Conservation & Society Special Issue: Forest Tenure Reforms
Anne M Larson, Ganga Ram Dahal (Guest editors)
Vol. 10, issue 2, April-June 2012

The articles of this special issue examine changes in community rights to forests: In Asia, Africa and Latin America, an important shift in forest tenure has occurred since 1985, with at least 200 million ha of forest recognised or legally transferred to local communities and indigenous people. Though the portion of the global forest estate either owned or administered by communities is still small at only 11.4 per cent as of 2008, the changes are significant, and recent data suggests that the community share is still growing. In addition, the percentage of forests in the hands of communities in the developing world alone is much higher, at 22 per cent in 2002 and increasing to 27 per cent in 2008.

Research on devolution, community forestry, common property resources, conservation and development initiatives and, more recently, forestry decentralisation in the context of climate change, has explored different aspects of these reforms. What is new here is the recognition that a variety of policy shifts and changing conceptions have come together to constitute what we now understand as forest tenure reform, comparable to the widespread agrarian reforms of the mid-twentieth century and with equally important implications. Forest tenure reform differs from agrarian reform. Rather than redistributing land, it primarily involves the formal recognition of forest rights and benefits for people already living in and around forests; it is often driven by demands for ancestral or customary land rights. In addition to responding to livelihood interests, it also explicitly aims to conserve forests, in contrast to agrarian policies that often promoted forest clearing in the past. Reforms may originate as much ‘from above’ as ‘from below’, with forces driving and shaping reforms emerging from communities, indigenous people and social movements, international donors or the state. Forest tenure reforms have implications for both communities and forests. They are in part based, at least in theory, on the belief that communities can be good forest stewards; in practice, however, this position does not always appear to guide the decisions of those responsible for implementation.

Articles in the issue include, among others: Forest tenure reform: new resource rights for forest-based communities?, by Anne M Larson and Ganga Ram Dahal; Co-management in community forestry: how the partial devolution of management rights creates challenges for forest communities, by Peter Cronkleton, Juan M Pulhin, Sushil Saigal; Enhancing forest tenure reforms through more responsive regulations, by Anne M Larson, Juan M Pulhin; Secondary level organisations and the democratisation of forest governance: Case studies from Nepal and Guatemala, by Naya Sharma Paudel, Iliana Monterroso, Peter Cronkleton; Legitimacy of forest rights: The underpinnings of the forest tenure reform in the protected areas of petén, Guatemala, by Iliana Monterroso, Deborah Barry; From communal forests to protected areas: The implications of tenure changes in natural resource management in Guatemala, by Silvel Elías; Communities, property rights and forest decentralisation in Kenya: Early lessons from participatory forestry management, by Jephine Mogoi, Emily Obonyo, Paul Ongugo, Vincent Oeba, Esther Mwa; and Public policy reforms and indigenous forest governance: The case of the Yuracaré people in Bolivia, by Rosario León, Patricia Uberhuaga, Jean Paul Benavides, Krister Andersson. Access the table of contents, including links to open access full text …