A global analysis of the social and environmental outcomes of community forests

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Community forest management (CFM) has been promoted for decades as a way to merge environmental conservation with economic development and natural resource rights agendas. Yet many of these initiatives have also led to substantial socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs. We present a comprehensive global analysis of environmental, income and natural resource rights outcomes of CFM, using data from 643 cases in 51 countries. We find that while the majority of cases reported positive environmental and income-related outcomes, forest access and resource rights were often negatively affected by policies to formalize CFM, countering one of CFM’s principal goals. Positive outcomes across all three dimensions were rare. We show that biophysical conditions, de facto tenure rights, national context, user-group characteristics and intervention types are key predictors of joint positive outcomes. These findings highlight key conducive conditions for CFM interventions, which can inform CFM design to ensure positive outcomes across multiple sustainability dimensions.

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