Community Forestry

Community forestry has the potential to combine the strengths of both the top-down and bottom-up approaches. The top-down strength would be the ability to mobilize large amounts of capital, and to enforce policies and decisions regarding land use. The bottom-up strength would be local participation in decisions, thereby ensuring that local culture and environment could be included.

The idea that forestry should aim at bringing a bigger share of forest benefits to local people is embedded in the concept of social forestry. At FAO, it is called "forestry for local community development" (Arnold 2003). Social forestry is defined as any situation that closely involves local people in forestry activities, for which people assume responsibilities, and from which they derive a direct benefit through their own efforts. Because of their complexity, many environmentally sound forest management practices are best suited to small farmers, agricultural cooperatives, or community forest users, rather than to larger farms or larger-scale entrepreneurs (Montagnini et al. 2002). Community forestry has the following general characteristics:

• It involves communities in a continuous decision-making process.

• It involves communities in forestry activities.

• It involves indigenous peoples and farming communities in resource management.

• It values the forest resources according to the cultural heritage of people.

• It is adapted to the farmers' realities and their methodologies so as not to be in conflict with prevailing social and economic processes.

Community forestry can operate at different levels, from a subsistence level in isolated or marginal communal groups with minimum market development, to well-defined and organized groups with good access to technical information where production is oriented to certified markets. Examples of community forestry projects at different levels are presented in the following case studies (Boxes 7.1 and 7.2).

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