Social and Ecological Outcomes of Community Managed Forests

An assessment of the social and ecological outcomes of communally managed forests through comparative analysis of existing qualitative and quantitative research publications structured around the key indicators identified by the IFRI network.

Lead reviewers: Aaron J.M. Russell, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and Arun Agrawal, International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) network
Collaborating institutions: University of Michigan, RECOFTC (The Center for People and Forests)

Systematic review protocol: CIFOR Working Paper 172
Side publication: Conservation Biology 2016, 30:6

International conservation and development practitioners have promoted communally managed forests (alternately called joint-, community-based-, collaborative-, and participatory forest management) as an alternative to centralized forest management for greater sustainability of forests, improved and more equitable livelihood outcomes for stakeholders, and less adversarial relationships between stakeholders and government agencies. A substantial body of research has sought to identify the extent to which these outcomes have been achieved. Particularly important in this set of writings are contributions from the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) network, established in 1992 by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom and currently coordinated by Professor Arun Agrawal at the University of Michigan.

The IFRI network has carried out rigorous research to assist policy makers and forest users in designing and implementing improved evidence-based forest policies. Today, the IFRI network comprises a partnership of 14 institutions that have carried out research on communally managed forests in 15 countries, and have consistent data from 250 research sites in Latin America, Africa, Asia and North America. At each site, a common set of data collection protocols has been used to measure, monitor and analyze community-based forestry institutions, forest user livelihoods, biodiversity and forest carbon, and associated covariates.

On the basis of this research, the current challenge is to assess the effectiveness of communally managed forests in achieving its goals, and the extent to which common research protocols can demonstrate the impacts of community forest governance across ecological, policy, and socio-demographic contexts. We propose to answer these questions through a systematic review of all publications produced by the IFRI network over the last 20 years, and by comparing the findings of IFRI network publications against those by other scholars of communally managed forests as they concern the drivers of livelihoods, carbon and vegetation diversity in community forests.

Funding Partners