Decentralization and Ignored Local Dynamics: A Case Study on CBFM in the Philippines

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"Decentralization has emerged as a major strategy for many developing countries to pursue environmental management, and it has created new local commons. Existing empirical studies on the subject have been attentive to the dynamics among user groups and to the multi-level dynamics. On the other hand, these studies focus very little on heterogeneity among villagers — user group members and non-user group members inside a village, and how this heterogeneity affects the outcome of decentralization. This research seeks to shed new light on the study of decentralized natural resource governance by focusing on relations between these two actors. In this case study, a forest which is under community-based forest management (CBFM) in the Philippines today has long provided various livelihood resources to all villagers as a communal forest. Most villagers subsist by using three types of land: (1) uplands and forests for fuel wood and timber, (2) yards for vegetables and fruit, and (3) lowlands for rice. Under decentralized forest policies, however, only user group members can legally access resources inside the CBFM area because the policy divides villagers into members and non-members. To members, a CBFM area means resources for fuel wood and timber, while for non-members it is important as a watershed for providing water to lowland rice fields. Most non-members want members to refrain from using forest products inside the CBFM area so as to prevent soil erosion and water shortages, and they complain to foresters if they grant cutting permission to members. This pressure from non-members protects the CBFM area from excessive forest utilization. These local dynamics, which have thus far been ignored, affect the CBFM project implementation process differently from other actors that researchers have focused on heretofore, such as local governments, forestry bureaus, and NGOs."
decentralization, heterogeneity, community forestry