureaucratic state agencies may contribute to the poor management of local forest resources [I2, I05].

At the same time, where substantial resources are flowing into programmes for the management of forest resources, particularly through interstate funding agreements, the state has some responsibility to ensure that the terms of the agreements are met and that fraudulent uses of resources are avoided. Studies like those of Fortmann and Bruce [39] and de Ceara [23], among others, strongly stress the focus on this issue, especially in reference to the colonization of public lands. How to achieve a proper balance between centralized and decentralized management of forest resources should receive much more research attention.

The state also influences credit supply, economic incentives and the creation of infrastructure, which either inhibit or support collective forest management. The state is the source of general policies of resource exploitation through its tax policies, road construction and other programmes, which can provide extremely strong incentives for deforestation and can overwhelm collective efforts in support of sustainable uses of forest resources. Research is needed on these political and economic "environmental' factors and their effects on collective management, as well as on the means for minimizing their negative influences.

Fourth, how do the relations of the community with sponsoring agencies affect local capacities for resource management?

Operational, day-to-day relations between the group managing forest resources and sponsoring agencies constitute an important set of influences on collective management experiments. Sponsoring agencies comprise a complex spectrum of local and international, NGOs, bilateral or multilateral political organizations, development banks or other financing agencies. Each one has its own interpretation of rural development, environmental problems, solutions, goals and methodologies. "Aid' or sponsorship from such agencies is not always granted without obligations being placed on the recipients. The rules of the game are often not very well understood by local groups prior to accepting external sponsorship.

Some agencies have a much more flexible approach, relying more on the initiatives and methodologies of local community groups. Others pursue a more top-down relationship. The relative advantages and disadvantages of each agency approach in different conditions and different stages of local organizational development should be examined on a comparative and historical basis.

Fifth, what are the appropriate sources for knowledge about resource use - indigenous or "scientific"?

The collective management of forests is based on some sort of assumption or knowledge of forest ecology and sustainable forestry practices. It is clear that a concern for developing appropriate technological packages for programmes is desirable. The question is: what should be the sources for these packages?

Indigenous knowledge of forest ecology constitutes an important, although often neglected, source of information and experience. In Latin America, there are still many examples of traditional multipurpose forest management that should be maintained and improved [ 113]. Many traditional systems of forest management show complementarity between agriculture and forestry. Improvement in the management of forest resources can often be done by complementing traditional knowledge with scientific research and modern methods of forest management, in combination with agricultural pursuits. There is still great need for research on sustainable management, especially on technological mixes for tropical forests [1I2].

Sixth, how do programmes for improving the management of forest resources modify incentives?

The analysis of incentives for understanding the behaviour of people in forest environments is of fundamental importance. Incentives refer to the reasons people do what they do, and may have to do with the maximization of income, minimization of risk, preparation of children for future activities, investments for future resource use or other strategies. The basic question, treated in different ways in the experiences reviewed, is: how do various incentives for the sustainable use of forest resources compare with incentives for the conversion of forests to other forms of resource use?

There are ongoing debates concerning this question. In some programmes, community members receive payments of one sort or another to participate in the coordinated management of forest resources (e.g. food-for-work). In others, such payments are viewed as bribes, and more attention is given to changing the forest use strategies of community members through various forms of education and consciousness-raising. In others, strategies of survival by one group of forest users are protected in one way or another, with the criterion being that those strategies preserve forest environments [97].

There is a wide variety of experiences concerning the question of incentives but little consensus on what kind of incentive to offer, when incentives of different types are appropriate and how to meld individual and community so as to contribute to their collective capabilities for the management of forest resources. Basic research is badly needed on these issues.

Seventh, how do the most effective mediators, extension agents and communicators of change work with local communities to strengthen collective management capabilities?

There are deeply entrenched notions about how to link local communities with wider social and political agencies and on the role of non-community organizations in contributing to community management structures. There is little doubt that such linkages should occur but there are substantial operational differences about how the contacts should be made. The dominant methodological paradigm has been based on the "superior" knowledge and motivations of outsiders, leading to the extension of technical and organizational knowledge to local community members.

Other approaches argue that there is a need for a shift in the attitude of extension agents to work with the community rather than above it. It is frequently easier to pronounce a "non-imperialist" policy than actually carry it out. More examples of successful participatory methods and the training implied to practise them are needed.

Eighth, what are the requirements for collective management support systems?

The introduction into local communities of cooperative linkages with the broader economy often means the development of radically new ways of doing things. Important supportive systems certainly include training in collective organization and management, the provision of credit, the development of abilities to market forest products locally or internationally and the processing of forest products and transportation. An important issue is: how can such support programmes avoid creating dependencies and weakening collective management capabilities? Avoidance of the influence of local middlemen and intermediaries who often artificially reduce commodity prices is also important [53, I02, I09].

Ninth, how do community groups decide to make long-term investments in sustaining forest resources?

The reinvestment of profits for reforestation and the capitalization of productive processes are critical to the success of collective management of forests. Collective or cooperative investments require a long-term view of forest management. They also require clearly defined rules concerning the amounts of benefits that need to be devoted to reinvestment and that could be distributed among group members. On the one hand, it is necessary for the group to perceive the benefits of forest management from the initial stages of a project in order for group members to maintain their interest in it. This implies the distribution of profits among community participants. On the other hand, if there is not enough reinvestment and capitalization, projects will not be sustainable and will be dependent on external aid. How community groups have managed to resolve this dilemma should be more closely examined and better understood.

Tenth, what are the gender issues, and why has so little attention been paid to them?

An interesting study in itself would be to determine why there has been so little attention paid to women's participation in forest projects. The majority of the projects are male-oriented. Only three examples are given of women's participation, at very incipient stages [40,67,115]. Only two works refer to proprietary women's rights. One of them stresses the fact that women do not have land rights among the Yukpa of Colombia and Venezuela and, as such, they do not have control over forest- and fern-fallow areas [94]. The other, a study from highland Peru, says only that men are members of a cooperative that owns eucalyptus and that at the death of a member, his widow (unless her son joins) loses her access to fuel and pasture [ 101 ]. That being the case, women could have little incentive to grow trees.

Given gender differences in access to resources and of responsibilities for resource management throughout the society, greater understanding and appreciation of women's roles in forest resource management should be a high priority.



This annotated bibliography includes 120 titles of books, articles and unpublished documents. It is presented in alphabetical order according to author, numbered sequentially to facilitate a simple indexing based on geographic criteria.

Copies of all the documents reviewed have been put on the library system of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When a document is available only in Spanish, we have provided an English translation of the title in brackets.

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