Devolution of Forest Rights and Sustainable Forest Management: A Review of Policies and Programs in 16 Developing Countries
October, 2011. Steven Lawry, Rebecca McLain, Brent Swallow, Kelly Biedenweg, and Matt Sommerville. U.S. Agency for International Development Working Paper. 95 pages
About 80 percent of the forested area of the developing world is held under public ownership. Many critics of state ownership argue that public stewardship of forests has been poor, pointing to high rates deforestation on land owned and administered by governments. These criticisms have given rise to a movement by governments, international development organizations, forest policy researchers, environmental groups, and among forest communities themselves in support of the devolution of forests rights from governments to communities, families, and individuals. Advocates of forest rights devolution argue that forests will more likely be managed sustainably and the livelihoods of forest communities will be more secure where a greater share of use, management, and other rights to forests are in the hands of people who live and work in and near forests.
This paper examines 16 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia that either have undertaken policy reforms to devolve a substantial number of forest rights to communities or that appear to have the potential to do so in the near future. Recognizing that one party rarely holds all tenure rights to a given resource, this paper uses a ―bundle of rights‖ framework to examine the mix of rights governments have typically devolved to communities and individuals, as well as what rights are retained by governments. Rights most typically devolved to communities include clearer use, management, and marketing rights, as well as longer duration of use rights and the right to exclude potential resource claimants not associated with the principal user community. Governments tend to retain the right to alienate land; that is, communities are not allowed to sell their land. The right of communities to restrict and regulate the use of local resources by persons not considered bona fide community members was found to be an important pre-condition to community efforts to regulate successfully forest use among their own members. Having control of resources can provide impetus to development of sound forest management rules and conventions by communities, but successful community management is not assured.
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Keywords: c. National Policy & Legislation, h. Institutional Arrangements, i. Awareness & Capacity Building, j. FC Project Development & Review, n. Social Aspects, Other Publications, Africa, Asia, Bolivia, Brazil, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Ethiopia, Forest, Ghana, governance, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Latin America, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, REDD, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zambia