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Forestry Management in Mali: Impacts on Local Communities

Forestry Management in Mali: Impacts on Local Communities

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Published by Debborah Donnelly
This paper will analyze the impacts of Forestry Management in Mali on local communities, by showing the effects of legal and political actions at the State Level, the effectiveness of ‘decentralization’, and the role that women and climate change have played in resource management.
This paper will analyze the impacts of Forestry Management in Mali on local communities, by showing the effects of legal and political actions at the State Level, the effectiveness of ‘decentralization’, and the role that women and climate change have played in resource management.

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Published by: Debborah Donnelly on Apr 22, 2013
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09/26/2013

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Forestry Management in Mali: Impacts onLocal Communities
Debborah Donnelly4/19/2013
 
Donnelly
1
Forestry Management in Mali: Impacts on Local Communities
This paper will analyze the impacts of Forestry Management in Mali on local communities, byshowing the effects of legal and political actions at the State Level, the effectiveness of‘decentralization’, and the role that women and climate change have played in resourcemanagement.
 _____ 
Local Politics
The Mali that currently exists rose out of colonial intentions that greatly impacted the traditionalway of life and of governance in West Africa. In an attempt to utilize village chiefs in managinglocal affairs, the French managed to ignore many of the traditions and experience of the people,and in fact largely hampered real local participation in the process.
1
Throughout the colonialperiod up to present day, village chiefs have been integrated into the State, but they do so as anadministrative extension; and while that may appear to be inclusive, the electoral process issuch that representatives are, “integrated into projects and decision-making powers asadvisors…rather than as empowered decision makers.” (Ribot, 1999:25)Participatory development and natural resource management projects generally rely on either‘village chiefs’ or ‘Rural Councils’ to represent the local population,
2
but because the chiefs donot necessarily reflect the wishes of the local population and are often placed in position by andaccountable directly to the State
3
and not to their community – does not necessarily mean thatincluding them assures local participation.Rural Councils are the smallest units of rural government, and are elected to, “
advise 
and
assist 
 the
Sous 
-
préfet 
on political and administrative matters...they are simply not autonomousdecision making bodies.” (Ribot, 1999: 35)It is in light of this ‘local’ government that the interpretation of ‘decentralized’ resourcemanagement in Mali should be viewed.
‘Decentralized’ Forest Management
In 1994 Mali’s new forestry laws
5
became decentralized, and assigned responsibility for forestmanagement to ‘Local’ Government – called Decentralized Territorial Collectives, which gavethem a forested domain within their territory, and the right to protect or conserve “part or all” ofthis land.
6
Under these laws, anyone wishing to commercially utilize a portion of the domain for
1
“Under French colonial rule, Africans, such as cooks, translators, soldiers etc., could be made into chiefs, even if they were not from the region in which they were appointed.” (Ribot, 1999: 31)
2
Ribot, 1999: 29
3
“In Mali, under the new laws of decentralization, village chiefs are selected by a village council elected byuniversal suffrage in each village, but from a list of candidates selected by the appointed state administrator at thelevel of the cercle.” (Ribot, 1999: 32)
4
The Sous-préfet is a central government administrator, appointed by the Minster of the Interior.
5
Law No. 95-004 of December 1994 sets out the general conditions for conservation, protection, valorization of forestry resources in the national forestry domain, and defines protected zones. The law requires that bushclearance in erosion-susceptible areas, along watercourses and around water points follow resource conservationmeasures. (
Mali Biodiversity 
, 2008: 17)
6
Ribot, 1999: 39
 
Donnelly
2
wood fuel must establish a
Structure Rurale de Gestion de Bois 
(Wood Management Structure),and propose a forestry management plan for approval by Local Government. As part of the plan,a quota must be established by agreement of both a representative from Local Government anda member of the (National) Forest Service. This is followed by payment of a forest exploitationtax prior to a cutting permit being issued.By including a member of the Local Government in the decision-making process this gives anopportunity for local interests to be considered, which in essence is a positive change. Theprevious process had the Forest Service making unilateral decisions on the issuing of permits to“whom, where and when it chose”.
7
 Ostensibly the Forest Service maintains control of the exploitation of forests through specifiedcutting privileges. In part this has been retained because the State assumes, “that exploitationcannot be entrusted to local population” and that, “the Sahelian ecology is fragile.” (Ribot, 1999:41)Ribot delves into a discussion on benefits from these management plans, and rightly notes thatopportunities for labour are often not realized locally, as these top-down government politiciansand forestry merchants, can and often do elect to bring in migrant or urban workers from outsidethe woodcutting area.
8
This was personally witnessed by me in northern Mali where workersfrom Bamako were trucked in to work in the north, where labour could easily have been obtainedby the local populace.Another potential benefit for the rural community is from profits gained in wood-fuel marketsthrough “access to transportation and urban trade.” While ‘potential’ remains the operative word,as Ribot (1999: 41) denotes that again the Forest Service has maintained tight control overtransport permits which effectively prevents local participation in urban markets.
9
 So while it has given the appearance of inclusion of local authority in forestry management, theprocess by which local government has been designated and continues to be controlled by theState hinders the real ‘participation’ of the local population to a great degree.“‘Participatory’ and ‘community based’ forestry efforts of the last decade have notbeen able to dismantle a long tradition of forest management which separates rightsand users into two distinct categories – commercial and subsistence. Under thisseparation, forest services and the elite typically gain the rights to harvest, transportand market commercially valuable forest products. Poor rural dwellers at best canaccess forest products with little or no commercial value under a system of usufructrights.” (Ribot, 2001: 5)It is apparent that the set-up of local government does not necessarily translate into localparticipation. “The
laws 
ostensibly designed to devolve power to local authorities and to ensurelocal community participation, may not do so.” (Ribot, 1999: 36)
7
Ribot, 1999: 40 Note, however that the Forest Service has, “maintained control over how much wood can be cut(via quotas and management plans).”
8
Ribot, 1999: 40
9
“The Forest Service also requires a tax to be paid before transport permits are given, which makes it difficult forsmall producers to transport wood, since they cannot afford to pay taxes in advance of selling their product.”(Ribot, 2001: 11)

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