Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

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5.6.3. Extent and Effectiveness of Local Community Participation in Project Development and Implementation

The involvement of local communities that directly depend on forest resources is a precondition for the success of community-based projects. Local communities can be involved by designing a project to develop local skills, create employment in the project, and promote equity, all of which will lead to the long-term sustainability of the project activity. In the Scolel Te project, for instance, local communities and their agroforestry traditions are included in the project design process (Imaz et al., 1998). On the other hand, the ECOLAND project in Costa Rica has caused discontent among local residents who did not sell their lands and now face hardships caused by the inclusion of their lands in a national park (Goldberg, 1998). It is also important that the host country and the project designers recognize the land titles and legal rights of indigenous people to ensure their effective participation in the project (see Box 5-5 for a case involving the social forestry program in India).

Box 5-5. Social Forestry Program in India

Several developmental projects in the forestry sector have been implemented in the tropics that could be sources for understanding the possible implications of future LULUCF projects. One such afforestation program implemented in India was funded by several donor agencies during the 1980s. In terms of number of trees planted (18,876 million trees in 1980-87, Chambers et al., 1989), the project was a success. The lessons learned from the program are briefly described below (Saxena, 1997).

Social forestry projects were implemented by the Forest Department in India with the goal of meeting the demands of rural people and reducing the burden on production forestry. The species planted in the village commons and revenue lands were mainly monocultures of Eucalyptus, Casuarina, and Acacia sp. Tree planting and management was carried out by the Forest Department in the initial years and later handed over to the Panchayat (village governing body).

Local Participation
The selection of species reflected the choice of the Forest Department rather than the local preferences. Participation was limited to a few members of the village elite. Community involvement was limited to handing over the common land for plantation and participation as wage labor. In designing the project, foresters and foreign experts did not fully grasp the complexity of the rural power structure and assumed that the village Panchayats represented the interests of all concerned in the village (SIDA, 1992). Thus, a large portion of the benefit from the project went to the urban areas, industries, and retailers-defeating the purpose of the project.

Land Tenure
Throughout the social forestry phase, it was not clear whether village land belonged to the Forest Department, the Revenue Department, or the village body. Such uncertainty about ownership and legal rights impeded community action. Non-forest laws often conflicted with the social forestry projects.

Technical Issues
Species selection, spacing, and other silvicultural issues were not properly examined and implemented. Benefits that could flow to poor villagers from species yielding intermediate products were not properly appreciated. The production of grass, legumes, leaf fodder, fruits, and non-timber forest products was neglected. Close spacing was prescribed to avoid intermediate management options, reduce plantation costs, and cut down on staff supervision time. As a consequence, thinning and pruning, which could have produced intermediate yields of grass and tree products for the people, were not undertaken (Saxena, 1997). Because of the close spacing, grass production was affected. Because projects were designed around the ultimate felling of the planted trees, degradation often set in after the trees were harvested.

Policy Issues
The failure to define, establish, and publicize the rights for marketing and allocating benefits to the community led to the failure of their participation. Rights to trees and a distribution policy that were not official preoccupations in the early stages of the tree planting led to inequitable distribution later.

Equity Issues
A government review found that only 20 percent of the respondents knew about the woodlots during the planning stage, only 14 percent of the people participated in the meetings, and about 83 percent of the low-status people were adversely affected by the closure of the community land. The landless farmers and artisans depend on the village commons to graze their animals and collect fuelwood.

The funding projects provided the Forest Department with vehicles and foreign training, but little emphasis was given to building the capacity of the Forest Department.

Multiplicity of Donors
Multiplicity of donors with different priorities within single provinces resulted in conflicting policies being followed.

In bioenergy projects, local people could be trained in the operation and maintenance of biogas plants; this training could lead to the creation of new jobs in rural areas and reduce migration to urban centers, thereby achieving equitable development between rural and urban areas (Ravindranath and Hall, 1995). It would also promote the sustainability of the project by providing financial, social, and environmental benefits even after the investors have withdrawn.

The success of community management projects also depends on equitable discussion, participation, and distribution of benefits, which is crucial for the development of rural areas (Sokona et al., 1999). It is important to have institutional arrangements to ensure land tenure and product ownership by local communities or to meaningfully involve local participants in decision-making processes regarding species choice, mode of production, harvesting, and benefit sharing that encourages them to commit themselves to the protection and management of LULUCF projects.

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