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Principles and practice of forest co-management: evidence from west-central Africa

Research reports

The involvement of local communities as well as the state in forest management is now an important principle of tropical forest policy and practice, and a major component of most international forestry aid programmes. This paper focuses on attempts to promote community involvement in tropical moist forest areas of sub-Saharan Africa. A number of factors make this a challenging task. Major imbalances in power exist between industrial and non-industrial users, and civil society tends to be weak and divided. Community identities and relationships may well be contentious in such areas, where the forest figures more as a zone for agricultural expansion than as a resource to be conserved. Human populations in forests are often surprisingly heterogeneous and structures of resource control complex and overlapping. Using case studies from the high forest zones of Ghana and Cameroon, the paper reviews the ambiguities in the classical model of forest co-management, and the issues which arise when the model is applied to specific national contexts. The paper examines attempts to re-create traditional resource management systems and to ally community management with other forms of land use. Existing strategies of forest co-management are weighed against alternative options to improve the husbandry of the resource and increase public accountability.

David Brown