Dry forests today are managed following the standards of scientific forestry imported in the tropics in the XIXth century by the colonial empires. The model proved efficient to control deforestation and regulate production but its evolution even after decolonization increased the segmentation between forests and agriculture and the lack of consideration for local knowledge by the forest administration. The process of decentralization of forest management that disseminated in the 1990s aimed at bringing back local communities within the formal management of forests. However the results of this process, often restricted to a simple transfer of tools and techniques, have fallen below expectations. If discourses shifted towards a better recognition of local needs, knowledge and constraints, the day-to-day implementation of participatory forest management in the dry lands remains fraught with administrative inefficiencies and a mistrust of local communities. Sustainable management of dry forests is yet to be invented.