Thinking beyond the canopy
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Public policies and management of rural forests

Lasting alliance or fool's dialogue?


Most people in forest and rural areas manage trees as part of their livelihood systems. The resulting “domestic” or “rural” forests are distinct from conventional forest. They have historically been overlooked by the forestry sector and impacted by forest policies and regulatory frameworks. These forests presently encounter requalification and valuation dynamics, fueled by a sustainable development ideology, and induced by both public powers and local communities. These dynamics move in two different directions: the naturalization of rural forests by policy makers, and their politization by rural people. We draw on long-term research experiences in France, Morocco, Southeast Asia, and Africa on forests managed by “farmers”, among which some are analyzed in the Ecology and Society Feature, Public policies and management of rural forests: lasting alliance or fool’s dialogue?. We first elaborate on domestication, analyzed at tree, ecosystems and landscape levels, as a concept allowing for a better understanding of the specific relationships developed between rural people and forests. We then engage in a critical review of how forest-related and sustainable development policies consider rural forests, and discuss how they address (or do not address) their specificity and encourage (or do not encourage) their development.


  forest management, ecology, policy, ecosystem management

Journal Title:

  Ecology and Society







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