Community forest enterprises as successful social enterprises

Over the last decades, many countries have adopted community forestry, with Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) as the main forest policy model. These CFEs are advocated as a vehicle for sustainable forest management, while also permitting local communities to create jobs, generate income and improve the livelihood of community members. However, both positive and negative economic, social and environmental outcomes of CFEs have been reported in the literature. To better understand the factors that account for the outcomes of CFEs, recent community forestry and rural development literature suggest the employment of a “social enterprise” lens. Social Enterprises (SEs) are businesses that combine both financial and social (environmental) objectives, also reflecting what CFEs do. Such a lens can provide insights into how CFEs can help local communities progress towards development goals in multiple domains (economic, social, and environmental) while enhancing inclusive local governance. SE literature also contains suggestions for policies that can enhance CFEs e.g., tax exemptions and other incentives. Despite a growing scientific interest in SEs, research on SEs in forestry - specifically community forestry – is lacking. The objective of this thesis is to analyse community forest using a SE perspective, by exploring the state and performance of CFEs as social enterprises and the conditions for CFEs to be successful SEs in economic, social and environmental terms. Cameroon was selected as a case study because of its long history with community forestry and apparent increasing trend of promoting CFEs as a sustainable development tool.