Community Forest Management : Weak States or Strong Communities?

Arts, B.J.M.; Behagel, J.H.; de Koning, Jessica; van der Zon, M.C.


Community forest management (CFM) has become an influential approach in the sustainable use, management, and conservation of forests worldwide. It ranges from community-based self-governance of local village forests to co-management approaches with state forest agencies in public forests. However, analyses show complex relationships between states and communities in CFM. At least three ideal types can be identified. The first refers to local communities that collectively decide to manage surrounding forests themselves due to a lack of state involvement. As a manager of the public good, such absence of the state may easily lead to deforestation and forest degradation that such communities wish to avoid. A second type refers to the co-management approaches of local communities and state forest agencies. Here, forest officials and community members cooperate in managing local forests. A final type refers to indigenous communities with strong customary forest institutions whose territorial claims are recognized by the state. While communities always need specific institutions, knowledge, and tenure rights in place to make CFM perform, each ideal type presupposes various degrees of state capacity and state autonomy. The article concludes that weak states (to some degree) and strong communities (of a certain kind) may indeed form a “convincing liaison” in CFM, although it is not the only arrangement that may produce (some) positive social and environmental impacts on the ground, as the cases explored illustrate.