Tanzania's community forests: their impact on human well-being and persistence in spite of the lack of benefit

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Gross-camp, N.
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In this paper I describe the influence of community-based forest management (CBFM) on the well-being of local stakeholders in eight Tanzanian villages. The justification for this focus is based on the broad, international support for CBFM, support for its expansion within Tanzania specifically, and foundational belief that CBFM has the potential to provide significant social benefits to the communities in which it is practiced. Using a participatory video process, I developed a questionnaire to help quantify and qualify changes in aspects of well-being over a 10-year period, 2005–2015. These changes were based on individual responses but reflected changes in larger household units. Individuals given the questionnaire were selected following a wealth ranking process in which households were assigned, by a subselection of their community, a wealth category. This process also helped to identify current leaders and female-headed households in each village, groups that have been demonstrated to disproportionately benefit or bear the cost of other interventions. Households' wealth categories were found to be largely stable, with most remaining in the wealth category assigned in 2005 to 2015 with no significant difference between villages with or without CBFM. In contrast, current leaders were found to be more likely to increase in wealth and female-headed households, more likely to decrease. Two significant differences in CBFM and non-CBFM villages are reported: greater food insecurity and better water access in areas with CBFM. Focal group discussions of these results challenged the relevance of CBFM presence-absence in driving such findings, revealing a strong narrative of community- level support for CBFM by local stakeholders defined by greater control of their forest (and an ability to exclude outsiders), regular access to forest products, and pride in recognition for their conservation efforts (by other villages and the state). Key Words: community forestry; participatory video; Tanzania; wealth ranking; well-being INTRODUCTION Forests are widely recognized for their environmental and social contributions to people and planet. In particular tropical forests play a significant role in the livelihoods of the rural poor through their provision of goods (food, medicine, and fuel) and services (moderating erosion, air quality, weather moderation). Historically such forests have been managed through centralized governmental institutions and at times to the detriment of local interests (Barrow et al. 2016). Indeed state institutions often justified their control and marginalization of local users by attributing the bulk of forest ecosystem loss to communities living in or near their boundaries. In response to the limitations of the strongly preservationist approach, governments began to shift toward decentralized management. Decentralization was characterized in principle by a return to greater local control and participation (but see Nelson and Agrawal 2008), and wider promise to deliver ecological and social benefits. These policies have spread widely across the developing world, applying to an estimated one third of the world's forests (Sunderlin et al. 2008) and including 35 of 51 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Odera 2004). Forest decentralization has been mixed in its ability to deliver its promised objectives. Barrow and colleagues (2016) describe the major limitations to decentralization's success as (1) its having largely been applied to low-value forests, (2) institutional and administrative impediments to local management under the pretext of making sure that the forest is "properly managed," and (3) local communities' lack of capacity to navigate the market for the sale of forest products. From an ecological perspective, the literature is more optimistic with a growing body of evidence demonstrating the ability of indigenous and local communities with strong tenure rights to manage their forests as well as or better than areas owned and managed by the state (see Porter- Bolland et al. 2012, Patenaude and Lewis 2014, Seymour

Subject Keywords
Forests, Certification
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United Republic of Tanzania
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