Examining the Roles of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) in the Decentralization Process of Kenyan Forests

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2008

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Abstract

"The introduction of Participatory Forestry Management (PFM) in Kenya from 1997 has led to formation of community based organizations which have come to be referred to as Community Forest Associations (CFAs). Most of the CFAs are preparing to enter into forest management agreements with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). This will confer management roles to the community with KFS retaining the forest resource ownership right and the right to withdraw the agreement in total or parts of it. In forests where PFM is active, the CFAs are forming confederates which are being referred to as CFAs. "Results from data collected in 12 Kenyan forests over a period of about 10 years indicate that a majority of the associations are moving towards forming confederates of several user groups. Some of the Associations are involved in diverse activities ranging from forest protection, monitoring and management to water extraction and distribution etc. "The roles of the CFAs have been changing over time from being directly controlled by the KFS to a more decentralized system where they are more involved in decision making. They have further expanded their roles from lobbying to conflict management, fundraising, negotiating with KFS, initiating rural development and forestry development activities. These new trends have also led to the formation of splinter groups due to power and leadership wrangles. "Although their roles as associations are beginning to be recognized by the government, there are still challenges especially since the decentralization process has not been fully implemented. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that the officers of the Kenya Forest Service feel that some of their roles are being taken over by the CFAs. This has weakened their position and denied them the right to participate in some activities. Some donors have also openly preferred working with the CFAs while totally ignoring the presence of the forest officers; a development the forest officers view as threat. A strategy therefore needs to be developed to ensure collaboration between all the stakeholders."

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indigenous institutions, community forestry, decentralization, IASC, forest management

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