Data

General Issues
Economics
Environment
Location
Ethiopia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Parent of this Case
The Decentralization of Ethiopia's Political System
Links
https://www.farmafrica.org/ethiopia/making-forests-pay-participatory-forest-management
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Targeted Demographics
Women
Men
Elderly
Youth
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings

CASE

Participatory Forest Management in Ethiopia: Bonga Case Study

First Submitted By jidinoba

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

General Issues
Economics
Environment
Location
Ethiopia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Parent of this Case
The Decentralization of Ethiopia's Political System
Links
https://www.farmafrica.org/ethiopia/making-forests-pay-participatory-forest-management
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Targeted Demographics
Women
Men
Elderly
Youth
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings

Now formally recognized by the state, the practice of participatory forest management in Bonga has decentralized specific property rights from the state to the community, devolved the administration of forest resource sustainability, and minimized deforestation.

Problems and Purpose

Participatory Forest Management (PFM) was introduced in Ethiopia with the goal of reducing the deforestation of the country’s forest reserves. The initiative which was introduced in 1995, had three specific goals. Firstly, to decentralize specific property rights from the state to the community. Secondly, to give locals the opportunity to administer and run forest resources sustainability; and thirdly, to minimize the use of forest resources for livelihood[1]. A lot of the Ethiopian export income is dependent on the forest[2], forest resources serve as a major economic player in Ethiopia as they contribute in the export earnings (e.g.: coffee), employment, import substitution on energy, and the support of livelihood[3]. The reduction of the countries forest area, can be attributed to the influence of rapid population growth and the exploitation of wood[4]. Deforestation in the region has also occurred due to mismanagement and lack of proper forestry schemes that reflected accountability and sustainability[5] which consequently led to the conditions under which PFM was first implemented in Ethiopia. As mismanagement, consequently was a factor that led to the reallocation of forest properties from the state to local communities[6] under PFM.

In addition to this, research has also shown that forest resources influence about 23 – 53% of household incomes in Ethiopia[7]. In the Bonga region in particular - where over 82% of the population is animist and agriculture is important - forest dependency is vital to livelihoods[8]. Most forest based communities have been said to depend on timber for everyday products such as fuel to make food, or even as wood for commercial artisanal purposes[9]. Thus, the purpose of the Bonga forest management scheme was to enable local community members to be in charge of managing their forest zones in order to promote the sustainability of the forest for the sustenance of forest based livelihoods in the area, and introduce non-forest based activities; such as improving poultry breeding, sheep fattening, water/soil conservation etc; in order to assist with household income sustainability[10], as well as provide alternative forms of livelihoods.

Participatory Forest Management (PFM) is fully defined as a community-based approach to forest conservation and management. This method of community forestry is often described as an ‘‘exercise by local people over decisions regarding management of forests, including the rules of access and the disposition of products’’[11]. As another purpose of launching PFM in Bonga was to give local people the authority to make these decisions through Forest User Groups (FUG’s), in the case of Bonga PFM With Forest cover believed to have reduced from 40% to 4% in Ethiopia over the years, Participatory Forest Management has been acclaimed to be a solution to deforestation, due to the role it plays in increasing proper forest management and security strategies[12]. PFM promotes the decentralization of forest management and in turn has reduced served to reduce the Decentralization of forest management is the main democratic innovation that has fostered the success of this participatory project in Ethiopia.

Background History and Context

Participatory Forest Management in Ethiopia came up as a means to address and minimize the rapid decrease in forest coverage. It was initiated by FARM AFRICA (a British charity non-profit organization) in partnership with SoS Sahel (a local NGO)[13] in the forestry regions of Bonga and Chilimo. Prior to the implementation of PFM, a law which was passed in 1975, declared forests as state property[14]. Thus, forest properties and resources, which had for years been managed by local communities and private owners, were now being allocated and controlled by the state. The use of forest properties then, especially for profit by private parties was deemed illegal and resulted in the alienation of communities from benefiting from the forest[15]. This in repercussion influenced a reduced notion of the forest as a valuable resource and the need for it to be managed adequately[16], contributing to rapid rates of deforestation. In 1995, as a bid to prove that participatory forestry management works FARM AFRICA and SOS Sahel ‘organized a study tour to India for Ethiopian government forestry experts to witness the success of government/community partnerships on the ground’[17]. At this time, participatory management was used in the forestry regions of Chilimo and Bonga with the goal of reducing the deforestation of the country’s forest reserves. FARM AFRICA is a British charity non-profit organization, doing most of its work in Eastern Africa. This 1995 initiative in Ethiopia had three specific outcomes. Firstly, it decentralized specific property rights from the state to the community. Secondly, it gave permission for local people to administer and run forest resource sustainability. Thirdly, it minimized the use of forest resources for livelihood (Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 347).

Five years later, the regional state of Oromia was the first to recognize PFM as an official approach and forged formal agreements with local communities[18]. Today, PFM is formally recognized by the Ethiopian government and five out of the nine regional states in Ethiopia have adopted it as a practice[19].

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

FARM AFRICA and SoS Sahel played the leading role of establishing Participatory Forest Management (PFM) in the Bonga region, alongside the cooperation of the Ethiopian government. Over the years, other development agencies such as GIZ (a German development agency), JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) and the Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resources Association (a local NGO) have also carried out PFM projects in other parts of the country[20].

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Although prior research and write ups do not discuss much about participatory selection, most findings have highlighted that at the beginning of the project in Bonga, most Forest User Group (FUG) members – made up of/by local community members –  were screened and selected by representatives of FARM AFRICA, based on their household’s dependency of the forest[21] and household’s proximity to the forest area assigned. It is stated that the decision making body of the FUGs are democratically elected by members[22], as opposed to other regions where the traditional leaders of communities are automatically chosen by forest departments under the Regional Bureau of Agriculture[23], to lead the committees.

Methods and Tools Used

Participatory Forest Management (PFM) is a community-based approach to forest conservation and management. Melanie McDermott and Kate Schreckenberg, who write about equity in community forestry and the experiences faced in both North and South countries, describe community forestry as an ‘‘exercise by local people over decisions regarding management of forests, including the rules of access and the disposition of products’’ (McDermott & Schreckenberg, 2009, p. 158). 

Prior to the implementation of PFM, the Ethiopian state owned most of the forest area and controlled the allocation of property and resources. However, PFM promoted the decentralization of forests and forest based resources and re-allocated these to local communities who organized themselves as forest user groups (FUGs) (Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839). These forest groups were made up of rural dwellers who either live close to a forest area or were from households who depended largely on the forest for livelihood. In order for the state to pass on a forest area to FUGs, a contract had to have been signed between state authorities and FUGs. User groups are recognized/supported by NGOs and local government bureaus who help with matters that pertain to technical and legal issues, as well as help with the implementation of ideal management plans (Ameha et al., 2014, p. 845). Consequently, for forest user groups to be able to sign contracts with state authorities, they first had to be legally recognized by the state by registering themselves as co-operatives/unions either at the local or district level 

(Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839); a process, which is usually facilitated by NGO’s or local government bureaus. PFM in Ethiopia has since grown from a small scale local pilot project in Chilimo and Bonga, to a nationwide activity and is seen today as “one of the most promising models of natural forest management in the country” (“Making Forests Pay,” 2016)” as well as formally recognized by the Ethiopian Federal Government. The forest laws have since assisted the empowerment of rural communities with new rights that are clearly and concisely defined, as new laws allow for clearer understanding on land ownership, thus eliminating any risks of mismanagement as a result of loosely defined resource/property ownership (Gobeze et al.,  2009, p. 346). Hence, rural communities can now take on the responsibility of management and consequently benefit from forest and woodland resources within their area through PFM (Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 7).       

Decentralization of forest management is the main democratic innovation that has fostered the success of this participatory project in Ethiopia. Mismanagement of property relations – mostly due to lack of proper definitions on ownership (Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 346) – has led to the reallocation of forest properties from the state to local communities. Consequently, state owned forest zones have been reassigned to community based associations known as forest user groups (FUG’s) (Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839). These forest groups are mostly made up of members from villages or the lowest local administrative unit (Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839). The Bonga region most especially is a pilot PFM station in Ethiopia and is host to one of the biggest Afromontane forests in the country (Kelbessa & Soromessa, 2008, p. 121). 

Prior to the implementation of PFM, the Ethiopian state owned most of the forest area and controlled the allocation of property and resources. However, PFM has promoted the decentralization of forests and forest based resources and re-allocated these to local communities who have organized themselves as forest user groups (FUGs)[24]. These forest groups are made up of local community members – ie from villages or the lowest administrative unit[25] - who either live close to a forest area or are from households who depend largely on the forest for livelihood.

For the state to pass on a forest area to FUGs, a contract has to be signed between state authorities and FUGs. These contracts specify rights and duties of both the government and user groups. At the beginner phase of the project, members of these FUGs are permitted to construct their own bylaws on how to govern their groups and forest management activities[26]. User groups are recognized/supported by NGOs and local government bureaus who help with matters that pertain to technical and legal issues, as well as help with the implementation of ideal management plans[27]. Consequently, for forest user groups to be able to sign contracts with state authorities, they first had to be legally recognized by the state by registering themselves as co-operatives/unions either at the local or district level[28] a process, which is usually facilitated by NGO’s or local government bureaus.

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interactions

Forms of participation under the Bonga Participatory Forest Management (PFM) program can be seen through the collaboration that occurs between government, NGO’s and the forest user groups (FUGs). Like any other development project, the phases of PFM is categorized into planning, implementation and monitoring stages. At the planning level, it is expected that by-laws are drawn and set during focus group meetings and discussions between government and community members – facilitated by FARM AFRICA. Although this stage has been criticized, due to the fact that by-laws are sometimes already assigned by the government – eg forest perimeters allowed to be managed by the community – FUGs are expected to supervise the implementation of these by-laws once agreed upon.

In order to build human capability, FUGs also go through knowledge and skill development training sessions[29]conducted by the supporting NGO involved – in this case, FARM AFRICA. Members are then responsible for training the general community on ways to avoid activities that influence deforestation, as well as developing and engaging with activities that promote forest based products to generate high income[30]. Thus, for FUG’s during the implementation and monitoring stages, participation often involves forest patrols, forest fire fighting, reporting illegal activities, building nurseries, planting fruit bearing trees, beekeeping etc[31].

Influence, Outcome, and Effects

The outcomes of PFM have proven to be beneficial to both participatory groups and forest conservation. Engagement with activities supported by FARM AFRICA that ensure the production of forest based resources for income generation has been reported to increase income and thereby improve asset based resources, but has also equipped locals with trainings that have given the capacity to diversify their income more and depend less on forest products to sustain livelihoods[32] - an outcome which directly correlates with the original purpose of establishing PFM in Bonga. The initiative has also empowered locals through practices of organizing themselves in decision making processes and drawing up rules and regulations on the management of the forest area assigned to them[33]. The role of FUGs in the creation of laws and contract formulations with government representatives resulted in the legal status of FUGs, which gave them a newly acquired right to sue parties that engaged in the illegal harvesting of their forest areas[34]. Additionally, gender consciousness and equality has been highlighted in this case – as regulations ensure that both men and women are equally responsible in forest management and can equally qualify as FUG members.

Although no source has mentioned a negative outcome of PFM, it is arguable that since new forms of livelihoods promote more non-forest based activities, locals are becoming less dependent on the forest. While this might be good to ensure conservation, it could also have the negative outcome of cultural degradation – as a lot of these communities have been dependent on the forest for thousands of years and have several parts of their cultural activities linked to the forest. Thus, promotion of non-forest based activities might have an impact on culture as well as diffusing the importance that forests play in day to day life.  

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Although there is a lot of praise around the outcomes of PFM activities, several sources have criticised the involvement of the government with FUGs. These criticisms pertain to the failures of government in meeting their end of the deal and providing full support, especially once the initial stage of the project is over and donor funded projects leave[35]. While forest user groups and NGOs appear to have independence with the activities they engage in, it is also evident that this is due to the governments laxity with getting fully involved with groups. As a result, there is a pessimistic air around government allocation of resources for the project and ability to stay fully committed to the program.

Project financing in Ethiopia has also come up as an issue as funding first came from pilot project ran by FARM AFRICA and other INGOs in regions other than Bonga – who are in charge of providing both technical and financial support; therefore, the issue now aligns with the fear that there might not be any financing from the side of the government once these pilot projects are over. Reliance of funding on INGO’s is also a source of concern as it could be a factor in how the government fully involves itself in the project, especially since they might not feel a full sense of ownership of the project yet[36].

Furthermore, it is also interesting to notice the forms of governance that exist within these groups and the eventual democratic outcomes that arise. This is especially highlighted through the democratic election of group leaders and the legalisation/legal recognition of these groups. However, one must question the bargaining power of local communities in creating user groups and subsequent guidelines. It is arguable that the different power dynamics could have influenced negotiation outcomes. With the government and NGO’s being obviously responsible for the initial phase of the project, certain guidelines raised by user groups could have been rejected; perhaps due to availability of funding or the plain resistance of the government to follow through with certain requests if it could pose certain threats to political stability.

It is also noted that although the government collaborates with user group demands and negotiated guidelines, they often don’t comply to the binding rules and monopolize on weak law enforcements that exist. For example, it is stated that although the government promised to oversee monitoring of forest status every other year, it has rarely abided by this agreement[37]. This is also applied to the government’s role in assigning rules in the by-laws, that specify the perimeters of forest FUGs can govern.

See Also

Community Forestry 

References 

[1] Gobeze, T., Bekele, M., Lemenih, M., & Kassa, H. (2009). Participatory forest management and its impacts on livelihoods and forest status: the case of Bonga forest in Ethiopia. International forestry review, 11(3), p. 347

[2] Barton, A. (2014). Deforestation in Ethiopia. Exploring regional sustainable development issues. Using the case study approach in higher education., p. 205

[3] Bishaw, B. (2001). Deforestation and Land Degredation in the Ethiopian Highlands: A Strategy for Physical Recovery. Northeast African Studies, 8(1), p. 347

[4] Bishaw, 2001, p. 12

[5] Gebru, T.D (2016). Deforestation in Ethiopia: Causes, Impacts and Remedy. IJEDR, 4(2), p. 205

[6] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 346

[7] Ameha, A., Larsen, H. O., & Lemenih, M. (2014). Participatory forest management in Ethiopia: learning from pilot projects. Environmental management, 53(4), p. 839

[8] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 348

[9] Ros-Tonen, M. A., & Wiersum, K. F. (2003). The importance of non-timber forest products for forest-based rural livelihoods: an evolving research agenda. In GTZ/CIFOR international conference on livelihoods and biodiversity, Bonn, Germany., p. 2

[10] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 349

[11] McDermott, M. H., & Schreckenberg, K. (2009). Equity in community forestry: insights from North and South. International Forestry Review, 11(2), p. 158

[12] Ameha et. al, 2014, p. 839

[13] Lemenih, M., Allan, C., & Biot, Y. (2015). Making forest conservation benefit local communities: participatory forest Management in Ethiopia, p. 2

[14] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 2

[15] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 2

[16] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 2

[17] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 3

[18] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 3

[19] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 3

[20] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 4

[21] Gebru, 2016, p. 205

[22] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 846

[23] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 845

[24] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839

[25] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839           

[26] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 349

[27] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 845

[28] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 839

[29] Tadesse, S., Woldetsadik, M., & Senbeta, F. (2017). Forest users’ level of participation in a participatory forest management program in southwestern Ethiopia. Forest Science and Technology, 2017. p. 169

[30] Lemenih et al., 2015, p. 6

[31] Tadesse et al., 2017. p. 169-170

[32] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 354

[33] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 354

[34] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 349

[35] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 351

[36] Ameha et al., 2014, p. 851

[37] Gobeze et al., 2009, p. 353

External Links

Farm Africa, Making Forests Pay: Participatory Forest Management https://www.farmafrica.org/ethiopia/making-forests-pay-participatory-for...

Notes

Lead image: "Gerremew with his top bar beehives in Bonga Forest, Ethiopia," Farm Africa, https://goo.gl/ca4SF1