3.1. REDD+ Activities Realized by Community Forest Management
We sought to determine the contribution of CFM in slowing, halting and reverting forest cover loss and therefore its usefulness in terms of carbon benefits by looking to the five types of REDD+ activities. This question is crucial, as the ultimate goal of REDD+ is to reduce emissions or increase removals of GHGs by forests.
Less than 23% of the studies reviewed report positive results at reducing deforestation (Figure 4
). Although reducing deforestation contributes directly to forest conservation, the inverse is not true. Forest conservation does not necessarily imply a reduction in deforestation, a nuance that is important in the REDD+ context. To demonstrate its potential to reduce deforestation, CFM must be located in areas where the pressure of deforestation is strong; at the agricultural frontier, for example. This makes reducing deforestation harder to prove, since it has to be shown that without CFM intervention, forests would have been cut down. It is interesting to note that the studies reporting success at reducing deforestation are only for cases in Latin America, in indigenous reserves or CFM implemented in indigenous areas, with studies from Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. This relationship between success in reducing deforestation and region (Latin America) is statistically significant (FT deviate = 2.13; Critical value = 2.02, df
= 6), see Table 3
. For example, Nepstad, et al. [40
] have shown the ability of indigenous reserves to control deforestation and fires in the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation rates are very high. Aboriginal reserves also appear effective in preventing deforestation in the Guiana Shield in Colombia, despite their limited area [41
]. Nelson and Chomitz [42
] have demonstrated the effectiveness of Aboriginal reserves in Brazil in preventing forest fires compared to uninhabited protected areas. A recent study by Porter-Bolland, et al. [43
] based on a statistical meta-analysis comparing 40 protected areas and 33 cases of community-managed forests found that forests managed by communities have slightly lower and less variable rates of deforestation than protected areas.
The results of our systematic review of published case studies show that there is substantial evidence that CFM is effective at promoting sustainable landscapes through sustainable management of forests and forest conservation as this was reported in 87.5% of the cases [44
]. CFM has also been shown to be effective at restoring forest cover and carbon density [47
]. Sixty-nine percent of the studies indicated positive results for carbon stock enhancement and 60% for reducing degradation (Figure 4
). For example, Hayes [49
] showed the contribution of CFM to forest conservation and carbon stock enhancement for 163 forests located in 13 countries by reporting no significant difference between the forest conditions in protected areas and those managed by communities, with higher vegetation density in areas under local community control. In India, Somanathan, et al. [50
], using state-managed forest as the comparison, showing no significant difference for broad-leaved forest and more percentage crown cover in pine forests under Village-Council forest management (VCFM), and also noted that VC forest management is seven times cheaper than management by the state. The positive contribution of CFM to the sustainable management of forests and forest carbon stocks enhancement was also measured directly through repeated forest carbon inventory by Karky and Skutsch [51
] in Nepal.
Our results also show no statistical relationship between the five REDD+ activities and the types of ownership, extraction or arrangement (Table 3
). We were unable to unveil clear patterns for these variables among the studies reviewed, but individual case studies identified that the size and type of forests, the quality of the resource, the type of utilization as well as a whole set of institutional and social factors can influence the forest outcomes. Some documented cases show persistent forest cover loss, indicating that CFM performance varies across communities and contexts. In Mexico, Dalle, et al. [52
] show low rates of deforestation in ejidos
of the Mayan zone of Quintana Roo. In Ecuador, indigenous reserves that do not overlap with land under conservation status display similar rates of deforestation to private lands. Furthermore, exogenous forces can influence the forest outcome, not just the activities of the communities themselves [12
]. The success of CFM in protecting forest resources is more likely where population pressure is low, and less likely in the face of conflicts, market pressures, and rising population [57
]. For example, while areas under CFM had lower rates of deforestation than protected areas under low colonization pressure in Mexico, in Guatemala both of these conservation strategies failed to maintain forest cover under high colonization pressure, an element symptomatic of weak governance [58
Evaluation of the ecological outcomes of CFM has however been subject to criticism on the grounds of the methodology used [57
]. In order to demonstrate the role of CFM in forest outcome, studies have to use data from comparable cases and/or counterfactuals. Most studies have compared CFM sites with other types of management (e.g., protected areas) in terms of forest cover change, while controlling for other confounding factors using appropriate statistical methods. Appropriate for quasi-experimental contexts, matching methods and propensity scores are especially interesting to avoid biased comparison and to control for heterogeneity across biophysical and community characteristics, and have been used in some of the studies we reviewed. Our analysis showed that 56% of the studies (n
= 39) had a strong methodological approach. The most frequent approach to comparison combined before-and-after or time series of remote sensing images to assess forest cover change over time while controlling for confounding factors. When both social and biophysical outcomes are measured, the assessment of forest conditions often relied on local people’s perceptions as ascertained through interviews, and was thus based on rather weak methodological underpinnings.
The lack of spatially-explicit national data on forests managed by communities has been and is still a major obstacle to a better understanding of the role of CFM in forest outcomes [61
]. Information on the extent and location of CFM is highly fragmented, unavailable to the public or non-existent. Recent studies making use of newly available data sets for indigenous territory polygons in Panama [62
] and Brazil [63
] have been able to demonstrate the contribution of these reserves in conserving forests and the carbon they contain. In this sense, it is important to highlight the work of Rights and Resources Initiative for the creation of its Forest Tenure dataset (http://www.rightsandresources.org/resources/tenure-data/
) and the World Resources Institute’s Status of Land Tenure and Property Rights map (http://www.wri.org/resource/status-land-tenure-and-property-rights-2005
3.2. Livelihoods and Development Outcomes of Community Forest Management
We assessed the contribution of CFM in producing social co-benefits through improved livelihoods and development. Recent global comparative studies confirm the importance of forest resources in the livelihoods of the rural poor in developing countries, estimating that these represent on average 21.1% of total household income [64
]. The importance of forest for subsistence purposes is particularly important where chronic poverty and forest cover overlap geographically [65
]. This is due to the dependence of the poor on these environmental incomes, especially in remote areas, where often no substitute for forest products and services exists [66
]. For communities living in poverty, restrictions in access to and use of forest resources can have a major impact on livelihoods, and such restrictions may conflict with the objective of poverty reduction [67
The benefits derived from CFM depend on the quality of the forest resources, the access rights granted and the benefit-sharing mechanisms, which display high contextual variation. Almost all governments maintain certain rights of control over the use of land and resources, regardless of the formal property system [33
]. Compared to the open access situation, CFM typically places new restrictive rules and regulations on extraction of forest-based resources. Even with statutory rights, communities do not automatically have rights to all resources (e.g., timber), and they are not always able to access or translate those rights into benefits [19
We found that 44% of the studies reported beneficial impacts of CFM through an increase in forest incomes, and a further 44% reported neutral effects, neither positive nor negative (Figure 5
). One case was reported as having negative impacts on income and two studies reported both negative and positive impacts. For the Pearson Chi-square test on income and the type of extraction (subsistence, enterprise or both), the null hypothesis was rejected at p
< 0.05 significance level, meaning that the two variables are not independent; the fact of belonging to one category of the first variable influences the membership category of the second variable. However, none of the FT deviates or standardized residuals (Z statistic) post hoc tests showed a significant difference for all pairwise comparisons (FT critical value = 1.85 or Z critical value = 2.54, df
= 4), indicating that the difference between the observed and the expected values is not large enough for individual cells to show significant results between income and the type of extraction. Benefits from employment were noted in 39% of the studies. However, the Chi-square test results were not significant for all the variables tested, meaning that the region, the type of extraction, arrangement or ownership are independent of the creation of employment benefits.
According to Mahanty, et al. [69
], the potential for increases in the quality of life of rural populations through CFM depends largely on the type and size of the benefits created, how communities can make sure they get at least a part of these benefits, and how they are distributed locally. The importance of access rights was demonstrated in CFM in Ethiopia, as forest user group members had lower total income and assets than non-members where only subsistence use is allowed, while it was higher for members where timber harvesting is also permitted [70
]. In Nepal, a study comparing the benefits and costs of CFM from eight user groups indicated that the impacts of this practice are highly variable within and between groups [71
]. It was also shown that CFM tends to divert profits from individual households to the community level, with a decline in forestry-based income, but an increase in new sources of income (including grants, soft loans and other income-generating activities) that benefit poor households. Forest condition is also mentioned as a factor that will influence whether incomes generated through CFM are enough to cover the management costs and provide a direct benefit to communities [72
]. In some cases, forests assigned by governments to communities can be of poor quality, as such forests have often been exploited and degraded by the logging industry and abandoned when the industry has no continued interest in exploiting them commercially [28
]. It is also important to acknowledge that even if very small, the income generated by CFM can make a difference for very poor households, as exemplified in Malawi by Jumbe and Angelsen [73
In the studies reviewed, security was the most frequently mentioned benefit, in 72.4% of the cases (Figure 5
). We also found a relationship between security and the type of ownership (Table 3
), with positive outcomes on security with community-owned forests (FT deviate = 2.05; Critical value = 2.02, df
= 6). This is not surprising since, generally, CFM involves a process that entails clarification and agreement on access and use rights. Benefits through empowerment, which is a more qualitative characteristic than variables such as income, were mentioned in 47% of the studies reviewed. In Mexico and Brazil, for example, Hajjar, et al. [74
] showed that despite the fact that governments have maintained significant control over forest resources through heavy regulations on timber extraction, communities have effective decision-making power over the day-to-day planning and they derive considerable benefits from forest management.
One important finding is on the outcome observed on equity inside community-managed forest (Figure 5
), and this is irrespective of the type of extraction, arrangement, region or ownership (Table 3
). Sixty percent of the studies reported a decline in equity with respect to the distribution of local benefits for poorer and/or women-headed households under CFM. It is important to keep in mind that the notion of ‘community’ is a construct simplifying the heterogeneity of diverse actors found at the village-level who have diverse and sometimes competing interests (See also [75
]). Indeed, processes and institutional arrangements that govern the implementation of CFM at the local level can easily be dominated by the wealthier or more powerful community members, producing results that reinforce and perpetuate social inequality, including gender inequality [68
]. In Nepal, negative effects of devolution have been reported among the poorest households as a result of a reduced access to forest products necessary for their livelihood, due to more stringent harvesting regulations and more ‘equitable’ distribution of benefits from forest, without taking into account the fact that the poorer households generally need more forest resources [77
]. Vyamana [72
] also found that devolved management through CFM does not support an equitable local distribution of benefits and costs in Tanzania, and that arrangements exclude the poor from income-generating activities because of initial investment costs for participation.
Thirty-seven percent of the studies reviewed were classified as having strong methodological underpinnings for assessing evidence of social benefits. These studies evaluated the impacts of CFM using strong comparative indicators, and by removing rival explanations or confounding factors that were unrelated to this type of management. Propensity scores and covariate matching models have been used for controlling for these confounding factors and for achieving a better attribution of the outcomes of CFM programmes [70
]. The importance of collecting baseline data or Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) methodology to evaluate the welfare outcomes is paramount [79
]. As shown in these results, stratification by welfare groups needs to be done in order to evaluate local distribution of benefits. The contribution of qualitative research methods with rigorous approaches is also essential, especially for understanding power dynamics and the kind of benefits that are important to local people but hard to measure.
Only a few studies provide an analysis of both stated objectives of CFM, i.e., improved forest condition and livelihoods benefits [26
]. Based on the International Forestry Resources and Institutions datasets (http://www.ifriresearch.net/resources/data/
), factors associated with win-win outcomes for forest carbon and livelihoods are identified including: rulemaking autonomy, local enforcement rules, well-defined property rights, and the design of effective institutional arrangements. Factors promoting synergies in achieving positive forest and social outcomes are synthesized in Table 4
, as well as factors promoting equity at the local level.