Increasing Community Rights to Forests: a Solution to Forest Degradation?


Policymakers and international donors have long believed that putting control of forest resources in the hands of communities could incentivize sustainable forest practices, reverse forest degradation,and improve forest condition. Over the past two decades, a growing body of research has pointed to these linkages, and in an effort to incentivize communities to conserve and regenerate forest resources, payment-for-performance schemes, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), have been designed at the international and national levels. These programs are built on the premise that sustainable forest management will occur if local communities obtain greater rights to land and forest resources. New research, however, shows that the evidence of this relationship remains circumstantial and highlights the need for dedicated research to better understand these linkages.

An extensive USAID-funded literature review produced by Michigan State University tested the assumption that devolving rights to communities to manage forests improves forest condition, and found that there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove a direct causal link between community forest rights and improved forest condition. Download the 4-page summary below, or click the link above to go to the full review.