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Can We Really Own the Forest? A Critical Examination of Tenure Development in Community Forestry in Africa

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Wily, Liz Alden
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1015
Sector: Forestry
Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
land tenure and use
community participation
Abstract: "As in most parts of the world, community based forest management is emerging as popular strategy towards forest conservation in Africa. This is being widely embedded in new forestry legislation. As implementation gets under way communities and governments increasingly debate the incentives needed to support community roles in management. One of the more fundamental of these is the right to own the forest itself, an incentive that may be expected to increase local powers to manage and afford the needed long-term horizon for decision-making. This paper looks at how far new forest policies are permitting communities to found their management roles on resource ownership and the support this is gaining from the land sector. The conclusion drawn is positive; that significant opportunities for communities to secure common tenure are emerging, primarily through improvement in the legal status of customary land rights. Community forestry is serving as the main activator of these opportunities, signalling an unusual symbiosis of reform between the land and forestry sectors. The benefits to community rights and to forest conservation are considerable. Nonetheless the trend is still new and uncertain, the mechanisms awkward, and even where attained, formalised common property rights are not always accompanied by sufficient devolution of forest management authority to trigger local commitment to forest conservation."

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