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A Swiss forester sadly remarked some 10 years ago, "Donors have spent millions and millions to reforest the Sahel with little to show for it. They could have astroturfed the whole region with that money." Policy-makers and project managers have often been puzzled by the lack of success of many forestry activities.

Progress has been made when projects are planned and implemented in collaboration with local communities. However, communities vary in their interest and capacity to manage their tree and forest resources. Why have some communities planted or managed their trees and forests well for generations while others have not? Why have some working management systems recently broken down but others have continued? Often investigation shows that when forest management is successful there are sets of rules and expectations related to tree use and management that the community respects. Where incentives for the community to follow these rules have been weakened, management often breaks down. In order to stimulate increased community efforts to improve and manage trees and forests, forestry activities must recognize and support local rules and expectations and provide incentives for local investment in tree and forest resources. There is a need to develop institutional frameworks for all those involved in order to have a better understanding of how to better support local institutions in forest management.

FAO asked James Thomson, a well-known political scientist and Senior and Managing Associate of the Associates for Rural Development, to study this issue. He wrote a concept paper entitled, A framework for analyzing institutional incentives in community forestry, 1992. The concept paper illustrated that there is need for careful attention to diverse economic characteristics of trees (attributes of their goods and services), which impact how they can be managed. Also, local, national and project institutional goals/expectations and rules create incentives or disincentives for popular participation in tree and forest management. These two elements greatly influence the success of any forestry initiative. The problem with many projects or programmes is that though villagers may want to manage their trees for increased long-term benefits, they are discouraged from doing so by institutional disincentives. Once disincentives are identified, the expectation is that a change of the rules can increase the motivation to manage trees more effectively for short and long-term outputs.

The concept paper has been extremely popular with researchers and policy-makers who requested that new approaches to understanding institutional incentives and disincentives be put into a field manual that can be applied in project planning, monitoring or evaluation for more successful forestry. To write this field manual James Thomson teamed up with Karen Schoonmaker Freudenberger, a well-known specialist in rapid appraisal and participatory methodologies. Although this manual is primarily intended for use by field workers, it reviews the concepts as well as the tools and is therefore of interest to a broad group of persons concerned with active or passive local participation for successful forestry activities. This manual is also intended for use as training material in conjunction with the related concept paper. Other relevant documents on forest and tree management, which are concerned with tenure, institutional and legal analysis and communal management, are discussed in the box on page x.

Several people contributed to the development of this manual. Marilyn Hoskins, Elinor Ostrom, Mike Arnold and Krister Andersson were most helpful with their comments on the manuscript. Marc de Montalembert, Manuel Paveri, Jon Anderson and other FAO Forestry Department staff reviewed the manuscript at various stages. James Thomson wishes to dedicate the manual to Cheibane Coulibaly, who has taught in so many ways to distinguish the forest from the trees.

Support and funding for Grafting institutional arrangements for community forestry was provided by the multidonor Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTPP), which works to increase sustainable livelihoods of women and men through local management of tree and forest resources.

Katherine Warner
Senior Community Forestry Officer
Forestry Policy and Planning Division
Forestry Department

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