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Forests and Govern ance Programme

The role of informal institutions
in the use of forest resources
in Latin America
Pablo Pacheco
Deborah Barry
Peter Cronkleton
Anne M. Larson

CIFOR
Forests and Gover nance Programme No. 15/2008

The role of informal institutions
in the use of forest resources
in Latin America

Pablo Pacheco
Deborah Barry
Peter Cronkleton
Anne M. Larson
ISBN: 978-979-1412-79-7
viii + 78p.

2008 by CIFOR
All rights reserved. Published in 2008

Cover photo by Peter Cronkleton.
A sawyer team working in Salvatierra’s forest in Guarayos. Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Printed by Harapan Prima, Jakarta

Published by Center for International Forestry Research
P.O. Box 0113 BOCBD, Bogor 16000, Indonesia
Jl. CIFOR, Situ Gede, Bogor Barat 16115, Indonesia
Tel.: + 62 (251) 8622622; Fax: + 62 (251) 8622100
Email: cifor@cgiar.org
Web site: http://www.cifor.cgiar.org
Co n ten ts

Abbreviations and Acronyms v
Acknowledgments vi
Abstract vii
1. Introduction 1
2. The conceptual foundations: forests and informal institutions 5
The debate on formal and informal institutions 5
The ‘rules of the game’ for defining land tenure rights 7
The rules governing forest resource management 8
Formal and informal aspects of forest markets 10
3. Introducing the case studies: a diversity of situations 15
Indigenous territories in the RAAN, Nicaragua 16
The indigenous territory of Guarayos in lowland Bolivia 19
The agro-extractive communities in Pando, Bolivia 20
Porto de Moz in the Brazilian Amazon 21
The northern Petén region in Guatemala 22
4. The ‘rules of the game’ for formalizing property rights 25
Land rights recognition under disparate tenure models 25
RAAN: formal rules resting on previously informal institutions 28
Guarayos: formal and informal rules eroding local governance 31
Porto de Moz: imposing conservation-inspired formal rules 33
Pando: drawing on informal rules for formalizing rights 34
Petén: formal law reshaping existing informal land rights 37
5. Forest use and imposed management models 39
Formal ‘rules of the game’ for forest resource use 40
Working rules shaping forest management in practice 44
Problems arising from the interaction of formal and informal rules 49
6. Avoiding the rules for engaging in forest markets 53
Factors driving smallholder engagement in informal markets 54
Main interactions of actors in informal markets 57
Economic gains derived by smallholders from their forests 63
7. Conclusions: putting the pieces together 67
References 73
iii
Tabl es

Table 1. Main features of the five case studies in four selected countries 17
Table 2. Formal and informal rules for defining property rights according to
different land tenure modalities 27
Table 3. Formal and informal rules for forest management according to different
land tenure models 41
Table 4. Main costs related to the formalization of community forestry operations 56
Table 5. Comparison of selected community forestry initiatives 64

Fi gures

Figure 1. Map of the study sites in Bolivia and Brazil 16
Figure 2. Map of the study sites in Guatemala and Nicaragua 18

iv
A bbrev ia t io n s a n d Ac r o n y ms

ASL Asociación Social del Lugar (Local Forest user Association)
CDS Comitê de Desenvolvimento Sustentável de Porto de Moz (Sustainable Development
Committee)
CAIC Cooperativa Integral Agroforestal Campesino (Smallholders Cooperative of Agro-
forestry)
CI Conservation International
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
COINACAPA Cooperativa Integral Agroextractivista Campesinos de Pando (Agroextractive Cooperative
of Smallholders in Pando)
COCODE Comite Comunitario de Desarrollo (Local Development Committee)
COPNAG Central de Organizaciones de Pueblos Nativos Guarayos (Union of Guarayo Native
Peoples)
FMP Forest Management Plan
FORESCOM Empresa Comunitaria de Servicios del Bosque (Community Enterprise for Forest
Services)
FSC Forest Stewardship Council
IBAMA Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian
Institute for Environment and Natural Resources)
ICMBio Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (Chico Mendes Institute for
Biodiversity Conservation)
INCRA Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (National Institute for
Colonization and Agrarian Reform)
INRA Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (National Agrarian Reform Institute)
MBR Mayan Biosphere Reserve
NGO Non-governmental organization
NTFP Non-timber forest product
POA Plan Operativo Anual (Annual Operational Plan)
RAAN Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (North Atlantic Autonomous Region)
RESEX Reserva Extractivista (Extractive Reserve)
RIL Reduced Impact Logging
SNUC Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação da Natureza (National System of
Conservation Units)
TCO Tierra Comunitaria de Origen (Community Land of Origin)
TNC The Nature Conservancy
USAID US Agency for International Development
WWF World Wildlife Fund (also known as Worldwide Fund for Nature)

v
A c knowl edgmen ts

T
his study would not have been Jadder Mendoza Lewis, Ceferino Wilson
possible without the support White, Adonis Arguello, Arellys Barbeyto,
and quality fieldwork of our Taymond Robins Lino, Onor Coleman
partner organizations and numerous Hendy, Constantino Romel, Marcos
researchers who participated in various Williamson and Armando Arguello Salinas
phases of the research. Their experience (Nicaragua); Iliana Monterroso, Silvel Elías,
and insights provided otherwise impossible Juan Mendoza, Carlos Crasborn, Margarita
opportunities to understand the intricacies Hurtado Paz y Paz, Rocío García, Aracely
of forest communities and the questions
Arevalo and Blanca González (Guatemala);
this study asked. Our partners include the
Marco Antonio Albornoz, Marco Toro
Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de
Martinez and Roberto Ibarguen (Bolivia);
la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua (URACCAN)
and Westphalen Nunes, Patrícia Mourão,
and Masangni (Nicaragua), Asociación
Rubem Lobo, Guilhermina Cayres, Ione
de Comunidades Forestales de Petén
(ACOFOP), Facultad Latinoamericana Vieira, Ketiane Alves, Carla Rocha, José
de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) and Antônio Herrera and Tarcísio Feitosa
Facultad de Agronomía/Universidad (Brazil). We also want to thank Diji
San Carlos (FAUSAC) (Guatemala), Chandrasekharan and to two anonymous
Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo reviewers for their valuable comments to a
Laboral y Agrario (CEDLA) (Bolivia) previous version of this paper. Finally, we
and Assessoria Comunitaria e Ambiental are grateful for the support of PROFOR/
(ARCA) and Laboratório Agroecológico da World Bank, the Ford Foundation and the
Transamazônica (LAET) of the Universidade International Development Research Centre
Federal do Pará (Brazil). Researchers for the (IDRC) for the financial support that made
community and regional studies included this research possible.

vi
Ab stract

T
his study adopts an institutional communities control, allocate, legitimize
approach to analyze the way in and enforce land and forest tenure rights,
which informal rules, in their (2) local systems for forest resource use and
interaction with formal rules, shape the management under the imposition of formal
use of forest resources by diverse types regulations and models, and (3) smallholder
of smallholders and communities (i.e., interaction with markets influenced by the
indigenous people, agro-extractive and constraints and opportunities produced
traditional communities) in Latin America. by formal regulations. The principal
Attention is given to understanding the
findings suggest that in spite of the fact
‘working rules’, comprising both formal
that many governments have introduced
and informal rules, that individuals use in
progressive policies intended to benefit
making their decisions for land and forest
rural populations and their forest use, it
resources access and use, which in turn
is questionable the extent to which such
affect benefits generation and distribution
from such resources use. The dichotomy policies have actually brought about any real
between formal and informal institutions change to benefit communities. Exploring
take on relative importance, it is their the role of informal institutions, as they
interaction that matters in assessing human interact with formal law, is important to
behavior. Three areas of behavior that explain these outcomes in practice. This
affect forest resource use by smallholders study draws on five case studies that provide
and communities are examined: (1) the evidence supporting this argument. Field
interface of formal rules, often contained research was carried out from 2006 to 2007
in written laws, and practiced ‘rules of the in four different countries: Bolivia, Brazil,
game’ that guide how smallholders and Guatemala and Nicaragua.

vii
1 Introduction

O
ver recent decades, important ones – in affecting behavior of social actors
legislative and policy shifts have for accessing and using forest resources, and
taken place in Latin America that in shaping the forms of market engagement
affect land and forest use and ownership. that influence on income generation and
These changes have focused on formalizing benefits distribution. Understanding
tenure rights over forestlands, including working rules is crucial for assessing policies
those of communities, and imposing new intended to improve local people’s forest
rules of the game in favor of sustainable livelihoods, the strategies that local forest
forest management. At the same time, users adopt to use and benefit from their
community forest enterprises have been forest resources, as well as the constraints
actively promoted as the best pathway and opportunities emerging from market
to enhance the livelihoods of the forest engagement.
dependent rural poor while simultaneously
encouraging forest conservation. One The formal and informal rules interact in
important underlying motivation behind disparate ways each other. In some cases,
land and forest policy reform was to with regard to land tenure and forest
minimize informal practices for land access regulation, legal reforms have incorporated
and forest use and reduce incentives for informal rules developed by community
illegal behavior. Although the land and groups for organizing land access and use.
forest policy reforms have brought change, On the one hand, this may mean adopting
many of the anticipated outcomes related them or recognizing them, with or without
to sustainable forest management and specifically codifying them into law; on the
increased benefits to smallholders have still other, it may mean producing a new set of
not materialized. formal rules by blending or combining them
with existing formal regulations. In other
This paper draws on institutional analysis to cases, formal laws work against existing
examine the role played by ‘working rules’ informal rules and impose new ones, crafted
–which include both formal and informal externally, likely generating a new set of
1
informal institutions to get around them. do formal regulations influence informal
For example, rules designed to formalize market relationships of smallholders and
and regulate the commercial forest sector communities? To address these questions,
may unintentionally exclude community five regions in four Latin America countries
forestry operations and actually promote are examined, namely: the North Atlantic
the development of informal markets and Autonomous Region (RAAN) in Nicaragua;
networks. The results often inhibit the Bolivia’s Guarayos province in Santa Cruz,
growth of community enterprises and and the department of Pando in Bolivia;
reinforce existing market asymmetries that the Porto de Moz municipality in the
limit the benefits for these groups. amazonian state of Pará, Brazil; and the
Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala’s
This paper suggests that the current land and northern Petén. These sites have been
forest reforms implemented in several Latin selected taking into account the existence
American countries have not fully achieved of formal processes towards land tenure
their expected outcomes because they have regularization and titling implemented
inadequately acknowledged the complex by the states, along with states’ efforts
local realities in which socially constructed to enforcing new rules of the game for
working rules shape behavior related to the achieving sustainable forest management,
access and use of land and forest resources. in local contexts in which an important
Informal rules comprise customary practice number of local people depend significantly
and other local norms that are not codified on forestry-based activities for making a
in formal laws, often operating at the living.
margin or beyond frameworks defined by
the state; they include but are not limited This report examines the relationship
to illegal practices. Formal rules tend to between formal and informal institutions
favor the powerful and politically connected in three key domains that affect the use
forest actors with greater assets and far of forest resource by smallholders and
greater bargaining power in the market. communities. The first domain relates to
The demand for compliance with these statutory law and the formal rules that
regulations often introduces or reinforces emanate from it, as they contribute to the
market bias and works against those with practiced ‘rules of the game’ guiding how
limited resources and greater difficulty smallholders and communities control,
meeting formal requirements, and may even allocate, legitimize and enforce land and
reinforce informal markets. forest tenure rights. The second concerns
local systems for forest resource use and
This study examined the following the ways in which the imposition of
questions: (1) How do informal and formal formal regulations, models and practices
institutions influence land and forest tenure shape local forest uses. The third refers to
rights of smallholder and communities? the way in which smallholders interact
(2) How do existing informal systems for with markets, how the nature of their
forest resource use and management respond engagement is influenced by the constraints
to the imposition of formal regulations and opportunities produced by formal
2 and management models? and (3) How regulations, and how market conditions
affect decision making and benefits. or courts) but also concentrate greater
With regard to the formalization of land economic benefits outside the communities.
rights, the principal lesson of this study
is that outcomes depend less on the This report is organized in seven sections
content of the formal rules – which often including this introduction. The following
recognize customary rules and collective section provides a conceptual framework
ownership – and more on the modes of for institutional analysis, focusing on the
implementation. Implementation to a large definition of institutions and the working
extent leads to the emergence of new sets rules that shape people’s behavior regarding
of informal rules to evade the new formal land and forest resources access and use,
ones, particularly regarding the allocation and their implications for the generation
of community lands. With regard to and appropriation of benefits. The third
sustainable forest management, the study section introduces the main characteristics
finds that the imposition of homogeneous of the selected five case studies. The
legal frameworks by the state does not take fourth section analyses how working
into account the diversity of local realities rules (formal and informal) influence on
and often neglects the existing working the definition and formalization of land
rules for forest resources use adopted by and forest tenure rights. The fifth section
smallholders and communities. This has examines the implications resulting from
resulted in contradictory outcomes in the imposition of models for sustainable
practice: some communities have profited forest management, coupled with new ways
from the new formal rules but most have for organizing timber production. The sixth
not, instead opting for much simpler section considers how the interplay between
informal, and sometimes illegal, practices formal and informal institutions shapes
to make a benefit. Thus, extensive informal the conditions under which smallholders
market networks offer an alternative but engage with the market place. The final
are problematic because, by definition, they section presents the main conclusions and
provide no legal protection (i.e. contracts recommendations.

3
4
2 The conceptual foundations:
forests and informal institutions

The debate on formal and
informal institutions Institutions work at different hierarchical
A vigorous theoretical debate revolves levels. There are three types of rules that
directly or indirectly affect people’s behavior:
around the role and nature of formal and
operational rules, collective decision-
informal institutions. According to Ostrom
making rules and constitutional rules
(1990), institutions refer to a shared
(Ostrom et al. 1997). Each of these rules,
understanding that is used by humans in
in turn, affects different types of decisions.
repetitive situations and organized by norms
Operational rules are those that directly
and rules. In this notion, rules constitute
affect individual behavior and perceptions
shared prescriptions that are mutually
of resulting actions. According to Thomson
understood and predictably enforced in
and Freudenberger (1997), these might
particular situations by agents responsible
be considered ‘surface level’ since they
for monitoring and imposing sanctions,
are closest to the behaviors affecting the
and norms refer to shared prescriptions
resource base. At an intermediate level are
that tend to be enforced by participants
collective decision-making rules, which
themselves through internally and externally
determine how rules are defined, and
imposed costs and inducements (Ostrom
influence emerging regulations used at the
1999a). In other words, norms refer to
operational level. Finally, constitutional
the moral behavior of a society, whereas rules determine who can participate in the
rules are sets of regulations which, to be political system, what powers and authority
effective, require enforceable sanctions they exercise, and how collective decision-
(Crawford and Ostrom 1999). Institutions, making rules are created (Ostrom et al.
then, encompass moral norms, rules and 2001; Ostrom 1999a).
regulations, used both across and within
organizations, and the organizations This study will prioritize the analysis of
themselves (Ostrom et al. 2001). operational rules since they directly affect
5
the working rules that influence behavior enforced by an external authority on the
related to land and forest resources use. The formal side, and customary or community
working rules (or rules-in-use), following rules that are self-enforced or endogenously
Ostrom (1999a), are those that individuals enforced on the informal side (Eriksson
use in making decisions or “the set of rules 2004; Cousins 1997). However, the main
which participants would make reference to problem of equating formal institutions with
if asked to explain and justify their actions” the state is that they can exist both within
(p. 51). Thomson and Freudenberger (1997) and outside of formal government, and even
suggest that for a rule to be considered as within customary systems. Helmke and
such, it must actually affect the way people Levitsky (2004) define informal institutions
behave toward their resource. These authors as socially shared rules, usually unwritten,
suggest that working rules have different that are “… created, communicated and
sources ranging from informal agreements enforced outside of officially sanctioned
(written or not) on traditional practice channels” (p. 725). Drawing upon these two
by communities to written rules created definitions, for this report informal rules
by governments. In this vein, the roots are understood as those that fall outside
of working rules can be either formal or the scope of the formal legal frameworks
informal – grounded in customs or defined at any scale of decision making, and that
by externally imposed formal laws. In are crafted outside of officially sanctioned
practice they are likely to be a combination. channels. Informal rules tend not to be
codified or written.
As a concept, the informal has often had
a negative connotation. Some scholars In this regard, customary rules are not
have equated informal with chaos or always synonymous with informal rules,
disorganization (Perry et al. 2007), and as they are sometimes sanctioned, or
the term is commonly associated with recognized, by the state. For example,
illicit behaviors, such as corruption and the state may recognize the outer border
clientelism (Helmke and Levitsky 2004). of customary property and agree not to
However, a more textured and complex intrude into areas governed by customary
understanding has also emerged. Informal law (Fitzpatrick 2005), or it may attempt
institutions have been analyzed from several to codify customary practices into formal
points of view; for example, some refer to law. In cases where specific customary
customary property rights or pre-existing institutions have not been formally
rules for community forest management that recognized, they remain in the informal
have not been codified in law (Otsuka and arena. In fact, as informal rules develop
Place 2002), while others refer to activities and evolve it is virtually impossible to
developed outside of formal law as ‘informal adjust formal frameworks to encompass the
sectors’ or ‘informal economies’ (Guha- wide variety of rules and local variations,
Khasnobis et al. 2006). It is challenging or translate them into formal laws. Nor is
to assess informal institutions given these this desirable, as Sierra (1997) argues with
multiple concepts and frameworks. regard to the codification of customary
practices: customs have survived precisely
6 Some scholars separate formal and informal through change and adaptation in response
institutions by placing state regulations to social realities and particularly in relation
to the dominant society. Although the state guide how smallholders and communities
frequently aspires to measure, codify and control, allocate, legitimize and enforce
simplify land tenure in a workable fashion, land tenure rights. The second is related
attempts to capture the ‘cacophony of local to the development of local (mostly
property regimes would be a nightmare’ informal) systems for forest resource use
(Scott 1998). Hence informal institutions and management under or in reaction to
persist and will continue to evolve over time. the imposition of formal regulations and
models. The third refers to smallholder
Informal institutions are part of a broader interaction with markets (formal and
institutional architecture that complements informal) influenced by the constraints
and resists formal rules. Thus, ‘informal’ and opportunities produced by formal
is not synonymous with unstructured or regulations, as well as by market conditions
chaotic, since communities are capable of that affect decision making, and acquisition
producing self-organizing structures within and distribution of benefits.
or outside the reach of official frameworks
(Cousins 1997; Cousins and Hornby 2000).
The ‘rules of the game’ for
On the contrary, the informal sector can
defining land tenure rights
be in occasions very well organized, and
Property is recognized as a ‘bundle of rights’.
it is not exceptional for groups making For common property, tenure rights are
decisions following informal rules to be usually expressed along a continuum ranging
more organized than formal ones (Guha- from limited to more complete rights,
Khasnobis et al. 2006). such as rights for access to withdrawal or
use, management, exclusion and alienation
As suggested by the previous discussion, it (Agrawal and Ostrom 2001). These concepts
may be difficult to differentiate the formal are not explained further here since their
from the informal in the working rules use is now common in the institutions and
used by individuals, groups and societies to property rights literature (see also Ostrom
define access to and management of forest and Schlager 1996; Schlager and Ostrom
products, to influence transactions for 1992). Barry and Meinzen-Dick (2008)
positioning forest products in the market simplify the continuum of property rights
place, and to capture the benefits derived by dividing it into two types: use rights (i.e.,
from forest use. Thus, the concept of access and withdrawal) and decision-making
working rules is used in this report to refer rights (i.e., management, exclusion and
to the mix of both formal and informal rules alienation).
that influences local decision making in
practice. The challenge here is to disentangle Property rights to land and forest resources
the effects of the two and analyze the results respond to relatively complex case-specific
of their interplay. governance structures and rules that allocate
rights, and more importantly legitimize
The next sections discuss the three arenas those rights in practice. Because property
of behavior that affect forest resource use is composed of a ‘bundle’, different
by smallholders and communities, which institutional systems coexist to define and
have been mentioned in the introduction. enforce these rights. The distinction between 7
The first refers to the ‘rules of the game’ that formal and informal institutions regarding
property rights is relatively straightforward an important source of security because it
(Otsuka and Place 2002). While formal makes property claims enforceable (Sikor
rights are defined by formal procedures of and Lund nd). In many cases, formal
recognition, registration and titling, either legal systems only work for those who can
individually or collectively, informal rights maneuver or manipulate them, and thus
are mainly linked to local practices of rights take advantage of such formal laws (Nygren
allocation, which are often neglected in the 2004).
laws (Cousins and Hornby 2000).
The legal recognition of customary land
The authority that underlies the bundle of rights is not a simple process. Fitzpatrick
rights that define property can have multiple (2006) argues that the nature and degree
origins, including state law, customary of state legal intervention in a customary
law, religious law and informal local rules land system should be determined by
that provide a basis for claiming rights addressing the nature and causes of any
(Meinzen-Dick and Pradhan 2002). This tenure insecurity in specific contexts. A key
condition has also been called a polycentric problem is that the process of formalization
legal system (Lund 1998) and suggests that can cause a breakdown of property rights
property relations do not evolve in a linear systems into open- or contested-access
fashion from the informal to the formal in a areas due to the superimposition of and
sort of legal centralism but rather that both conflict between state-based, or formal,
can coexist in a given historical and spatial property systems and norm-based, or
context (Manji 2006). Scott (1998) suggests customary, regimes. Tensions can increase
that property rights are modified over time if the state recognizes one side in a dispute
according to changes in the mandates and over local representational authority. The
interests of the state, and on the strength of superposition of models can also result
local communities to enact their local rules in ‘forum shopping’, whereby different
over formal regulations. claimants appeal to their framework of
choice to justify property rights claims
Formal mechanisms, such as land titling, (Ftizpatrick 2006, Larson and Soto 2008).
can be important for guaranteeing Sometimes this results in a breakdown in the
property rights. Here, property refers to local system of authority, but without state
an enforceable claim (McPherson 1978), capacity to ‘fill’ the void.
but while a property title is supposed to
guarantee security this is not always the case The rules governing forest
in practice. Bromley (2005) argues that land resource management
titles can increase insecurity for the poorest The current trend in forest areas is for states
sectors and that titles are meaningless to devolve greater control or decision-
without the full backing of the state that making rights over natural resources to
issued them. Broegaard (2005) suggests that local people and communities, including
perceived tenure security is more important management and exclusion (Ribot 2001a;
than the possession of a title in determining Sunderlin et al. 2008), Nonetheless, the
farmers’ investment behavior. Legitimacy is rights transferred to smallholders and
8
communities tend to be heavily regulated accomplished in at least two ways. First,
by formal norms, especially in relation some argue that because self-interested
to forest resources. The main assumption individuals will not act to achieve group
underpinning such regulations is that forests interests, coercion by external authorities,
constitute a public good whose maintenance based on a stated set of rules, is necessary
must be protected against private actors who to help individuals achieve collective
might over exploit the resource (Agrawal action (Olson 1965). Second, evidence
2005). At the core of this assumption is demonstrates that social groups are capable
the simplified view of the ‘tragedy of the of devising and enforcing rules among
commons’, which argues that resources members to protect their forests, if they
held in common would lead to their have a common interest that encourages
irreversible depletion (Hardin 1968). This collaboration and collective action (Gibson
view still has influence in spite of ample et al. 2000; Nagendra and Gokhale 2008).
evidence demonstrating that this outcome These points suggest at least three options
is only likely in open access situations. For for the state: (1) to establish a regulatory
framework that forces local collective action,
example, in the absence of rules for forest
(2) to accept and reinforce local rules and
use, different stakeholders would attempt
norms where these already exist, or (3) to
to reap the benefits by over harvesting the
seek to impose external regulations. Each of
most valuable timber-tree species, putting
these implies a different type of interaction
at risk their future regeneration. However,
between formal and informal existing rules.
it has been demonstrated that the commons
are often –or can be– governed by effective
Nonetheless, many of the norms devised
local institutions and that the development
by communities for forest resource
and enforcement of rules can make a
use, and the governing mechanisms for
significant difference in the management of
enforcing such norms, are often ignored
forest resources (Gibson et al. 2000; Ostrom by forestry regulations and enforcement
1999b; Dietz et al. 2003). A positive bodies (Pokorny and Johnson 2008). Too
correlation has been found among strong often formal forest regulations, rather than
local institutions, collective activities, and building on existing informal community
good forest management (Varughese 1999; forest management institutions, tend to
Andersson et al. 2006). imposed new rules, practices and models
over the internally devised and sanctioned
The question thus becomes, ‘to what extent rules used by indigenous, agro-extractive,
can imposed external rules obtain the and smallholder communities. This can
expected outcomes?’ or, in contrast, ‘are create internal confusion or competition
forest user groups able to develop their between the ‘new’ and ‘old’ organizational
own rules, through collective-choice, to structures, lead to a breakdown in control,
prevent individual members from over- or to the kind of forum shopping noted
exploiting timber or non-timber resources, above. The impact can eventually fuel open-
or prevent outsiders from doing the same?’ access behavior that puts forests at risk and
The above discussion suggests that the latter reduces forest benefits for local people in the
– the development of local rules – can be long term.
9
The devolution of forest rights to open markets, others fail to do so. Often,
communities has sometimes come hand the imposition of an industrial model and
in hand not only with the opportunity to the rapid time frame for local appropriation
undertake logging activities but also with are at the heart of the failure, revealing the
the pressure to do so under introduced lack of recognition of the ‘starting point’ of
models for commercial forest management. these groups.
In these cases, groups may have to overcome
a variety of obstacles to adapt existing rules There is substantial evidence that the
and governance systems. A fundamental expansion of markets has resulted in
problem is that customary or other existing significant changes in social relations.
local rules are often focused on subsistence Mallon (1983) showed how the growth
uses, particularly in indigenous, traditional, of markets - especially labor markets
and peasant communities. These same rules - may result in an increased focus on
do not automatically translate to contexts individual interests (see also Vatn 2007),
in which market economies prevail and leading to conflicts and the breakdown
pressures to harvest forest resources increase of the collective. Indigenous and agro-
rapidly, without allowing time for local extractive communities are learning how
adaptation. This may also apply to situations to communally manage timber extraction
when extraction of a high value product with hierarchical organizations and
like timber is permitted where communities entrepreneurial models introduced from
previously traded only in limited markets outside, often premised on the goal of profit
for low value, non-timber forest products maximization as the primary objective of
(NTFPs). the economic activity (Pacheco 2007). As
these new organizations are introduced,
Rules for subsistence, and sometimes for community groups face major challenges in
low value NTFPs as well, tend to be tightly designing and implementing mechanisms to
embedded within the social structures and marshal labor, to make decisions collectively,
cultural belief systems of communities. to administer transparently, to distribute
Decision making regarding the allocation benefits and responsibilities equitably, to
of access and use rights is based on local enforce rules, and apply sanctions, not to
knowledge that is acquired over time, mention developing the skills and experience
hence age and gender are important. When to implement silviculture operations and to
a new activity like commercial logging negotiate in the market place.1
is introduced, these social groups face
enormous challenges, particularly when the Formal and informal aspects of
activity, or the organization promoting it, forest markets
requires organized hierarchical structures, For the purpose of this study, informal
often based on technical ‘know-how’ for timber markets constitute all interactions
decision making and control that have not for exchanging goods and services among
existed previously. While some communities different actors in the market place that
are able to adapt to changing situations
emerging from new productive activities, 1 Mexico has been a notable exception to the rule, where com-
munity enterprises and silvicultural practices have been allowed
10 types of organization and engagement in to grow more ‘organically’ (Bray et al. 2005)
take place outside formal state regulations, associated with becoming formalized and
including fiscal, commercial, labor, and the state’s capability and will to enforce
forestry norms. In this definition, illegal restrictions. These two views may be more
acts refer only to those informal activities complementary than exclusive. To the extent
that contravene existing state regulations that regulations impose conditions that are
for the use, transformation or exchange difficult to comply with, they also open the
of goods. For example, in the forestry door for illegal operations. Interestingly,
sector, regulations typically define forest economic actors often adopt a combination
resources that can be harvested, processes of legal and illegal actions.
for acquiring transportation permits,
payment levels and criteria for taxes and States tend to regulate, and in some
fees, requirements for the registration of cases over-regulate, forest resources with
enterprises, and standards for compliance high market value, such as timber, but
with labor norms, among other issues. may pay little attention to lower value
However, in spite of the regulatory breadth resources, such as many NTFPs. The
of most legal frameworks, there are several primary reason for this is that regulation
realms of forest resource management that usually has a number of goals, including
fall outside the formal norms, and hence obtaining profits or tax income and
remain informal, such as operational level promoting efficient resource use to avoid
transactions between stakeholders, certain overharvesting (Dryzek 1997), hence
types of unregistered intermediaries and the emphasis on high value resources. In
service providers, and a variety of terms of general, compliance with best practices is
trade that are devised to make the market monitored by controlling the circulation of
work. timber to differentiate that which originates
from approved management plans from
There are two main views why formal that which does not. Contravening forest
regulations may not reach production and regulations leads to illegal acts.
markets systems that they intend to reach.
The first argues that sectors that are unable There is a growing literature on illegal
to comply with heavy regulatory constraints logging that is mainly focused on explaining
may be excluded from state benefits. This the challenges faced by law enforcement
suggests that burdensome entry regulations regarding forest planning and harvesting,
prohibit some economic actors from monitoring of outcomes, and the
entering the formal sector, leading them application of sanctions (Contreras 2005).
to remain informal as a defensive measure. Although it is increasingly acknowledged
The second suggests that organizations that a significant portion of illegal practices
decide to stay out of the reach of the state occur due to legal shortcomings and
as voluntary exit decisions resulting from implementation failures (Contreras 2005;
private cost-benefit calculations (Perry Tacconi et al. 2003), many suggestions for
et al. 2007). This view argues that some overcoming ‘forest crime’ still stress law
economic actors choose to remain informal enforcement as the main instrument for
based on a valuation of the trade-offs halting illegal practices (see also Larson and
11
Ribot 2007). Such views tend to criminalize of operations that are beyond the means
informal practices, without distinguishing of smallholders, forcing reliance on
between the nature and role of the informal forestry service providers, local loggers, or
institutions along the value chain that are timber companies. For smallholders and
often organized and exploited by formal communities to legally enter the forest
or legal entities. This happens either due product market, they must formalize their
to the inability to detect the differences forestry operations. Only those that create
between informal and illegal forest resource and register their forestry enterprises (under
use (Colchester et al. 2006), or because of existing legal models), formulate a forest
complicit interests. management plan, pay fees and taxes,
are in a position to obtain the approval
Insufficient attention has focused on the of their plans, and harvest their products
functioning of informal forest markets, following the prescribed standards can
which is particularly striking given state legally participate. However, norms, such
efforts to implement forest regulations, and as the restriction of forest pre-processing of
the market distortions and asymmetries logs with chainsaws, require that processing
that such regulations introduce or reinforce. take place in approved mills, and since most
Analysis has emphasized illegal logging, communities lack the capital or capacity to
under the assumption that better forest law manage operations that yard, transport, and
enforcement will be conducive to improved process wood, they are forced to collaborate
sustainable forest management. However, in with existing service providers or depend on
practice, most forest regulations tend to be outsiders for technical and financial support.
biased against communities and other local Forest users unable to perform such tasks
forest users. As Kaimowitz (2003; 2002) are excluded, and enlarge the ranks of the
suggested, formal forestry regulations tend informal economy (Pokorny and Johnson
to create additional costs for smallholders 2008; Pacheco et al. 2008). Nonetheless,
and communities interested in developing as the demand for timber supply increases,
formal forestry operations. Because they they become the source (informal and
cannot afford to comply, they instead illegal) of raw material for the formal
operate informally at the risk of having industrial sector.
their activities criminalized by the state
(see also Colchester et al. 2006). In this Timber markets in Latin America tend to
regard, forestry regulations increase the be distorted and imperfect. The problems
entry barriers for people who lack access to are mainly related to the asymmetric
capital and cannot pay the high transactions distribution of power and information that
costs required by bureaucratic processes for facilitates or even promotes ‘elite capture’. It
the approval of forestry operations (see also is argued that elite capture emerges when the
Larson and Ribot 2007). availability of high value resources is coupled
with powerful actors operating under weak
Another barrier for communities is that institutional control mechanisms, which
forestry regulations sometimes implicitly creates opportunities for them to obtain
presuppose technologies or require levels substantial shares of the benefits generated
12
from local forests (Iversenb et al. 2006). The 2005). These networks operate in the ‘nooks
stakeholders that ‘capture’ these benefits and crannies’ of market imperfections,
(i.e., intermediaries and local loggers) tend causing the distribution of profits to be
to operate in nebulous, semi-invisible highly inequitable and failing to satisfy the
alliances that are actually highly structured aspirations of many actors, such as the rural
and organized shadow networks (High et al. poor.

13
14
3 Introducing the case studies:
a diversity of situations

T
his report focuses on five study Nicaragua, the study focused on indigenous
sites within four Latin American territories in the process of demarcation and
countries, namely: Bolivia and titling in the North Atlantic Autonomous
Brazil in South America, and Nicaragua and Region (RAAN). The Guatemala research
Guatemala in Central America. In recent focused on the northern Petén, where a
decades all four countries have transferred substantial portion of the buffer zone of the
significant forest area to communities under Mayan Biosphere Reserve has been granted
a variety of mechanisms and legal models, to communities as forest concessions. This
benefiting a diverse group of forest users section provides a brief introduction to the
including indigenous people, agro-extractive cases (Figure 2).
communities and smallholder settlements.
In Bolivia, research focused on two regions: The variation among the selected cases
the Guarayos Province in the Santa Cruz is representative of the diverse range of
department, which is largely covered by traditional stakeholders found among local
an indigenous territory for the Guarayos forest users in the region’s forest frontiers,
people; and the northern Pando department including indigenous, agro-extractive
where agro-extractive communities and peasant communities granted rights
predominate. In Brazil, research centered as communal territories, reserves and
on the Amazonian municipality of Porto de concessions. Although these groups depend
Moz in the state of Pará, on the borders of on forest resources in different ways, they all
a large Extractive Reserve (RESEX) that has rely on both timber and non-timber forest
been declared in response to demands by resources for subsistence and commercial
agro-extractive communities (Figure 1). In uses. Commercial logging is making
15
0 500 1,000

Kilometers

Atlantic
Ocean

Pacific Legend
Ocean
Study Site
Country Boundaries
Main Rivers

Figure 1. Map of the study sites in Bolivia and Brazil

an increasingly important contribution Indigenous territories in the
to household incomes in all the regions RAAN, Nicaragua
studied. Recognizing the context in which Nicaragua’s Autonomous Regions were
local forest users develop their livelihoods created by the Autonomy Statute (Law 28)
is fundamental for understanding the in 1987, as part of the peace negotiations
role of informal institutions for forest taking place with dissident groups,
resources management, the impact of the including an important part of the country’s
formalization of community property rights, indigenous population, which supported
and the introduction of legal frameworks the counterrevolutionary forces in the
to promote sustainable forest management 1980s’ war. These two regions, the North
and formal market integration. Table 1 and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions,
summarizes the relevant ecological and known as the RAAN and RAAS, constitute
socio-cultural characteristics of the selected about 45% of the national territory and
regions. 12% of the population; though only

16
Table 1. Main features of the five case studies in four selected countries

Characteristics North Atlantic region Guarayos Porto de Moz Northern Amazon Northern Petén
in Nicaragua in Bolivia in Brazil in Bolivia in Guatemala

Location and extent (in Located in the northeastern Located in northern Santa Located in the eastern Amazon, Located in the Bolivian north over Located in Petén, the Mayan
ha) of study site portion of the country, comprising Cruz consisting of 3 million the region consists of about 1.9 6 million ha, out of which about Biosphere Reserve comprises
3,2 million ha, of which at least ha of which about 1.3 million million ha, 1.2 million ha of that 2 million ha correspond to agro- 2 million ha. The Multiple Use
2 million ha are being titled as correspond to an indigenous total is within an extractive extractive communities Zone is 848,000 ha.
indigenous territories territory reserves

Main vegetation cover About 72% was covered with About 90% of the area is About 15% is seasonal flooded Over 90% of the region’s landcover Home to one of the richest
forest in 2001. Most of these are covered with deciduous forests, forest (varzea), and the rest is consists humid tropical forest, rich and most diverse ecosystems
broad-lead forest, with a small with some valuable timber upland (terra firme) tropical in timber species and non-timber in the world, mostly covered
portion of pine forests species forest forest products by broadleaf forest

Total and rural Approximately 314 thousand Approximately 37 thousand About 23 thousand people, out Approximately 50 thousand Approximately 80 thousand
population people, 72% are rural people, out of which about 15 of which 13 thousand is rural people, with about 30 thousand in the Mayan Biosphere
thousand are indigenous people people in rural areas Reserve

Predominant ethnic The population in the RAAN is The population is ethnically populations with An ethnic Forest dependent rural population About one fifth of total
groups in the predominantly ladino but also mixed but the largest ethnic mixed population known as is ethnically mixed consisting of population is indigenous
population holds the vast majority of the group is composed of Guarayos caboclo due to their livelihoods several lowland indigenous and (the most important is the
country’s indigenous and ethnic indigenous people tied to rivers and the Amazon peasant groups as well as migrants q’qeqchi group)
populations, principally the estuary from Bolivia’s highlands.
Miskito

Model for titling land in Indigenous territories in different Indigenous territory labeled An extractive reserve that is Agro-extractive communities Concessions range from 7 to
favor of communities processes of demarcation and Community Land of Origin part of the national systems of based on an estimate of 500 ha 83 thousand hectares for a
titling (TCO) conservation units (SNUC) per family total of about 450 thousand
ha

Predominant forest use Mainly for subsistence, but also Mainly for subsistence uses, Extensive use of non-timber Mainly harvesting of Brazil Main forest use is commercial
of communities some commercial logging although logging is rapidly forest products (NTFP), but nuts (Bertholettia Excelsa) for logging although there is
expanding logging has expanded over commercial uses, and other NTFPs some xate harvesting
time

Main livelihood Livelihoods are based primarily on Livelihoods are based on Highly diversified livelihoods, High dependence on Brazil Based on subsistence
characteristics of local subsistence agriculture, fishing, subsistence agriculture, off- but population mainly rely on nuts harvesting, combined with agricultural, extraction of
people hunting and some commercial farm employment, and to small-scale agriculture and subsistence agriculture and off- NTFP and timber, and off-
forestry a lesser extent commercial some fishing farm employment farm employment.
forestry

Communities selected Tasba Raya territory and Layasiksa Cururú and Santa María de Sagrado Coração de Jesus and San Jorge and Turi Carretera Carmelita and Arbol Verde
for field research Yotaú São Raimundo

Source: Elaborated by authors based on Albornoz et al. (2008), Mendoza et al. (2008), Monterroso (2008), Nunes et al. (2008), Vieira et al. (2008) , Wilson (2008).

17
0 200 400

Kilometers

Caribbean Sea

Pacific Ocean

Legend
Study Site
Country Boundaries
Main Rivers

Figure 2. Map of the study sites in Guatemala and Nicaragua

8.6% of the population self-identifies as The study focused on indigenous territories
indigenous, the vast majority of these groups that are being demarcated and titled in the
are located in these two regions (INEC RAAN. These communities won the right to
2005). Though these regions had few non- recognition of their historic territories in the
indigenous residents historically, this has 1987 constitution, but until 2003 no law
changed as colonists have moved into this had created the procedures for demarcation
forested frontier region from Pacific and and titling. Only now the process of rights
Central Nicaragua. According to data from recognition is being fully implemented.
2000, 70% (4 million ha) of the country’s At the time of this study, only five titles
forests are located in the RAAN and RAAS had been authorized, on lands that had
(MAGFOR/INAFOR/MARENA 2001). been previously demarcated by an NGO,
Though there are no official statistics, it and only one of those had been registered.
appears that today at least 2 million hectares The process was delayed by problems such
of forest are located on areas claimed as as central government foot dragging, the
indigenous territories. misuse of funds by the titling commission

18
and conflicts among communities, among forestry operations are very new and operate
others, but has been moving forward since in only a few places, including one of the
2007 under a more favorable political study sites, Layasiksa, but both national
climate. The territory model, however, and regional forest administrations are
creates new tensions, because only a few promoting a community forestry strategy
communities have previously held land and and developing new draft legislation in that
resources as a group or created governance regard.
structures at this larger scale. This has led
to conflict, for example, between some
communities and regional government The indigenous territory of
authorities regarding the design and size of Guarayos in lowland Bolivia
the territories. Guarayos, a province in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz
department is a rapidly changing forest
The invasion of indigenous lands by non- frontier that is also home of the Guarayo
indigenous colonists and conflicts among indigenous people. The construction and
neighboring indigenous communities also later paving of a highway opened the region
continue to generate conflicts at the local to outsiders, including timber industries,
or territorial scale (Roper 2003). Conflicts ranching and large-scale agro interests
between communities appear to be related, and smallholder colonists, putting strong
in particular, to natural resource rights, and pressure on the land that has been occupied
often forests specifically (Mendoza et al. and is formally claimed by the Guarayos
2008). Before the recognition of indigenous people. Tenure reform and the promotion
land rights, the state granted concessions
of sustainable forest management that
to logging companies in many community
were intended to stabilize the region and
forests. After these were suspended,
protect indigenous lands did not sufficiently
communities have sold timber in a variety
consider existing indigenous rules for land
of ways, in both formal and informal
access and forest use. As result, the region
markets. This has usually involved the sale
faced growing tensions as indigenous people
of standing trees, though some community
felt the pressure from land claims and
members have also sold timber and sawn
resource extraction by outsiders.
wood in local markets. In 2006, however,
all modes of small-scale extraction were
formally suspended in favor of developing In 1996, the Guarayos indigenous
forest management plans for all logging; at organization (COPNAG) presented a claim
the same time, the logging of certain high- for a type of property called a TCO (literally
value species such as mahogany and cedro Community Land of Origin), which the
real was also prohibited. In September 2007, government approved, determining that
however, hurricane Felix knocked down about 1.4 million hectares should be
about 1 million ha of forest in the RAAN, allocated for the TCO. Land regularization
and new small-scale salvage plans were and titling progressed slowly, however,
being implemented in 2008. Community and a portion of the forests originally

19
claimed by the Guarayos were lost when the The agro-extractive communities
government instead recognized demands in Pando, Bolivia
by timber industries for forest concessions In the northern Bolivian department
(Vallejos 1998). From 2000 to 2004, of Pando, agro-extractive communities
six indigenous communities established have recently gained communal property
forest management plans as a strategy rights over large expanses of tropical forest
to consolidate their hold on forest areas based on customary claims to territory
that were unoccupied and thus viewed as traditionally used for Brazil nut gathering.
available to outsiders; a seventh plan is Modifications to Bolivia’s tenure reform
currently being evaluated by the state forest process have resulted in the titling of nearly
agency.2 Nevertheless, the formalization of two million hectares of forest in favor
property rights remains incomplete3, and of communities. The case is particularly
those lands that have been titled are far noteworthy because the changes attempted
from indigenous settlements. The areas most to mold the process to the customary forest
populated, where the highest concentration livelihoods of the region’s rural population.
of indigenous communities are located, are While land recognition led to substantial
improvement in property rights security,
still waiting for regularization.
it was not without problems. Ultimately a
successful outcome will require adaptation
The main problem faced by the land
by community residents to organize and
regularization process in Guarayos is the
align informal institutions to the new formal
pressure from outsiders attempting to
property titles.
establish landholdings, sometimes fueling
corruption involving third parties, the state
The Pando department has been one of
land agency and indigenous leaders. At the
Bolivia’s more remote forest frontiers. It
same time, the tenure situation for most
has been changing in recent times with the
indigenous people has not changed or has
construction of a road connecting the region
changed only marginally, as few people live
to the rest of the country. Historically,
in the areas that have been granted a title.
NTFPs have been the basis of the region’s
In addition, the Guarayos people currently
economy. Initially, in the late 19th century,
lack a unified institutional structure capable
occupation of the region was driven by
of effectively administering and managing
the rubber boom but later shifted to other
their expansive territory, given the dispersed
NTFPs. Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) have
indigenous settlements, distance to the titled
been one of the principal NTFPs extracted
areas and the nature of this ethnically mixed
from Bolivia’s northern forests since the
and dynamic region.
mid-20th century and more recently have
become the foundation of the regional
2
In total, 211,178 hectares of forest have been placed under
Guarayo community forest management plans with the assis- economy (Stoian 2000). In fact, since 2003
tance of NGOs, which have been assisting communities to de-
velop and implement forest management plans, probably more
Brazil nuts have been one of Bolivia’s more
than in any other region in the Bolivian lowlands. important forest exports. During the first
3
According to information provided by the state land agency
(INRA), by the end of 2003, 970,202 hectares of the area de- five years of this century, Bolivia accounted
manded had been titled, and by late 2006 an additional 17,958
hectares were titled.
for over 50% of world Brazil nut exports –
20
or over 70% if only the processed shelled Porto de Moz in the Brazilian
nuts are considered (FAOSTAT 2007). Amazon
Although Brazil nuts are found in most The Brazilian municipality of Porto de Moz,
of Bolivia’s northern Amazon, most of the in the Amazonian state of Pará, has a long
production comes from the department of history of land struggles. Most of the local
Pando. communities, established during the rubber
boom of the early 20th century, developed
Competition to control forest resources in diversified livelihoods that include
the region has pitted rural communities agriculture, fishing and forest extraction. In
against previous forest estate owners, the 1980s, small- and medium-scale loggers
known as barraqueros.4 These actors and sawmill owners entered the region
formerly dominated the region, holding and established operations, stimulating
huge expanses of forests rich in stands of the advent of commercial logging. In
natural rubber and other forest products the 1990s, large-scale timber companies
that were harvested by a rural work force initiated logging operations in Porto de
held in debt peonage through a system of Moz, often encroaching on community
habilito5, described below. The barraqueros lands and providing minimal benefits for
lost considerable power with the collapse of local people (Nunes et al. 2008; Salgado
rubber prices at the start of the 20th century 1995; Moreira and Hébette 2003). The
and recently have been further weakened as arrival of the timber companies led to
a result of land tenure reforms, mainly the intense conflicts with forest communities,
recognition of land rights to communities. putting in motion a strong movement
However, they have actively defended their to expel the companies from their lands.
traditional forest holdings, pushing hard These efforts culminated in 2004 with
against the claims of communities.6 Rural a presidential decree that created the
communities began to form shortly after the extractive reserve (RESEX) ‘Verde para
collapse of the rubber boom and, depending Sempre’ covering over 1.3 million hectares.
on their proximity to urban centers, Although the reserve secured property rights
difficulty of access and relations with former of residents and allowed the communities to
landlords, have different levels of forest exclude timber companies from their lands,
dependence and organization (Stoian and it also imposed new constraints on forest
Henkemans 2000). Before recent reforms, use, fueling informal practices and markets
both types of stakeholders claimed holdings and affecting the livelihoods of families
based on traditional access rights but established within and near the reserve.
without legal title.
The RESEX changed the patterns of
4
Barracas were formerly ‘rubber estates’; nowadays a unit of for- informal logging in the surrounding areas,
est exploitation located in public forests which were under the
control of a patrón, or barraquero who holds the possession of reconfigured timber markets and shifted
the barraca.
5
Habilito constitutes an informal system for advancing credit
local power structures. This compounded
in the form of cash payments or goods in return for the future the problems of residents that remained
supply of forest products, established since the beginning of the
rubber boom. outside the reserve, because it not only
6 According to Ruiz (2005), in 2000 there were 221 barracas,
whose owners claimed over 3 million hectares of forest, although
triggered informal logging within the
71% of this area was controlled by just 44 barracas. reserve but also increased pressure from 21
loggers on communities outside, which 1990). The latter also provoked an influx
have no formal property rights (Nunes et of poor peasants from other regions.
al. 2008). While the communities located The process resulted in distinct patterns
outside the reserve do not have the same of settlement, with some based on gum
land or resource use constraints, they are not extraction, where family camps were located
exonerated from compliance with existing deep inside the forest, and others linked to
forest regulations. This means that they are logging activities; still others resulted from
not allowed to develop forest management colonization programs that focused on
plans until their property rights have been clearing forests for agriculture and ranching.
formalized. This has further motivated their With the decline in gum prices in the 1980s,
fight for recognition from the government. the activity waned but not the population,
Nevertheless, legalizing land claims is not which continues to grow. Starting in the late
easy because it entails the navigation of 70s, de facto land seizures called ‘agarradas’
cumbersome legal procedures to transfer triggered a new legalization process that
and title state lands for communities attracted landless peasants into the southern
(Carvalheiro 2007). region of the Petén. In the north, the
establishment of the Mayan Biosphere
Reserve (1991-1996) represented a change
The northern Petén region in in the logic of forest use to conservation as
Guatemala a goal, and included the establishment of
The study sites in Guatemala focused on a new, but weak, government conservation
the community forest concessions of the agency and unclear regulations for allocation
Petén. These concessions represent a type of of usufruct rights. In this period, the Petén
rights allocation to communities through underwent significant population growth as
the imposition of a forest management well.
model that initially focused only on
logging. Though this model has been As part of the global effort to recognize
adopted successfully, it was implemented by the importance of forest biodiversity,
disregarding rules that had been previously the Guatemalan government established
developed by local settlers for forest resource the Mayan Biosphere Reserve (MBR)
access and management, particularly to preserve these fragile and threatened
regarding NTFPs. The community ecosystems. Yet government effort towards
concessions were allocated to relatively conservation met with unexpected
diverse groups comprising communities local resistance since long-term resident
settled inside the forest, and others located communities lost their historic settlement
in settlements or towns in the vicinity. and land use rights granted under the
previous regime. The newly formed
In this remote tropical forest lowland, conservation authorities and foreign
the common practice from 1920 to 1960 conservation NGOs were seen as invaders
was the state allocation of large individual who were undermining the very basis of
landholdings, mostly for cattle ranching, their subsistence. In a relatively short period
timber harvesting or gathering chicle gum of time, widespread polarization set in
22 (Manilkara spp.) (Clark 1998; Schwartz between communities and those associated
with the MBR while a distant central allowed for the transfer of use and decision-
government remained anxious to maintain making rights from individuals to legally
peace. Thus, in 1994 the government put recognized collective entities and required
into place a formal community concession compliance with a series of regulations, with
system in the Multiple Use Zone of the rights allocated through a 25-year renewable
MBR. What emerged was a much more contract. Large scale projects led by the
complex system of community concessions international conservation organizations
based on the recognition of de facto supported state efforts to establish the MBR7
settlement rights for some, while conferring and, as the community concessions emerged
to others access, use and management rights and expanded their area and importance,
to forest resources. significant levels of funding were directed
toward creating the infrastructure, building
The entire tenure reform that led to capacity and providing the enabling policy
the establishment of community forest environment for communities to develop
concessions was focused on the exploitation timber enterprises. This has been one of
of timber resources, despite the fact that the most serious attempts in the region to
only a small proportion of local community formalize sustainable forest management
members had previous experience in logging under community land tenure systems,
activities. The community concession model though with limited rights.

7
Specifically, Conservation International (CI), The Nature
Conservancy (TNC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with a
strong backing of USAID.
23
4 The ‘rules of the game’ for
formalizing property rights

Land rights recognition under Indigenous people and other traditional
disparate tenure models forest communities whose tenure rights
The wide variety of local populations living are not formalized run the risk of losing
in forested landscapes, such as indigenous their lands through land encroachment and
people, agro-extractive communities, and difficulties in excluding third parties who
smallholders, have developed a diverse are interested in occupying community
range of rules, practices and organizational lands to satisfy short-term goals (Schmink
strategies for guiding processes such and Wood 1992). As a result, the diverse
as territorial occupation, land use and array of social groups and forest users have
management of forest resources. These begun to demand that governments secure
strategies have evolved in response to factors their property rights claims, usually based
such as population pressures, production on ethnicity, rights-based approaches relying
needs and the availability of technology, on ancestral claims, and/or traditional
and are based on shared perceptions, values occupation, a processes that has been labeled
and interests. However, in formerly isolated ‘community-led land reform’ (Sikor and
regions, with little previous intervention of Müller nd). In addition to such claims,
the state, customary institutions are now governments often face demands from
being challenged as community members other smallholders, some of whom are
face pressures from land speculators, landless, who are seeking access to lands
loggers and ranchers, as result of expanding in these frontier areas. These groups may
road networks, increased land values, and make their living through the extraction of
growing market demands for timber. forest resources, although more often they
25
are involved in agriculture production for illegal, which in turn reinforces asymmetric
subsistence and market production that power relations by privileging certain
entails forest conversion. elite interests outside of communities.
The latter tends to aggravate illegal land
In recent years, governments have begun appropriation, and generate problems by
actively to engage with social movements by enhancing the power of authorities that do
accepting their diverse claims, recognizing not respond to traditional social systems.
and allocating land tenure rights in forested Conversely, the recognition of a traditional
areas (Taylor et al. 2008). Different land authority can reinforce and empower it;
tenure models (i.e., indigenous territories, when such authorities are not democratic
extractive reserves, agro-extractive or accountable, this may also lead to the
settlements, and community concessions), reinforcement of elite interests, corruption,
each encompassing different bundles and the exclusion of some segments of the
of rights, have been created as a way to population (see Ribot 2001b; Larson 2008a;
formalize property rights in favor of local Ribot et al. 2008).
people (Pacheco et al. 2008). As pointed
out previously, these approaches for land At times states also adopt rules-of-law that
regularization do not always effectively take a hands-off approach to the customary
resolve the targeted problems, and in some rights of resident groups. The preexisting
cases have actually exacerbated tenure rights are recognized without major
insecurity. intervention in internal affairs. In other
cases, states do the opposite and attempt
In effect, the formalization of land tenure to intervene more heavily by imposing
rights consists of clarifying those rights by restrictions on the use of certain resources
adopting formal rules that may (or may and establishing rules for internal land
not) contradict the rules that communities allocation and mechanisms for the election
already employ to occupy land and of authorities. In the land tenure models
manage resources (Fitzpatrick 2005). In that governments have adopted and which
some cases, formal rules may effectively are discussed here, there is an implicit
complement informal ones in providing assumption that indigenous groups have
secure tenure and diminishing rent- better developed local institutions for land
seeking behaviors. With indigenous and allocation, use and exclusion than other
traditional people, community rules are traditional communities, which are assumed
likely to be customary rules (mainly non- to have weaker systems of rules. However,
formalized rules-in-use), implying that they this is not necessarily the case for some agro-
have been repeated over time and carried extractive communities that have developed
down through tradition and a customary institutions for forest management.
authority structure. In situations where
formal rules ignore or contradict customary The following section assesses the five cases
rules for land acquisition and possession in greater detail to assess how formal and
by imposing formal regulations biased informal rules related to property rights
against traditional practices, the existing interact in practice, and their resulting
26 practices of communities are rendered outcomes. The cases offer a range of
Table 2. Formal and informal rules for defining property rights according to different land tenure modalities
Type of Indigenous territory Indigenous territory in Extractive reserve Agro-extractive communities Community concessions
rights in the RAAN Guarayos in Porto de Moz in northern Amazon (Bolivia) in northern Petén
(Nicaragua) (Bolivia) (Brazil) (Guatemala)
Formal rules
Origin of the claim Based on ethnicity and ancestral Based on ethnicity and Right-based Right-based Right-based
rights ancestral rights claims claims claims
External boundary State demarcated, based on State demarcated, based on State demarcated the reserve State demarcated, based on an State defined both
demarcation indigenous claim indigenous claim estimate of 500 ha per family location and area
Internal access Individually and collectively defined Individually and collectively State ratified existing distribution Internal demarcation defined by No internal demarcation
demarcation by customary rights defined by customary rights and delimited community land existing practice
Land title Collective for the whole indigenous Collective title held by Collective for the whole reserve Collective for the community No land title
territory COPNAG in name of Guarayos
people
Third party rights Existing third parties rights respected Respected with modification Existing tenure rights inside the Rights recognized on a family No recognized third party
with conditions if certification process verifies reserve respected basis but only up to 50 hectares rights
socal economic function of but not as part of community.
the land
Alienation of Indigenous lands are inalienable, non- Members of the TCO are Usufruct rights conceded to local Prohibition applied to selling or No ownership but
tenure rights transferable and non-mortgageable prohibited to sell land to third settlers who cannot sell land to transferring individual plots concessionary rights that
parties outsiders are alienable and cannot be
transferred
Authority and Communal authorities formally Authorities appointed by TCO A council has to be created to Territorial base organization Beneficiaries have to
governance recognized and registered by the members elected to COPNAG govern the extractive reserve elected by the community constitute a government
systems state body
Informal rules
Access to Defined by household investment in Household plots organized in Individual plots based on factual Customary property rights based Increasingly being claimed
individual lands the agricultural plot agricultural zones at the village possession treated as private on tree tenure (originally rubber due to land markets and
level property trails now for Brazil nut stands) insecurity
Access to collective Members free to withdraw resources Access to collective forest Open access tends to dominate Non-occupied lands treated as Defined by pre-existing
lands for subsistence, for commerce or in the villages’ zones of in collective areas. Subsistence reserves for future occupation, rights to non-timber forest
agriculture with permission influence for subsistence and and commercial use are informal but access right vary depending products
commercial with permission due to lack of working formal on resource
from village authorization process
Third party rights Recognized if accepted by the Recognized if land rights are
collective purchased
Alienation of Outside land sales still occur; Accepted informal Permitted transference of land Control of land sales vary Land sales occurring but not
tenure rights community authorities trying to stop transactions, rental of improvements to local settlers and depending on the community, in study communities
this, even on private individual plots forest lands to outsiders or outsiders usually involved sale of
within the territory agriculture and land sales ‘improvements’ to gain access
among TCO members and rights.
outsiders
Authority and Authorities elected by indigenous Authorities appointed by Local leaders at the community Agrarian syndicates elected by Community authorities
governance group at community and territory members in zones and village level the community exist parallel to concession
systems level, not always recognized by state level councils authority
Source: Elaborated by authors based on Albornoz et al. (2008), Mendoza et al. (2008), Monterroso and Barry (2008), Nunes et al. (2008), Vieira et al. (2008), Wilson (2008).

27
situations in terms of land tenure models management of traditional lands and their
used to formalize land rights, the level natural resources” (Art. 2). It establishes
of development of informal rules and mechanisms for negotiation among
institutions for land possession, and neighboring communities and makes
conditions regarding pressure from third it clear that colonist invasions of lands
parties. The Nicaraguan RAAN case claimed by indigenous communities are
examines the emergence of indigenous illegal, establishing the basic guidelines as to
territorial models influenced by a system of how third parties (usually non-indigenous
regional autonomous government. In the colonists) in indigenous territories should
Bolivian Guarayos case we describe a large be dealt with. Under these guidelines,
indigenous TCO property superimposed on colonists with legitimate titles issued prior
an ethnically mixed, dynamic frontier; and to 1987, and who are in possession of
in the Pando case the focus will be on agro- their land, may remain, but if they wish to
extractive communities that have received leave they must sell the improvements to
communal title to forests traditionally used the community. Those without legitimate
by residents. In the Brazilian Porto de titles should be compensated and the lands
Moz, case we compare the impacts on agro- returned to the community. Those who
extractive settlements within the RESEX to have no title but wish to stay should leave or
those remaining on the margin. Finally, in pay rent. Indigenous lands are inalienable,
the Guatemalan Petén, we will analyze the nontransferable and non-mortgageable.
manner in which diverse communities were
accommodated within a community timber The most significant immediate change
concession model. Table 2 details the main for indigenous communities was in the
formal and informal rules shaping land role of the state, which, prior to the
rights found in the different study areas. International Court decision9 that led to
the Communal Lands Law, granted itself
RAAN: formal rules resting on the right to alienate indigenous lands
previously informal institutions considered ‘national lands’. In the 1990s,
In Nicaragua, in 2003, the Communal this was expressed primarily through land
Lands Law8 (Law 445) was enacted. giveaways to combatants who demobilized
Like the Constitution, the Communal after the 1980s war. The state also gave
Lands Law formally recognizes the rights forest concessions on these lands to the
of indigenous and ethnic communities timber industry, without any consultation
to their historic territories, but it also with resident communities. These activities
establishes the institutional framework for were suspended pending the definition of
demarcation and titling and for the formal indigenous territories. The recognition of
recognition of indigenous authorities. This 9
The community of Awas Tingni filed a Inter-American Court
law guarantees indigenous communities for Human Rights demand against the Nicaragua government
for granting a forest concession to the Korean company SOL-
“full recognition of rights over communal CARSA, in 1995, on their traditional lands without community
property, [and] use, administration and consent. In 2001, the International Court ruled in favor of
Awas Tingni. The Court ordered the State to adopt the relevant
legislative and administrative measures necessary to create an
8
Abbreviated from: the Law for the Communal Property Re- effective mechanism for demarcation and titling for indigenous
gime of the Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the communities “in accordance with their customary laws, values,
Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and customs and mores” (Judgment, cited in Anaya and Grossman
28 the Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maiz Rivers. 2002).
indigenous territories involves resolving based on their own customary systems.
boundaries with neighbors and outsiders Hence, the government has failed to register
that hold lands inside a territory. There are the elected authorities or has registered
also issues of scale at which the territory is different authorities than those elected,
demarcated and the establishment of new and, in at least one case, an official colluded
territorial authorities elected from among with the authority registered to gain access
traditional community authorities. While to community funds. Ultimately, it is
regional political leaders are promoting the important to note that the state decides who
demarcation of large territories in order it will recognize.
to move more quickly, some communities
prefer smaller territories at the community The resources inside community lands are
or smaller multi-community scale, which usually allocated to household agricultural
is more familiar and for which they areas and to common use, although there is
have created functional territorial level some variation between communities. In the
institutions. An associated issue is that RAAN case studies the areas designated to
the elected territorial authority (síndico), a households were treated as private property
traditional authority existing previously only to be passed down from one generation
at the community level, has legal powers to the next, and could also be traded
over natural resources as well as access to among community members. In the study
state tax income from resource exploitation territory of Tasba Raya, which actually has
on behalf of the territory; thus, community individual land titles as well as a collective
level authorities fear losing direct control area, landowners have been able to transfer
over both natural and economic territory landownership to people from outside;
and resources. they have also allowed some outsiders
to obtain agricultural lands in common
The law recognizes a ‘tenurial shell’ areas. Yet people considered ‘founders’,
(Fitzpatrick 2005) as defined by indigenous and their children, often obtain the best
people and the right of communities areas, without limits regarding number and
to continue to manage the internal size, and may even do so without the prior
allocation of land and resources according consent of community authorities. At the
to customary institutions; it does not other extreme, outsiders or new members of
attempt to codify these rules, although it the community are more likely to be granted
does create a system for the recognition of use rights to small areas. If, over time, they
existing, specific customary authorities. In are accepted into the community, they will
practice this has meant the registration of be granted an area more permanently. Tasba
communal and territorial authorities by the Raya’s remaining communal area is open
regional government. While in some cases for hunting and collection of firewood and
registration occurred without incident, in other products as needed. In the second
our study sites the regional government study area, Layasiksa, where there are no
has established arbitrary rules for the private parcels, a communal land area is
composition of the territorial authority designated for family agriculture, although
in violation of the law, which states that there are some conflicts with residents who
communities should choose their authorities do not respect other families’ areas. 29
Land sales in Tasba Raya are more common combatants as part of the peace accords.
than in Layasiksa since many residents of The ownership of these areas has not been
the former have individual titles. Although challenged by the communities, probably
these titles, as agrarian reform titles, are for two main reasons. First, most of the
by law not transferable, there is an active beneficiaries also live in the communities;
informal market for lands granted under second, the Miskito population respects the
these titles. At various times, the state has combatants who fought for their rights to
also permitted their sale and has often land and autonomy. However, changes in
legalized the registration of new owners. ownership and the sale of forest resources
Sales have thus occurred both legally and in these areas have raised concerns, and fall
illegally. While occasional suits are brought within the region over which Tasba Raya
against new owners, depending on particular authorities are seeking greater control.
government administrations, illegal sales In Layasiksa, beneficiaries living in the
have usually been ignored. Currently, community were actively seeking to prevent
however, the Communal Lands Law adds the sale of land by one of the beneficiaries
an additional level of control over land sales, who was claiming to represent the group.
stating that ‘improvements’10 should be sold
to the community, rather than to outsiders. The local authorities in charge of
Hence Tasba Raya’s leaders have established overseeing land and natural resources
a set of rules to try to stop outside sales. have traditionally been the wihta (judge)
These include notifying the buyer and seller with regard to internal allocation and the
of the illegality of the transaction, expelling síndico with regard to relations external to
or undertaking actions to impede the buyer the community. Both of these authorities
from gaining access to the land purchased, are elected in community assemblies and
notifying the appropriate government often remain in their post until there is
authorities and prohibiting anyone selling a reason to have them removed, though
land from acquiring new lands in communal the formalization process now requires
areas. Hence, the (formal) land law has registration of the síndico every year. Over
driven the creation of new (mostly informal) time, however, the role of the síndico has
working rules, in an attempt to increase expanded, displacing that of the wihta with
the control of the collective over individual regard to land and natural resources (with
areas, particularly with regard to the the role of the judge staying focused more
exclusion of outsiders. on internal crime, and conflict resolution).
In recent practice, it is the síndico, then,
The law does not recognize titles conferred that has represented the community in
after 1987, but the state itself continued to land and resource transactions externally,
give out lands in both communities in the and allocated resource use internally. This
1990s. Specifically, these are areas of forest, has resulted in serious problems in many
5,000 hectares in Layasiksa and 11,200 communities, as síndicos have become an
hectares in Tasba Raya, known as Collective easy target for corruption. For example, in
Blocs, given to groups of indigenous one of Layasiksa’s neighboring communities,
10
Since land itself should not be sold, ‘improvements’ refers to with which Layasiksa has had the most
investments made by the landholder. This often includes clear- conflicts over land and resources, colonists
30 ing forest for agriculture.
have invaded part of their territory; many with authority granted to the Guarayos
people believe that a síndico was selling representative organization COPNAG.
this land, as has been a problem in other There are functional reasons for this
communities of the RAAN. Síndicos have dichotomy as village level institutions, as
also presented problems with regard to will be explained, manage the organization
timber sales, by failing to provide accounts and allocation of land for household
to the community or selling community subsistence production, while the TCO
resources for their own profit, or simply manages territorial governance, leaving
through their limited negotiating capacity or local, internal rules open to interpretation
lack of knowledge regarding fair prices. by members. For practical reasons, local
level institutions are well developed, while
Guarayos: formal and informal territorial institutions are still emerging and
rules eroding local governance are not functioning well. This is partially
In Guarayos, informal property rights due to the fact that as an entity the TCO
institutions have been given a certain degree is vague and incomplete, being a large
of formality with the creation of the TCO. territory that is not always contiguous and
Within the TCO, the INRA law defines with a diverse ethnic mix that encompasses
customary practices (usos y custumbres) as a significant non-indigenous population.
the guiding rules for allocating and using More importantly, governance responsibility
property and associated natural resources. for the territory was passed to COPNAG,
However, in practice the formalization which was not designed as an institution to
process has not spatially captured much of manage and administer a collective area of
the area governed directly by the Guarayo land and resources but rather as a collective
peoples’ informal rules; rather the areas movement to advocate more generally for
included are far from their settlements. Guarayo interests. Hence, mechanisms for
The result is ‘competing’ institutional collective decision making, clearly defined
frameworks in which formal institutions are rights and responsibilities of leaders, as well
inefficient, such that informal institutions as processes for oversight by constituents
continue to direct local behavior, while at are not sufficiently developed within
the same time these institutions are under COPNAG.
increasing pressure and contestation by
outsiders. The incongruence between the Authority over the informal institutions
two systems has created an opportunity for that allocate land for agriculture is held by
corruption and rent-seeking behaviors by village councils called centrales composed of
powerful groups and individuals that have resident adults with elected leaders. Lands
eroded territorial governance. immediately surrounding settlements are
divided into ‘agricultural zones’ (zonas
A key difference between informal and agrarias). Beyond these, forest lands and
formal property rights institutions in wetlands are considered zones of influence
Guarayos is related to the issue of scale: (zonas de influencia) that are the loosely
informal institutions function primarily defined territories usually extending for 15
at the village level, while the TCO is to 20 km from each community, depending
supposed to function at a territorial level on its size. Although it is not clear when this 31
form of territorial organization originated, it for indigenous people. At the start of
is similar to the agrarian unions formed by the process, INRA ‘immobilized’ the
peasants when claiming land. It was likely territory within the TCO demand: this was
influenced by outsiders who arrived with the supposed to freeze land transactions while
frontier expansion that started in the 1970s, the agency sorted out contested property
a time when Guarayos families felt greater claims. There were legitimate third party
pressure to develop a strategy for occupying claims to land within the TCO demand,
territory. such as landowners with long histories
in the region or who had purchased land
Agricultural zones provide a means to and received title prior to the initiation of
distribute agricultural lands to resident this round of the agrarian reform process.
households and are authorized by the village Though these people’s rights needed to be
‘central’ at the request of groups of local considered, the process did not effectively
families looking for land to cultivate. The protect indigenous claims. Working at the
agricultural zones are communal areas with territorial scale limited the effectiveness of
an assigned president. The size of the zones the TCO as a property rights institution
varies depending on the number of member because mechanisms for resource allocation
families, although they usually include less customarily worked at the village scale.
than a couple dozen families. Each family
is granted ownership of plot that typically The polygons INRA defined combine
contains swidden agriculture fields, fallows multiple communities in large areas, which
and forest areas. Ownership is based on use complicated distinguishing membership
and can be passed from one generation to the from an ethnically mixed population.
next. However, by custom families can not Rather than focusing at the settlement
sell their rights, and if the plot is abandoned scale and addressing customary properties
the president can assign it to another local delineated by agricultural zones, INRA
family. The number of zones depends on instead grouped large expanses of territory
the size of the community (for example, the into five polygons. These were independent
study site of Cururu has only one zone, while of the pattern of indigenous land use, and
Santa Maria is one of eight zones of the apparently drew a distinction between
community Yotau). The zone of influence distant areas that were unoccupied and
is a communally held reserve area, where the contested lands near the highway and
forests are used by community members settlements. INRA adopted a strategy of
for subsistence (hunting, extraction) and if first concentrating on remote polygons
necessary for the expansion of agriculture. with few inhabitants instead of attempting
Located outside indigenous communities, to affirm indigenous land holdings near
these zones have no formal or legal standing settlements. This strategy allowed the agency
other than being manifestations of the de to cover more territory rapidly by avoiding
facto occupation of land. the need to resolve competing claims (i.e.,
the places where people live).
To demarcate the TCO, INRA has to
evaluate competing claims and ‘regularize’ The long delays and focus on uncontested
legitimate property rights (a process areas allowed illicit land transactions to
called saneamiento) before titling lands take place in the accessible lands that were
32
highly prized by both indigenous people been titled, these lands are far from where
and outsiders. Some unscrupulous actors most indigenous people live and are too
paid for forged titles or other documents, remote to use. In most cases the customary
including certification from corrupt institutional rules governing land use are
COPNAG leaders ‘proving’ the existence only relevant to the areas where people
of property prior to the TCO demand actually live, and irrelevant for distant areas
(López 2004). The atmosphere of illegal far from reach.
transactions has also begun to undercut
the customary system established by the
Guarayos people to allocate land. Some Porto de Moz: imposing
families that had received individual title to conservation-inspired formal
their plots, or documents authorizing their rules
occupation during earlier agrarian reforms, The creation of the RESEX ‘Verde para
realized that they could sell these rights to Sempre’ by Brazil’s Federal Government in
outsiders and move further into the forest to the Porto de Moz municipality recognized
establish new plots. During the long delay, the territorial rights of a mix of local
members of some agrarian zones claimed communities and landholders located on
by ranchers or non-indigenous farmers the western bank of the Xingu River. At the
accepted payment to drop their claim to same time, the residents of communities
the land. In such cases it was apparently on the eastern bank of the river, outside the
easier for indigenous families to make these reserve, are struggling to be recognized by
decisions because of the perception that the state land agency and have not attained
large areas were going to be titled in their formal land rights. The tenure rights in
favor (although under communal titles, the RESEX are based on conservation
which would hamper chances for future principals linked to forest protection rather
land sales). than to assuring the productive use of land.
Local people - influenced by NGOs and
The potential benefits of formal property conservation organizations – adopted the
rights, along with the legal regulation RESEX model to formalize their land tenure
and authority they would entail, have not rights as an expedient way to gain rights to
to date extended protection or greater an extensive territory.
security to most indigenous families in
the province. Generally the areas where In its basic formulation, the RESEX is a
indigenous families live and the lands mechanism for granting collective usufruct
they use for production have remained rights to people with some forest-based
in limbo, immobilized but not titled. In livelihoods whose land claims are at risk
fact, the process appears to have started of encroachment. However, formal land
breaking down the customary institutions ownership is still held by the federal
as indigenous people are pushed off (or sell) government. The reserve lands form part of
contested lands. Furthermore, conflicts over the area included in the national system of
evidence of illicit land transactions have conservation units (SNUC) created in 2000.
surfaced, splitting the indigenous movement As such, strict land-use constraints apply
represented by COPNAG (Moreno 2006). for the RESEX, more so than for other
Although almost a million hectares have property types or private landholdings. The
33
law prohibits the use of species threatened smallholders and cattle ranchers, rather than
with extinction, or practices that inhibit to serve conservation purposes. Informal
the natural regeneration of ecosystems. rules state that individual ownership is
Furthermore, commercial logging is only attained by the simple possession of the
permitted under special situations, when it land. While families initially established
is complementary with other activities of possession of different sized areas, over time
residents, and in accordance with sustainable —as result of the parallel agrarian reform
forest management plans. Finally, the area process in colonization areas, residents have
allowed for forest conversion is limited to a tended to keep 100 hectare claims.
maximum of 10% of the RESEX.
The formal rights granted in this land tenure
Prior to the creation of the extractive model prohibit residents from selling land,
reserve in Porto de Moz, some communities mostly as a way to avoid land concentration
began demarcating collective forest lands that could dispossess poor people from
to extract timber and Brazil nuts and to their main asset. Though they are less
avoid invasion by loggers or other outsiders. dynamic in areas in which traditional land
The strategy offered an alternative for rights are recognized, land markets are
communities to ensure access to collective quite active in other areas in spite of the
lands for extractive uses. The Sustainable restrictions. Given that land access is defined
Development Committee (CDS), as an at the household level, even though the
association of several local institutions properties are collective, land transactions
that promoted the creation of the RESEX, are allowed informally within the RESEX.
supported this initiative in response Thus, the plots are divided by residents
to pressure from timber companies and then sold. State agencies are unable to
on community lands. As a result, four oversee the entire territory and have not
communities demarcated their collective been able to create effective mechanisms
forest (with areas varying from 2,000 to to control these highly developed land
15,000 km2), undertook timber inventories, markets. Furthermore, there are no effective
formulated forest management plans, and mechanisms operating to stop encroachment
developed some basic management rules. Six into the RESEX, particularly on the
more communities have since initiated the southern borders of the reserve where there
same process. is an incursion of large-scale cattle ranchers
(IEB 2006).
An emerging issue is the allocation of
individual tenure rights inside the RESEX,
given that communities of smallholders Pando: drawing on informal rules
coexist with medium and large-scale for formalizing rights
cattle ranchers that were included within The property rights institutions in Pando’s
the ‘tenurial shell’ when the RESEX was agro-extractive communities are derived
defined. However, if internal demarcation largely from the informal institutions
of areas for communities and individuals supporting customary livelihoods of
takes place, the implication is that the residents and subsequent legal rights
creation of the RESEX was just the first adapted to accommodate the forest holdings
step to regularize the land tenure claims of they encompassed. Pando’s extractive
34
communities have traditional property the activity does not infringe on neighboring
rights that evolved over time, and the form castañales. In newer communities, the
taken today has been driven by the demands system may be less defined, but in
of forest extraction, which is carried out at established communities the customary tree
the household level. Initially rural families tenure is well developed and quite specific
were dispersed throughout the forest to even though no formal documentation of
facilitate the daily extraction of wild rubber these rights exists (Cronkleton et al. 2007).
(Hevea brasiliensis), but with the emergence Although lacking a clear legal foundation,
of greater dependency on Brazil nuts, the system has been sufficiently resilient to
communities shifted to more nucleated allow NTFPs to drive the regional economy
settlements with seasonal occupation of and allow people to sort out forest property
forest holdings during the harvest. This rights issues to maintain a very lucrative and
household level production is linked to important forest industry.
extensive networks of intermediaries and
buyers that provide financing, materials, The formal recognition of the property
transportation and storage services to rights of agro-extractive communities
support the harvest and ship nuts to developed as a modification to Bolivia’s
processing plants and abroad to global tenure reform. The INRA law did not
markets. bring immediate change to the region as
its implementation was hampered by a
The customary property rights claimed tense stand off between barraqueros and
by these families are based on a type of community level producers and their
‘tree tenure’ (Fortmann et al. 1985) which representative organizations. An initial
recognizes access rights to individual trees decree in 1999 would have granted the
and related infrastructure held by individual barraqueros concessions to 3 to 3.5 million
households or family groups. Access rights hectares of forest, which would have
are organized by ‘castañal’, which are benefited only about 200 people (Aramayo
clusters of Brazil nut trees connected by trail 2004), sparking protests by smallholders
networks to a simple base camp. Typically, who felt that their customary claims were
a castañal can have anywhere from a few being excluded. In response to protests, the
dozen to over several hundred trees, spread government shifted course, determining that
over hundreds of hectares. in Brazil nut producing territories (Pando
and northern portions of La Paz and Beni
The system does not emphasize control departments), the minimum area provided
of contiguous territory but only the key to agro-extractive communities would be
resource (Brazil nut trees) and related 500 hectares per family (rather than the 50
infrastructure (trails and storage areas). hectares usually granted to smallholders).
Together the land claims of agro- This area corresponds roughly to the size of
extractive communities consist of a a territory traditionally used by families to
mosaic of individual rights to castañales harvest Brazil nuts. However, rather than
held by residents. In addition, families attempting to title individual properties, the
claim usufruct rights to plots of land for policy was interpreted so that communities
agriculture and can extract other forest would receive communal properties more
products from community areas as long as or less equivalent to 500 hectares per
35
family. The internal rules for distributing understand the process or it was rushed by
resources within the property were left to INRA technicians, the resulting polygon
the communities to determine but were did not always s reflect the traditionally
assumed to reflect existing practice. used forest area (Cronkleton et al. 2007).
Because families in these communities
To determine which rural people qualified typically rely on natural boundaries for
for the titling program, INRA focused on divisions, rather than the imaginary polygon
all agro-extractive communities that had outline, they can remain unaware that
registered for legal status (personalidad some of their forest resources have been left
juridica) and formed representative outside the property. If the excluded area
organizations known as OTB, in response is granted to a neighboring community,
to the country’s Popular Participation law affected households quickly learn this when
to gain voice in local government. INRA confronted by the new ‘owners’ during the
used the OTB lists of resident families to Brazil nut harvest. While in most areas
determine the approximate size of their communities had reached agreement on
territorial polygon based on the 500 hectare traditional boundaries that were seen as
per family rule. A review of unpublished legitimate, the polygon boundaries have
INRA data from the end of 2007 shows created new conflicts. Depending on how
impressive results in the titling of lands in these conflicts are eventually resolved, such
favor of agro-extractive communities in circumstances can undermine the legitimacy
Pando; of a total of 245 communities, 139 of the new legal boundaries.
have been titled and received 1,807,320
hectares. An additional 24 communities are Because some communities occupied
having their claims processed, which, once lands that were much smaller than the 500
finished, will add another 112,384 hectares hectares per family standard, and because
of forest. Once INRA finalizes the titling some communities grew naturally during the
of communities, it will begin formalizing years of the demarcation and saneamiento
NTFP concessions for barraqueros, having process, they were allocated additional
registered 237 demands in Pando for a total lands called compensation areas. However,
area of 1.5 million hectares, also according the way in which INRA has defined
to unofficial information provided by compensation areas has limited their benefits
INRA. to communities. Ideally, compensation
areas would enlarge community polygons
Some problems have been encountered in into contiguous areas, which would be easy
defining the boundaries of community land, for the residents to access. Nevertheless,
indicating the limits to which generalized under pressure to complete the process,
formal rules can be applied to heterogeneous INRA apparently found it easier to identify
communities with locally adapted informal land in remote areas. The agency also
rules. Boundary markers for communities grouped small communities together for
are placed by INRA with the assistance of compensation area grants; for example,
residents to delineate the forests they use, in one small community near Cobija, the
while also taking into account the claims residents learned that their compensation
of other communities and private property area had to be shared with three neighboring
owners. However, if the residents did not communities. In total, the four communities
36
were granted rights to approximately 20,000 extraction of gum, were the only formal
hectares of compensation area located in rights granted to these communities, and
an area relatively distant from their current established the basis for the expansion of a
homes. Since these communities have no broader set of rights under the community
tradition of working together, it is not forest concessions in the late 1990s.
clear how rights should be distributed During the same period, and within the
among them. In addition, the community same forestlands, private timber industries
members learned that there were already were also granted rights to extract timber,
families living in the forest with customary under short term (5-10 year) contracts. The
claims over the Brazil nut groves. Though industrial concessions prohibited Carmelita
they initially expected the government to and the other communities from any rights
remove these families, this has not been to timber.
the case, and in spite of having title, some
community members have had to purchase The families that make up the community
rights from families occupying the land to of Carmelita had de facto informal rights to
gain access. Such options are not open to practice small-scale agriculture and to hunt,
those with fewer resources, however. fish and extract two basic non-timber forest
products for commercial purposes, xate
(decorative palm) and others species, all of
Petén: formal law reshaping which made up their livelihood base. The
existing informal land rights criteria for determining the territory of the
This case study illustrates the process of forest concessions granted to Carmelita were
formalization of rights in northern Petén based on the claims made by the community
through the creation of community forest itself, using the presence of gum tapping
concessions. For some communities, such as camps, gum tree groves and xate camps and
the study community of Carmelita, which is the traditional areas where large expanses of
located inside the forest, rights formalization xate grow on the forest floor. In other words,
included the recognition of permanent their de facto livelihood natural resource
physical presence and natural resource base and the scale of their practice, or the
use. It is noteworthy that each successive informal rules, strongly influenced the area
process of transferring rights by the state claimed for formal rights.
incorporated those previously granted to the
same community. For example, Carmelita Nevertheless, the original size of the
enjoyed the formal recognition of settlement territory claimed for the concession,
rights to ‘permanently occupy’ 40 hectares 150,000 hectares, was reduced to less
of forest land per family, which were granted than half, 54,000 hectares, when it was
in 1994, giving legal status to the presence granted. The criteria for negotiating the
of chicle gum tapping families in the remote area included both the demonstration of
forest regions. The National Law of Chicle historic resource use and the forest area
Gum, issued in 1979, dictated that all that constituted the natural resource base
Guatemalan citizens were entitled to extract for livelihoods, determined by the number
this product within national borders. These of resident families. Neither timber stands
laws that formally recognized community nor some notion of stock commercial value
rights of settlement, and for the use and were taken into consideration in establishing
37
the specific area or size of the concession, was thus used as the basis for establishing
despite the fact that the model for the the legal entity, in this case a cooperative.
concession was based on sustainable timber The concession contract modified the role
management, rather than NTFP. In other and powers of the cooperative, because
words, while the use of NTFPs was the basis the community concession formed part
for establishing the concession area, the of a larger conservation scheme, playing
regulations focused on timber extraction, an essential role in the buffer zone for
an activity yet to be introduced, which the protected areas and parks inside the
had repercussions for the decision-making Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The
sphere. regulatory framework that emerged for
timber management introduced formal
The new law required the formation of rules inspired by conservationist goals.
collective entity with personería jurídica to The concession gave the communities
receive the concession right for a renewable use, extraction, and management rights to
25-year contract. An informal community timber and NTFPs and exclusive rights to
organization (comité pro-mejoramiento) the concession area.

38
5 Forest use and imposed
management models

M
anagement rights constitute a struggled to adapt to new models of forest
key component of the ‘bundles management, with externally formulated
of rights’ that governments rules and operational premises derived from
recognize in favor of indigenous people, large-scale entrepreneurial commercial
traditional communities and smallholders. logging.
Two issues are central in assessing the role
that formal and informal institutions play A central argument developed here is that
in the management of forest resources. current forestry regulations tend to ignore
First, most local groups that depend on the informal norms devised by communities
forest resources for their livelihoods have, to for forest resource use, as well as their
some degree, crafted their own rules for the governing mechanisms for enforcing such
management of those resources. However, norms. This is because forestry regulations
many of these rules have been devised for have promoted management models for
governing local territories and economies a heterogeneous range of forest users
not integrated into larger markets. Second, using a homogenous approach (see also
formal rules for the management of forest Blaikie 2006), which does not necessarily
resources emphasize commercial logging, correspond to, and sometimes contradicts,
while most local groups do not have well the norms for subsistence (or sometimes
developed rules for managing their forests small scale commercial use) devised by
at this scale or organizational strategies for communities. This has clearly led to
implementing these new formal rules. While situations in which formal rules neglect
in some cases indigenous communities and local knowledge and practices, impose
smallholders have learned to manage their organizational solutions similar to large-scale
timber within market economies, many have industrial models, encourage the adoption
39
of ‘good practices’ of forest management, established by Forest Laws. The restriction
mainly for logging, and ignore other on commercial forest use is based on the
forest uses relevant for people’s livelihoods assumption that traditional uses, particularly
(Medina and Pokorny 2007; Pokorny and low-intensity subsistence activities, are less
Johnson 2008). of a threat to the forest.

Several problems have arisen from When communities engage with markets,
the imposition of external models for they are required to develop management
community forest management. First, plans that attempt to introduce practices
state agencies have limited capacity for ensuring sustainable forest management
controlling and enforcing new forest (such as reduced impact logging or RIL) and
management rules or the adoption of pay forest fees or taxes. Forest Management
‘good practices’ since most control takes Plans (FMP) usually require that planning
place outside the communities. Second, be based on information gathered through
it takes time for communities to develop forest inventories and estimates of the stock
organizational systems to enforce the new, and allowable harvest rates of commercial
externally imposed, set of rules. More grade timber species, along with other
importantly, smallholders and communities characteristics of the management area.
often lack the technologies and knowledge Every year an Annual Operating Plan (POA)
for implementing the recommended forest must be proposed based on a census of all
management practices and are thus forced potential species to be harvested. Both the
to look to external service providers (i.e., FMPs and POAs have to be checked and
local loggers, timber companies, forestry approved by the state forestry agencies,
projects, NGOs) to provide the necessary which are also responsible for verifying
technology, skills and capital to implement compliance with management regulations
the ‘sustainable forest management’ project and sanctioning contraventions to the
(Pokorny and Johnson 2008). norms.

In the different countries studied, the
Formal ‘rules of the game’ for forestry laws require management plans
forest resource use for all commercial logging, although
Table 3 summarizes the primary formal under different schemes. For example,
conditions imposed on communities for in Nicaragua there were three types of
forest management, along with the existing plans until 2006, which made smaller
informal rules. The model is relatively scale logging easier and cheaper. Forestry
simple. First, to benefit from forestry regulations in 2003-2004 established a
rights, smallholders and communities must graduated system of requirements that
have formalized their ownership, backed included: (1) Replacement Plans for
with titles or formal certificates. Second, areas below 10 hectares, (2) Minimal
there are often no constraints for using Plans for 10-50 hectares, and (3) General
forest resources for subsistence needs, but Management Plans and Annual Operating
commercial uses of forest resources, mainly Plans for areas over 50 hectares. In addition,
40 timber, require compliance with regulations logging in areas over 500 hectares requires
Table 3. Formal and informal rules for forest management according to different land tenure models
Type of Indigenous territory Indigenous territory Extractive reserve in Agro-extractive Community
rights in the RAAN in Guarayos Porto de Moz communities in northern concessions
(Nicaragua) (Bolivia) (Brazil) Amazon (Bolivia) in northern Petén
(Guatemala)
Formal rules
Withdrawal Exclusive rights over forest Indigenous members of No limits to withdrawal No limits to withdrawal No limits to withdrawal
for domestic and non-forest resource use the TCO have no limits to of forest resources from of resources for non- of resources for
consumption defined by customary rules the withdrawal of resources individual or community commercial uses from non-commercial uses
of the community from their lands lands allocated lands
Harvesting Logging requires approved Logging requires approved Logging and NTFP Logging and Brazil Logging requires
with FMP, no constraints to NTFP FMP, and NTFP harvesting harvesting require a nut harvesting require approved FMP and
commercial harvesting requires specific plans to be development plan, zoning authorized FMP certification, NTFPs
goals implemented plan, and specific FMP require management
plans (partially
implemented to date)
Forest rights Community authorities must Indigenous people have Land transfer or contracts Land transfer or contracts Land transfer or contracts
to third authorize all contracts for exclusive rights to use the with third parties are not with third parties are not with third parties are
parties resource exploitation by forest within the TCO allowed for forest resource allowed for forest resource not allowed for forest
third parties. use use resource use
Authority and Local indigenous authorities General indigenous Local residents forced to Authority exerted by Social groups need to
governance are recognized and organizations exert formal create a council to govern agrarian syndicates elected constitute a productive
systems registered by the state authority in the TCO the extractive reserve by the community organization to claim a
forest concession
Informal rules
Withdrawal No restrictions on the No restrictions on the No restrictions on the No restrictions on the Pre-existing rights
for domestic withdrawal of timber and withdrawal of non-timber withdrawal of non- withdrawal of forest recognized and accepted
consumption non-timber forest products forest products from timber forest products resources from collective
from collective areas collective areas from collective areas, but areas, but constraints
restricted harvesting in on trails and trees with
private properties existing rights
Commercial Community rules prevent Allowed only in collective Allowed only in areas No constraints to Brazil nut No local rules developed
harvesting harvesting or limit the forest lands in exchange demarcated for collective harvesting, and no rules for for commercial logging,
volume of timber extracted for a contribution to the access by communities logging pre-existing rights for
from collective areas community NTFPs largely recognized
Source: Elaborated by the authors based on Albornoz et al. (2008), Lewis Mendoza et al. (2008), Monterroso (2008), Nunes et al. (2008), Vieira et al. (2008), Wilson
(2008).

41
an Environmental Impact Assessment. relatively narrow interests in forest use, the
A fourth type of permit was created only legal framework also included other norms
in indigenous areas of the RAAN for and mechanisms for these activities. For
logging pine for local markets. The simpler owners of small private properties, technical
plans11, however, were suspended with the norms for management plans on areas less
implementation of a forestry emergency than 200 hectares were prepared. Rather
followed by a Moratorium Law in 2006. than sustainable management plans, this
All logging now requires a General mechanism defines a type of harvest permit
Management Plan. It is also now illegal since it does not maintain the polycyclic
for wood to be sawn in the forest; all logs requirements of larger management that
must be milled at a registered industry. envision repeated cutting cycles of at least
Prior to the moratorium sawing boards with 20 years. The owner receives permission
chainsaws was permitted under the smallest to harvest wood across the entire unit, and
permits. (Once again a simpler plan, known although it seems rather disingenuous, it
as a Forest Logging Plan, has been created is assumed that the owners will maintain
recently and established temporarily to the forest for additional harvests after 20
facilitate logging of salvage wood felled by years have passed. The application process
Hurricane Felix in September 2007, but it for the latter ‘management plans’ is greatly
still requires the signature of a forester.) simplified compared to requirements
demanded by the other norms, and they can
In Bolivia, there are several types of be approved relatively quickly. Furthermore,
technical norms for forest management. between 2003 and 2006, logging was
The centerpiece of the legal framework is permitted in areas less than 3 hectares, as
the technical norm for forest management a means of allowing smallholders to access
on concessions and private properties larger small volumes of timber as long as they
than 200 hectares12. A similar technical respected some principles of sustainable
norm was ratified for the development management defined by other norms (for
of FMPs within TCOs13. Recognizing example, minimum cutting diameters and
that some owners of forest properties will protection of environmentally sensitive
lack expansive management areas or have areas). The 3-hectare mechanism had an
extremely simple format but the mode
11
Even these simpler plans could require a number of bu-
reaucratic procedures. The indigenous local market plans, for included relatively high fees per volume
example, still required the signature of the síndico, the mayor’s harvested compared with the other types of
office, and the Regional Council, tax payments and an inspec-
tion by the Forestry Institute before issuing the permit. management plan.
12
Among the requirements is a management plan defining a
minimum 20 year cutting cycle and a maximum annual harvest
area of only 5% of the total; a complete inventory and annual In Brazil, a distinction is made between
census; planned harvests using reduced impact logging tech-
niques; respect for minimum cutting diameters; the protection high- and low-intensity plans, but both are
of environmentally sensitive areas and the maintenance of seed
trees for natural regeneration. subject to the same bureaucratic procedures,
This establishes a similar technical standard to the industrial which increase transaction costs (these
13

norm but adds additional requirements for the formation of
local management organizations, documentation of discussion costs are discussed more specifically in
and consensus among residents of collective property about the
development of the plan and other social aspects, such as the Section 6). In all of the cases FMPs must
strategy for distributing benefits. Management plans in TCOs be signed by a professional forester, and in
must also be supervised by a forest engineer who also signs off
42 of on the plan and annual operational plans. community areas plans have to be signed
by leaders representing the community or or reduced impact logging practices, and
territory. The professional forester, who that voluntary mechanisms can contribute
helps to formulate the FPM, is at the same to maintaining appropriate management
time responsible for the forestry operations standards. In theory, certification provides
in the area. In theory, this system should an incentive for doing so either through
ensure relative transparency in both the market premiums or by securing access
formulation and implementation of the to specific markets (Segura 2004). In
FMPs, facilitating central agency supervision Guatemala, certification is obligatory for
of the plan’s implementation. communities to obtain forestry concessions.
In Nicaragua, specifically in Layasiksa,
In Petén, Guatemala, concession WWF has played a key role in strengthening
organizations were required to have forestry rules by deciding that all logging
an approved management plan and should occur on the basis of forestry
environmental impact study to obtain a norms and standards associated with FSC
contract. For almost all the concessions,
certification. In Bolivia, WWF and the
these plans were carried out by NGOs,
BOLFOR II Project, implemented by TNC,
subsidized by USAID. Each year they must
have played an active role in helping to
prepare a detailed Annual Operating Plan.
certify forestry operations in the indigenous
The concessions are also required to obtain
community of Cururú in Guarayos.
FSC certification for the enterprises and
maintain this for the period of the contract,
Another important issue is that most
which involves annual evaluations and
traditional organizations created by
periodic renewal. The general management
communities and smallholders to regulate
plan, which is not for the same period in
internal social issues and economic activities
all sites, also requires periodic updating and
within their lands are not able to operate
renewal (from 5 to 10 years). After a one
formally under national commercial norms
to three years’ grace period, the concession
and codes, nor have they been devised for
organizations pay an annual tax per hectare
doing business in open markets. Therefore,
for usufruct rights. Because the concessions
communities and smallholders are forced
export timber, particularly mahogany, they
also require export licenses and a CITES to create new organizations often labeled
permit, which are renewed annually. ‘community enterprises’; their creation is
inspired by entrepreneurial business models
Under the FSC system14, certification that do not necessarily rely on existing local
constitutes an additional ingredient in the institutions for forest use and management.
model of sustainable forest management. In this regard, a whole business culture is
Here it is believed that command-and- imported along with the introduction of
control measures are relatively inefficient FMP and reduced impact logging. This issue
in ensuring the implementation of FMPs, has been partly explored in assessments of
community forestry (Bray et al. 2005). In
14
The FSC system allows the evaluation of forest management
activities (forest certification) and tracking of forest products
Nicaragua, Bolivia and Guatemala, forestry
(chain-of-custody certification) through FSC accredited, projects, in most cases, have assumed
independent ‘third-party’ certification bodies. These assess forest
management using the FSC principles, criteria, and standards. responsibility for devising the statutes for
43
these ‘community forestry enterprises’, allowed except in exceptional cases.15 As a
hence closing the circle on the process of working rule encouraged by the forestry
imposing external models on local groups. management project, all benefits emerging
from commercial use of communal forests
should accrue to the community as a
Working rules shaping forest whole. Nevertheless community members
management in practice still engage in informal timber markets,
In Nicaragua, formal rules were often selling both timber and firewood semi-
largely irrelevant to communities in the clandestinely, and claim they have the right
RAAN, who, at least in the past, did not to do so based on tradition and custom.
There does not appear to be any sanction
usually know if the buyer had a legal
for doing this, although there are efforts to
permit or not, nor were they concerned. It
convince people to change their behavior.
is noteworthy that informal rules appear
Wood is taken from all areas (family plots,
to have emerged at a time when large-
the area owned by ex-combatants and an
scale logging concessions operating in the
area in concession to a logging company),
region increased. Similarly, more restrictive
but the community’s own managed area is
working rules appeared with the recognition
respected.
of collective tenure rights, and there has
been a greater attempt, in some cases, to WWF generated substantial controversy in
restrict individual appropriation of collective the RAAN when it convinced the Layasiksa
resources, which previously was not community that a new organization needed
questioned. For example, in one of the two to be formed inside the community to
sites studied (the territory of Tasba Raya), manage the forestry operation. The decision
local authorities reported that the person to create a separate organization was based
interested in selling timber should designate on the nature of forest management and the
the quantity, species and location of the skills and knowledge required for market
trees to be logged for a maximum of 5,000 competition. WWF’s model changed the
board feet. In addition a small tax should be rules for forest management, and this
paid to the síndico if the wood is to be sold shifted the basis for the nature and role of
outside the community. If larger sales are authority in Layasiksa. After a review of all
to be made, the logging company or buyer the available options of legally recognized
should present a proposal to the community (formal) organizations, the community
assembly for approval, and in this case all chose to form a cooperative. To implement
the income would accrue to the community. this model, however, an internal agreement
was developed by the community under
In Layasiksa, the establishment of a which only a few people formally joined
community forestry enterprise led to an the cooperative but all community adults
attempt to guarantee that the working 15
Simplified logging procedures created for salvage wood felled
by Hurricane Felix in September 2007 mean that there is a way
rules fully reflected formal law. Hence to do so legally without a general management plan; and these
individuals will use the income to pay debts accrued on behalf
commercial logging by individuals is not of the community when they were leaders.

44
were informal members. This organizational unique opportunity to demonstrate their
model makes a substantial effort to involve occupation and use of their territory. Yet
community members and communal preparing management plans under the
authorities in decision-making. The Board formal norms has proved complex, costly
of Directors is elected by the Community and time consuming and not always
Assembly, and the Vigilance Committee, fruitful. As a result, some communities
which oversees the cooperative, is comprised have been able to adopt the sustainable
of the traditional authorities: síndico, wihta timber management model dictated by
and council of elders. the technical norms for TCOs, others
have adopted formal FMP for individual
The results have been varied. On the one properties in areas less than 200 hectares, or
hand there are tensions between traditional in areas less than 3 hectares, but most have
authorities and the cooperative, but these sold their timber informally.
do not appear to be serious, particularly
since the traditional authorities do play a As mentioned previously, from 2000 to
role in the cooperative and take that role in 2004, six indigenous groups obtained
earnest. There is also ongoing illegal logging, approval for management plans in forests
sometimes by these same authorities, who around their communities, and a seventh
believe it is within their customary rights is under evaluation, for a total of 211,178
to continue to sell timber if they choose. hectares; the plans range from 2,433
Systems of governance, accountability and hectares to 60,000 hectares. However,
transparency have improved substantially, formal forest management is beyond the
particularly in relation to the role of past reach of most indigenous people in the areas
síndicos, who at best failed to keep or share claimed as TCO, because they are unable
clear accounts and at worst absconded to fulfill the formal requirements: available
with community funds. Finally, there is far forestlands are too far from their home, they
greater collective benefit from an activity would need to invest financial resources to
that was previously managed by only a undertake formal management, and they
handful of residents. lack the accounting and technical skills
that are required by the norms. Instead,
In Bolivia, under the new forestry law, the conditions that limit legal access to
the development of management plans formal management open opportunities for
in Guarayos, as in other TCOs, promised alternative informal institutions that channel
substantial benefits for the indigenous benefits to non-indigenous actors under a
population. In theory, the development of thin veneer of legality.
management plans – which is tantamount
to undertaking timber production – The development of forest management
could provide a much needed source of plans by indigenous communities as a
income to the impoverished population. strategy for demonstrating their hold on the
More importantly, it was hoped that land faces significant limitations. Because
the development and approval of forest of the complexity and cost of developing
management plans would provide a FMPs, combined with the requirement
45
that the effort be guided by a trained forest plan is approved, except in special cases.
engineer, all of the management initiatives Furthermore, timber management depend
were developed with substantial outside on cumbersome procedures.
assistance and investment, mostly from
NGOs. Although the NGOs promoting Notably, only two out of six communities
forest management are interested in that demarcated their lands with the
expanding these activities, they seek out assistance of a forestry project have been
areas where indigenous people have large able to develop forest management plans
areas of production forests. Such areas are (Juçara and Arimum), thanks to an
available in the remote titled areas of the exception issued by the Brazilian Institute of
TCO, but are rare near most communities, Environment (IBAMA). The management
as remaining forests are often fragmented plans, with areas ranging from 3,000 to
by agricultural expansion, degraded by 4,000 hectares, are adapted to the current
earlier logging and contested by claims from forestry regulations. The communities
outsiders. As a result, community forestry received assistance from the ProManejo
initiatives have not expanded further program, a federal government project that
because suitable forests are difficult to find. supports community forestry through the
Also, even if such management plans are development of low-intensity harvesting
approved, they do not guarantee greater and artisanal wood transformation projects.
security in untitled areas. These areas have While Juçara recently stopped operating,
still suffered invasions and competing claims the community of Arimum has been trying
from other land owners. to develop a larger commercial logging
operation that complies with current
In Porto de Moz, the RESEX was forestry legislations and could be approved
established with the promise that it would by the state environmental agency. However,
help local people take effective control of the community has not made progress since
their forest resources and benefit from their the formal authorization of the management
timber. In practice, rather than facilitating plan must await the approval of the reserve
local control, declaring the area as a RESEX management plan.
has transferred control to federal agencies,
resulting in centralized, bureaucratic The communities outside the reserve
backlogs that have kept the communities have not experienced any formal change
in ‘limbo’ for years. Although the reserve in their tenure rights, though they have
was created in 2004, an emergency plan begun to demand them. Interestingly, these
for land-use zoning in the reserve was communities are not petitioning for another
only finalized in 2007 and has yet to be RESEX but rather the implementation of a
approved. Finally, it is not clear how the community-based tenure model. This would
formal use of forest resources within the allow them to continue their livelihood
RESEX will be developed, given that activities without having to comply with
the collective areas within the reserve are all the bureaucratic procedures involved in
uncertain, since they are not demarcated, RESEX management. Nevertheless, they
and forest management plans cannot be will not be exempted from developing
46 developed until the reserve’s management community land-use or forest management
plans, although these are likely to be easier with large territories in accessible areas find
to negotiate and develop. Six communities it difficult to completely restrict access to
along the Xingu River are trying to forest resources by non-residents. Properties
formalize their rights as quilombos, a cannot be divided, although some residents
collective property recognizing the rights expect (incorrectly) that INRA will return
of descendents of escaped slaves. They and define their specific 500 hectare plot.
believe that the quilombo classification Community members are not allowed to sell
will bring greater tenure security, in spite their rights to others. However, in practice,
of the fact that they will lose their rights families that wish to leave communities are
to individual landholdings upon the able to sell their ‘improvements’ (i.e. their
declaration of collective lands. The results house, cleared fields, pasture). The buyer
could be problematic, however, since these can then occupy and work in the forest area
communities have not developed strong traditionally used by the original owner.
institutions for governing community lands.
Technically, to commercialize forest
The case of Pando illustrates a major products residents of agro-extractive
disjuncture between formal forestry norms communities need approval from the Forest
and the informal rules and institutions that Superintendence, however under existing
frame a key component of the forestry sector norms and regulations it is difficult for
in the region. Specifically, Bolivia’s formal communities to gain approval for either
regulations emphasize timber management timber or NTFP management plans,
while the region’s economy has been and is although for different reasons. In the case of
driven by the management of non-timber timber management, as in Guarayos, most
forest products independently of existing rural communities in Pando lack experience
regulations. Attempts have been made to with collective sustainable management of
adjust formal regulations to accommodate timber and the capacity or capital to comply
NTFP production, although they have had with required guidelines for preparing and
limited impact. implementing timber management plans.
In contrast, community level informants
At the community level, Bolivia’s forestry indicated that it was not difficult to sell
regulations and regulatory practices do wood illegally to small-scale logging
not attempt to control subsistence use of companies, particularly valuable species like
forest resources by residents. Furthermore, mahogany and cedar, though this is difficult
the new tenure rights in Pando closely to quantify. There are currently a couple
conform to the customary practices and dozen communities with management
use rights embedded in the livelihoods of plans approved in their name, but these
rural people in extractive communities. have generally been prepared by timber
Internal decisions and resource distribution companies and not on the communities’
are left to residents to determine, and own terms. NGOs in the region are
the organization responsible for the increasingly supporting initiatives to develop
community is the OTB. The new tenure timber management plans for communities,
arrangement gives residents the right to although communities receiving such
exclude outsiders, although communities benefits are the exception. 47
One of the few mentions of NTFPs in have thus been ignored, and the state lacks
Bolivia’s Forestry Law (1996) states that in the capacity to insist on their use.
areas where NTFPs dominate, traditional
holders of these rights can receive timber One of the government’s main goals in
concessions, and that rights to timber and increasing control over forest management
NTFPs would subsequently be ‘harmonized’ was to develop a standardized system for
through related bylaws. Areas with Brazil fee collection. However, the logic used for
nuts or other NTFPs were supposedly to timber did not initially work with Brazil
be ceded preferentially to traditional users, nut producers because of the lack of clearly
defined legal property rights. Initially the
specifically campesino (peasant) communities
forestry law contemplated an area-based
and local forestry associations (called ASLs)
system of forest fees, charged to those
without competition with other forest users.
granted management rights. For timber
However, this required the delimitation
the fee was set at one dollar per hectare
of the area, the preparation, approval and
for industrial concessions. For NTFPs,
implementation of a management plan as
the fee was set18 at 30% of the value of the
well as annual operational reports16. While minimum fee (i.e. US$ 0.30 per hectare).
these clauses offered an opening for more But without defined property rights, the
secure access and formal approval for Brazil state had no grounds for determining what
nut management, it took almost a decade surface area to use for these calculations. As
for technical norms17 to be issued. Though a result, the Forest Superintendence quickly
this was finally done in 2005, to date no established a weight-based fee system19.
management plans have been approved These fees are paid by the processing plants
under these norms. One reason is that they rather than the resource manager, as is the
suffer from the same problem as timber case with timber products. At any rate,
management norms in that they are costly the fee was set so low that it was largely
and complex to implement and require symbolic.
oversight by a professional forester. More
importantly, the technical norms do not In Petén, Guatemala, tenure reform was
address issues that would be crucial for driven by a conservation agenda but
promoting good management practices through struggle and negotiation also
in communities. Nor is there any clear included criteria for livelihood gains for
benefit for producers for investing in such local communities. Emphasis was not on
developing their traditional natural resource
management plans. The norms do not
based economies but instead introduced
address internal diversity in communal
sustainable timber management20.
properties and do not take into account
18
Article 37 II (Monto de las Patentes).
the multi-stakeholder context found in 19
Originally these fees were Bs. 0,30/ Caja de 20 kg for
unshelled nuts and Bs. 0,75/Caja de 20 kg for shelled nuts,
campesino and indigenous communities; (Instructivo Técnico No. 003/97, June 3, 1997). However, two
instead they implicitly treat the ‘manager’ as years later the fees where converted into dollars at $US 0,005/
kg for unshelled nuts and $US 0,013/kg for shelled nuts (In-
a single individual or entity. The new norms structivo Técnico No. 003/98 February 27, 1999).
20
This is true for most of the concessions. However, there were
16
(paragraph IV). small groups who had been illegal loggers who took advantage
17
Resolución Ministerial Nº 077/2005 Norma Técnica para of the reform, turning their illegal activities into legal and
48 la Elaboración de Planes de Manejo de Castaña [Bertholletia highly praised collective management, and profit from the same
excelsa Humb & Bonpl.] forest areas.
Sustainable logging by communities responsibilities. It also ceded exclusion
was seen as the only option; the fears of rights over the entire concession area to the
conservationists were allayed by requiring community organization. One impact, in
certification, while potential timber incomes some communities, was to disenfranchise
enticed communities to participate. USAID chicle gum tappers and xate palm harvesters
provided approximately US$ 40 million in who were not community members, but
funding which, together with another US$ had historic, informal access and extraction
40 million from other funders, mostly went rights.
to setting up and sustaining the conservation
agencies and operations to protect the MBR. The management rights to concessions -
mostly focused on timber - were overseen
To obtain a concession, communities and formalized by the state, which also
had to adopt an investment model that retained the right to revoke the contracts.
demanded substantial amounts of financial These rights were highly regulated and
capital. Once the community concessions imposed completely from outside, as the
were negotiated, approximately US$ 8 community had no previous experience with
to 9 million was invested in promoting timber resources management. However,
the practices and conducting the studies buy-in to this model was offered as the only
necessary for certification, followed by way to gain access to forest rights (including
enterprise development with the concessions permanence of residency in some cases). It
to foster vertical integration at the ‘macro’ is through the management rights that the
level. The community forestry model state continues to play a major role, through
supported by donors and forestry projects in steep regulations. Certification of timber
the Petén encouraged communities to form harvesting was based on international
enterprises, acquire equipment and capacity standards and adopted as the official
to process wood (either at the concession management standard (though not always
level or collectively with other concessions) stipulated in all concession contracts).
and then market the timber as a larger This required sophisticated management
group. More recently, they created a supra plans, annual operating plans (POAs) and
community enterprise (FORESCOM) as a environmental impact studies, to name just
commercializing entity to help communities a few. Later, additional requirements were
to export sawn wood, under the FSC forest added, such as the expansion of timber
certification scheme. production to include a certain number of
‘secondary’ species.
While this timber enterprise model did
not initially regulate NTFP collection
(though management plans are required, Problems arising from the
this has been implemented only recently), interaction of formal and
it established an extensive and complex informal rules
regulatory framework for timber production. The systems developed to allow formal
Hence, the concessions granted rights access to forest resources for indigenous and
embracing resource use, extraction, and traditional communities and smallholders
management, including commercialization under the label of sustainable community 49
forestry have resulted in several problems With regard to the first problem, the
that have been difficult to resolve. First, cases of Guarayos and Porto de Moz
formal forest management rules involve demonstrate the way in which outsiders,
adopting a model of timber production rather than communities, may reap the
that is inappropriate for the majority of benefits of community timber. In Guarayos,
communities. Most communities cannot in addition to the limitations previously
cover the costs of developing management discussed for expanding general FMPs in
plans and other start-up requirements or indigenous communities, the growth of the
navigate complicated bureaucracies. Hence informal sector, masked by the small scale
most communities are excluded from harvest mechanisms, undercuts the viability
formal forest management. This reinforces of management plans that have already
asymmetric power relations in access to been established. The informal sector drives
down the price of wood in the region and
forest resources, whereby a few influential
makes it more difficult for communities to
actors tend to take advantage of the timber
find service providers to assist with their
originating on community lands, often
timber harvests due to the lucrative trade
selling in informal markets with limited
in timber from unsustainable sources. The
benefits accruing to the community.
inability to manage the contested forests
near settlement areas sets off a much more
Second, when communities do participate
deleterious process. That is, rather than
under formal rules, existing local
uniting to limit the unsustainable use of
institutions, which were more robust
surrounding forests, smallholder indigenous
in regulating access to and use of forest families have little stake in maintaining
resources under subsistence economies, tend forests over which they cannot secure
to be ignored and overridden by a forest control. On-going informal extraction, then,
management model aimed preferentially becomes a possible means for gaining some
at commercial logging. This process often forest benefits, albeit small and probably
involves substantial support from NGOs or short lived. Hence, communities tend to
projects, which may lead to a dependence shift toward participation in short term rent
on subsidies as well as undermine the long- seeking activities.
term sustainability of local operations.
Third, this ‘preferred’ commercial logging The expansion of an informal market has
model tends to create or reinforce authority- also constituted a trap for smallholders in
related problems as it forces the constitution Porto de Moz. Because communities were
of new organizations that hold authority and not able to formalize their rights over forest
substantial power but which have not been resources, a requirement for developing
built on existing informal organizations, FMPs under the current forestry regulations,
thus facing representation failures. These they continued doing what they had always
organizations often lead to new tensions done, since many smallholders depended
and conflicts inside the community and, on timber for their livelihoods. But the
at times, to problems of corruption and informal market tends to provide a level of
patronage. income inferior to the amount that could be
50
obtained in formal markets. For example, communities’ benefits in the Petén and
smallholders cannot offer their timber the RAAN have clearly been enhanced, in
openly, because markets are controlled Guarayos the result has been the erosion
by shadow networks established in the of local governance institutions. Finally,
communities by middlemen who finance many communities and smallholders still
the sawyers, who, in turn, depend on local have local institutions - mostly devised in
traders or loggers who provide the capital. the context of poorly developed monetary
economies - that cannot face the challenge
The sustainable logging model has of commercial logging. In the latter case,
apparently only provided a solution for a the formal regulations have constituted a
small number of communities that, for the straitjacket for communities and eroded the
most part, have better connections with local working rules, leaving these people
NGOs or forestry projects, and are thus more vulnerable to changes taking place in
able to pay for forest management plans and the markets.
operate in the formal market. This brings
us back to the second problem, in which The third problem shaped by the interaction
formal rules and a homogeneous external of formal and informal institutions is that
forest management model are imposed of community organization and authority.
over a set of local institutions. In our cases, In the cases studies, most formal regulations
this occurred in the Petén, the RAAN recognize the authority of traditional
and Guarayos. The first two cases clearly organizations related to broad issues of
demonstrate that, with the right kind of land administration but not necessarily
external support, communities can learn and for forest management. To the extent that
adapt to new situations driven by changes forest use is directed at commercial logging,
in formal laws and by models that impose the formation of new organizations is
new requirements and standards, and can encouraged or required for forest resources
develop effective new informal institutions use and marketing. The decision to create
and working rules. On the other hand, separate organizations in RAAN, Guarayos
these models required substantial external and Petén was justified given the nature
investment and accompaniment, which was of forest management and the skills and
not always without considerable community knowledge required for market competition.
‘push-back’ to force adaptations (Taylor
2005). In this regard, there is rarely an existing legal
model available that ‘fits’ with the nature
The way in which existing community of a community. This may lead to tensions
institutions were ignored brought about between members and non-members, as
conflicts and tensions that probably could well as between the authorities that have
have been avoided; and the importance of traditionally led the community based on
external support and subsidies also leave different leadership criteria or merit and
open questions regarding the sustainability those involved with the new commercial
of the operations once the NGOs enterprise. The external organizations
and projects withdraw. Also, although that promote these new entrepreneurial
51
organizations tend to emphasize only
technical issues, failing to take into account
social and cultural considerations. There is
no clear understanding of the nature and
meaning of a community enterprise aside
from a profit-oriented business (Antinory
and Bray 2005). These new organizations
may fail to represent all members of the
community or group in a transparent and
accountable way. In Porto de Moz, with its
own specificities, the organization problem
is even more challenging since social
organizations at the community level are
still weak, and there is a greater influence of
government agencies in the constitution of
the council for the reserve administration.

52
6 Avoiding the rules for engaging
in forest markets

M
ost forest market interactions The reasons why forest actors operate
take place outside state outside the law are relatively complicated,
control. Despite this, and often and illegal behavior does not necessarily
because of this, most states have developed equate with unsustainable practices. For
regulations aimed at obtaining revenue from example, some local level stakeholders
forest resources, such as fees and taxes, and are unable to comply with burdensome
assuring sustainable harvesting through regulations, but their practices for forest
compliance with management norms to resources use – such as low impact logging
control the origin of forest products. Further – may not violate the intent of legislation
norms and policies outside the timber to promote sustainable management. Other
sector regulate or promote other economic stakeholders, however, have found loopholes
activities undertaken by private actors that or contradictions allowing them to give the
influence markets for forest products, such appearance of compliance while actually
as labor regulations, investment and export masking unsustainable practices that
incentives and, in some cases, commercial violate the intent of the legal framework.
constraints. Commercial activities involving Understanding the interrelationships
forest resources conducted outside the between formal and informal forest products
‘rules of the game’ devised by the state are markets requires further exploration.
informal. Some informal activities break the
formal law, and thus are considered illegal Three main issues are relevant to this
and criminalized by the state. discussion. The first is to understand

53
why some smallholders and communities state mediation and courts (to the extent
choose to engage with informal markets. that such frameworks exist in developing
The second is to understand how informal countries). As a result, they operate in
markets work in practice. The third is markets with little transparency, where
to determine what benefits local actors playing fields are not level and where they
receive by selling their forest resources – have little power to defend their interests. In
primarily timber – informally instead of in some cases, being marginalized to the illegal
the formal market. Although these three end of the ‘formal-informal continuum,’
issues are related, for analytical purposes small producers are forced to agree to
it is convenient to assess them separately. terms of sale that they would not otherwise
It is noteworthy that smallholders and accept. The benefits to smallholders and
communities constitute only two of the communities tend to shrink as a result of
many actors involved in informal markets, legal barriers and market asymmetries.
which often embrace extended networks
and multiple interactions of a diversity of Factors driving smallholder
players including local loggers, middlemen, engagement in informal markets
chainsaw operators or sawyers, sawmill The factors that explain why smallholders
owners, timber companies and, in some engage in informal markets can be traced
cases, large-scale industries and even through the perspectives of both ‘exclusion’
timber export agencies. This being the case, and ‘exit’ introduced in the section on
smallholders and communities rarely drive conceptual foundations, and discussed
these systems but are key actors in supplying partially above. While the first refers to
the raw material, as they are the ones with those legal and institutional obstacles
legal or de facto control of the timber being that complicate or restrict the ability of
exploited. forest users to comply with the required
regulations, the second refers to an implicit
As discussed in the previous section, formal (or explicit) decision made by forest actors
rules for forest management, which establish to stay outside the law. They make this
the key criteria for participation in formal choice either because the costs of complying
markets, often impose conditions that make with the laws override the benefits they
smallholder compliance difficult, imposing could obtain from the formal system, or
high transaction costs and requiring capital because the penalty for not complying may
and technical expertise that are not available. be minimal, worth paying or non-existent,
In such cases, unless they receive external hence there is no cost to ignoring the added
assistance, smallholders are forced to choose burden imposed by regulations. These two
alternative forms of forest production that factors are complementary rather than
are informal and technically illegal, or to exclusive and may be difficult to differentiate
participate in schemes that provide a mask in practice.
of legality without necessarily complying
with the intent of regulations. Both As mentioned above, forest management
choices place local producers outside the regulations create exclusion problems for
legal frameworks intended to regulate and smallholders and communities for a number
54 facilitate honest market transactions through of reasons (see also Larson and Ribot 2007).
In addition to technical and organizational Government forest fees and taxes can be
requirements, they usually require clear, calculated either by volume harvested
uncontested property rights providing (which is complex, requires more
access to forest resources, which, despite monitoring and creates opportunities for
progress with agrarian and forest reforms, corruption) or area managed or intervened
is a condition not available to many rural (which as a standardized measure is easier
people in forest lands in Latin America. One to monitor but less responsive to variation
of the greatest obstacles is the cost associated in forest value). In Nicaragua, smallholders
with rigorous and complex standards for pay from 1.5 to 18.0 US$/m3 in taxes on
the development of management plans wood harvested, depending on the species,
and sustained transaction costs to maintain but no fees for forest rights. In Bolivia,
approval for annual operations. Significant forest fees for community management
transaction costs, which are difficult to plans are US$ 1 per hectare harvested
measure, could constitute an important annually, substantially cheaper than the
factor encouraging ‘exit’ strategies. fees that would be charged to the same
producers if they harvested wood as part
It is not easy to determine the costs of agricultural clearing (which requires a
communities incur in making all the species specific charge by volume harvested).
investments that prepare them for formal In the Petén, forest fees range from 1
timber management operations as such costs to 1.28 US$/ha in the two concessions
are typically subsidized by external projects. studied. These forest fees correspond to the
Estimates of the costs of developing forest total time for which the forest concessions
management plans are quite variable (see were granted (25 years), although they are
Table 4). For example, the direct cost for paid annually. Another 20% of income is
a general plan is about 10 US$/ha in the paid in a variety of taxes. One study in the
RAAN and 8 US$/ha in Guarayos but 42 RAAN estimated total costs for meeting all
US$/ha in Porto de Moz. In some regions, of these obligations, including transaction
like Petén, foresters charge the same fee costs, from beginning the process to cutting
for small and large operations rather than the first tree, at US$ 20 per cubic meter
by hectare or volume. Additional costs (Navarro 2008); the process of obtaining the
are associated with other requirements, permit took about 5 months.
such as environmental impact assessments
and annual operating plans, as well as the In the five study areas, almost all the
bureaucratic transaction costs. Management communities with timber management
costs are further increased if communities plans benefited from external support
are compelled to adopt the ‘voluntary’ (from local NGOs or forestry projects)
certification mechanism. The cost paid for in formulating a FMP (including census
certification for a community concession and inventories), having this approved,
in the Petén was US$ 8,000, with annual and initiating logging operations. This
costs of about US$ 1,500-2,000; in RAAN, external support was necessary not only
Layasiksa paid US$ 13,000 in 2007 to for investment capital and technical needs,
comply with requirements, over and above but also to navigate the bureaucracy.
the initial certification costs. For neighboring communities without 55
56
Table 4. Main costs related to the formalization of community forestry operations
Type of Indigenous territory Indigenous territory Extractive reserve in Agro-extractive Community concessions
rights in the RAAN in Guarayos Porto de Moz communities in northern in northern Petén
(Nicaragua) (Bolivia) (Brazil) Amazon (Bolivia) (Guatemala) (a)
Forest Institute taxes US$1 to 1.28 /ha (a) corresponding
Fees for Brazil nut extraction
according to species and to the total time for which
Forest fees are not paid by producers but
volume (from US$1.5 concessions were granted (25
correspond to US$1/ The communities are are charged at processing
Payments of to $18.0/m3); municipal years), although they are paid
ha corresponding exempted of paying forest plants on a per volume basis
forest fees taxes 1% of export value annually.
to the annual area fees in the reserve (US$ 0,005/Kg charge for
& for milling 1.5% of local Taxes amounting to approximately
intervened unshelled nuts and US$ 0,013/
market value; income and 20% of income.
Kg for shelled nuts)
value added taxes
Not possible to determine Include information
the costs for establishing Not possible to Not possible to determine dissemination, and contract
the organization since determine since the costs since forestry Costs do not apply since negotiation (range from US$ 1,920
Costs for WWF and other donors there were important projects invested communities are not to 3,000)
obtaining the invested several years subsidies flowing in the creation of formulating plans for Brazil
contracts and included substantial to communities to community associations nut management, even Costs incurred in the creating the
technical training, establish community including training and though it is demanded by law productive organization equal
accompaniment and forestry enterprises organizational support to US$ 2000, which was paid for
organizational support ACOFOP
FMP direct costs US$10/ FMP direct costs
The community Juçara
ha, and Environmental are US$8/ha in the
Costs of spent about US$42/ha for Estimated at approximately NGOs providing support cover the
Impact Assessment costs community of Santa
management the formulation of their US$3/ha but requirement not costs of forest management plans
US$7/ha, these and costs Maria. These costs
instruments forest management plan enforced. financed through USAID
of certification covered by have been covered by
paid with external support
donors donors.
POA costs are US$10-12/ Costs for POA formulation from
ha (covered by enterprise); The community Juçara 5%-8% of total operational costs
Costs for complying US$13,000 (in 2006) to POA costs are US$8/ spent a US$ 64,000 for Costs do not apply due to
with the contracts comply with certification ha in Santa Maria. training, paper work and reasons mentioned above First certification costs US$ 8,000
requirements (covered by technical advice and annual evaluations from US$
donors) 1,500 to 2,000.
Notes: (a) Correspond to the community concessions Arbol Verde and Carmelita
Source: Elaborated by authors based on Albornoz et al.(2008), Mendoza et al. (2008), Monterroso and Barry (2008), Nunes et al. (2008), Vieira et al. (2008).
assistance, these costs were the main factor have visited forest frontiers in developing
‘excluding’ them from adopting strategies countries. Vigorous informal markets
attuned to forestry regulations. for timber operate in all of the study
countries. For example, anecdotal evidence
Though ‘exit’ factors were not explored suggests that indigenous communities
in-depth in this study, it is likely that located in Guarayos, Bolivia, continue to
the exclusion mechanism, described harvest timber without complying with
above, is decisive. Nonetheless, there legal procedures, selling extensively in
are additional reasons for smallholders informal markets (Cronkleton and Pacheco
to exit the formal arena, some of which 2008; Larson 2008b). In the RAAN,
were already noted. The first occurs Nicaragua, unofficial estimates suggest
under conditions where there is little or that approximately half of all the timber
no penalty for noncompliance. A second produced comes through informal channels
occurs when communities, such as (Ampie 2002). In Porto de Moz, Brazil,
indigenous communities in the RAAN, informal extraction is the primary source
view government regulation as lacking local of timber supply, even from inside the
legitimacy; hence certain rules are followed, RESEX, to the main buyers (local loggers
particularly local norms, but not the entire and sawmills) operating in the region
chain of formal regulations. This case is (Nunes et al. 2008). Timber from informal
addressed below. The third, and perhaps operations seems also to supply much of the
the most common, is not an active choice wood in local markets in Bolivia’s northern
to exit: when the conditions excluding Amazon (Albornoz et al. 2008). This section
communities and smallholders from forest addresses the way in which informal market
management appear insurmountable, they interactions work in practice, providing
simply drop it as an option. examples from the case studies.21

In the latter case, communities are sought It has been noted previously that when
out by intermediaries and loggers looking smallholders choose to undertake formal
for sources of raw materials. Hence the forestry operations they often need help
community plays a passive role since, in from other actors, usually in the form of a
subsidy (i.e., grants, donations, government
the absence of local buyers, they would
programs) to pay for the formation of a
either have let the trees stand or burnt them
FMP and/or non-financial assistance, such
when clearing for agriculture. Given the
as training. Nonetheless, when smallholders
opportunity they are offered, they sell the
can not, or choose not to, formulate these
timber, albeit at lower prices, and the logger
plans, they often interact with other forestry
has to worry about marketing the wood.
actors in the informal market to access
operational capital, to buy services (i.e.,
inventory, extraction, hauling, transport)
Main interactions of actors in
and to establish a buyer channel for the
informal markets
Given their illicit nature, informal markets 21
In the areas around the selected communities in the Petén, in-
formal logging was less prevalent so no example is being drawn
are notoriously difficult to document but from that site. It could be assumed that different conditions
will be quite familiar to observers who would have been found away from the community concession
areas considered in the lowland Guatemala studies.
57
harvested timber. These interactions change these permits very difficult to suspend.
over time and from place to place. In 2002, the process involved obtaining
permission from the appropriate community
Indigenous communities in the RAAN are authority (síndico), ratified by the local judge
involved in selling timber through both (wihta); harvesting was limited to 3,000
formal and informal channels.22 Informal board feet twice a year, the wood was sawn
operations work through a relatively well- with a chainsaw in the forest, a fee was paid
established network of local buyers and to the Indigenous Forestry Cooperative,
middlemen. According to Roper (2003), which was created for this purpose, for a
timber is most often sold as standing trees, transport permit, and it was delivered to
mostly to local intermediaries and timber the sale lot in town (Ampie 2002). Tax
companies, though some producers fell trees payments were made to the mayor and the
and saw them into planks for sale. Most forestry institute.
of these activities are illegal as the timber
does not usually originate from areas with Yet even this simple procedure did not
a FMP. Transportation is facilitated in a result in ‘legality’, as apparently many
variety of ways, including hiding the wood, participating communities did not bother
using social networks or paying bribes. to pay all the required taxes. Indigenous
Intermediaries and logging companies also communities believed that the only
use existing permits to ‘launder’ additional legitimate authorization and payment
wood. was that of the sindico and judge from the
community, and that this was sufficient.
Although regional authorities had tried Also, because a typical truckload holds
to discontinue small-scale permits for 5,000 board feet, it was common to take
pine at least since 2006, two were still that amount rather than 3,000 board feet,
in operation at the time of the research. since the transport price would be the same.
These community permits were a formal In addition, under the Communal Lands
procedure established several years ago Law it is legal to log for domestic use with
by local agreement among a variety of the permission of the community judge.
authorities in the RAAN specifically to As many community members have homes
support indigenous communities. The
in town, they are allowed to transport this
experience with these permits identifies
wood from the community to their urban
some of the underlying issues regarding
home, which may or may not then be used
informal markets and logging in the region.
for domestic purposes. Fundamentally,
This type of permit does not exist in the law
communities see the government as only
and, logically, it should have been suspended
interested in obtaining tax income rather
with the Forest Moratorium when other
than in promoting good forest management,
smaller permit options were shelved in favor
and hence only follow the rules they choose
of FMPs in 2006. Nevertheless, according
(Ampie 2002).
to local authorities, social pressure has made
22
Further research on this was interrupted, however, by Hur-
ricane Felix in September 2007, which damaged just under 1 In the indigenous territory of Guarayos,
million hectares of forest in the RAAN (INGTELSIG 2008). informal timber networks are well developed
The hurricane led to changes in forest regulations and permits,
58 which have been slow to implement. and quite robust and extensive in their
geographical coverage, in spite of significant Throughout the contested, and still
efforts to promote formal sustainable untitled, area of the TCO land claim,
forest management at the community and logging is driven by informal institutions
industrial level. In several ways the networks linked to smallholders by two new types
observed here are characteristic of the of actors: proveedores (literally, providers)
dynamics driving local timber markets on and consultants. These actors serve as
forest frontiers in the country as a whole. intermediaries for brokering timber
Understanding the role of smallholders in sales between smallholders and logging
these networks involves examining how the companies, sawmills or other buyers. The
local logging sector operates. Prior to the proveedores are woodsmen who know the
TCO demand, the local timber sector was territory and its residents, have links to local
composed of several small- and medium- (small and medium) sawmills and other
scale logging companies and sawmills, as buyers, and have the basic skills needed to
well as numerous independent chainsaw generate information for the documents
operators, sawyers, and truckers, often at required for logging permits. They operate
the margin of the law. These actors did not below the ‘official’ radar, as there is no
qualify for industrial timber concessions formal system for registering them or their
granted under the new forestry law, nor activities. Local buyers contact smallholders
could they form logging associations and purchase standing trees (usually paying
(ASLs) to receive municipal concessions US$ 5 to US$ 10 per tree depending on the
on state lands, because most of the region species), fill out the necessary paperwork
had been ‘immobilized’ (land transactions, in the landowners’ name, and then harvest
including concessions, were suspended) the wood, turning the wood and related
while the Guarayos TCO demand was being paperwork over to the next buyer. They are
formalized. used to work with land clearing permits
when had no legal titles, and in titled
Policy makers expected these stakeholders to areas worked extensively with FMPs on
become service providers once community areas smaller than 200 hectares, and with
forest management plans came on line, 3-hectare logging permits intended for
or as private property owners developed domestic use when these were permitted.
sustainable management plans. However,
much of this informal sector resisted Consultants are a new phenomenon
complying with demands from communities to appear in Guarayos. They are forest
(and the NGOs that supported them) to engineers who set up companies to prepare
receive higher prices for their managed forest management plans (usually using
timber (in fact, at one point they formed a the small scale plans on areas less than 200
cartel of service providers to limit access to hectares) and harvest permits for areas of
buyers from outside the region). At the same forest clearing. Their arrival is associated
time, these actors quickly realized that in with the intensification of the agricultural
spite of the new forestry regulations, there frontier in the region. It is noteworthy that
were still a number of mechanisms that many consultants previously worked for the
allowed them to maintain their informal Forest Superintendence, forestry projects
operations, as will be described below. or NGOs working in the region and have 59
in-depth knowledge of the bureaucracy, needed. Though there have been subsequent
its processes and capacity to monitor and attempts to increase regulation of the smaller
control logging operations. Because they plans, authorities retreated in the face of
understand the system, they know how to widespread protests in the region, suggesting
manipulate it to get access to timber and to that these practices will not change in the
act as intermediaries. Most are legitimate near future.
service providers, but anecdotal evidence
suggests that some have become active No data exists regarding the amount of
players in structuring informal networks. forest affected by illegal logging, but it has
expanded into non-managed forests within
Both the 3-hectare permits and smaller the indigenous territory. Local loggers justify
FMPs are less complex and costly than full this practice by arguing that they had to
management plans; they also benefit from pay taxes on a volume of wood that turned
streamlined approval processes at the local out to be smaller than estimated, hence
level that allow a quick turn around (i.e. they were ‘obligated’ to seek out wood from
days or weeks, rather than months or years). other sources (Cronkleton and Albornoz
Because these mechanisms were seen as 2003). In this context, smallholders in
less significant, there was less supervision communities that were unable to develop
and control by the Forest Superintendence, a FMP, either because they had no support
allowing estimated timber volumes to be or because their forests were contested and
inflated to mask illegally harvested wood not titled, found that they were sought out
from elsewhere. The inflated volume allows by loggers interested in their logging rights.
brokers to receive additional ‘certificates of Many of these impoverished households,
origin’, permits needed to transport wood. without legal means to manage their timber,
Since the actual volumes are much lower accepted their offers; even though prices
than the estimated volumes, the buyer can were low, they were better than nothing.
use extra permits to transport wood from Usually there is minimal or no involvement
other sources, probably harvested illegally. by the landowner in these forestry
In some cases, plans are prepared on operations, and in some cases smallholders
community lands by these outsiders only to do not have information regarding how the
obtain a certificate of origin, which can be management plans were developed or the
traded in the informal market. amount of timber to be extracted from their
parcels.
Due to the complete lack of control of the
information contained in the management An additional feature found in the informal
plans, altering species and volumes has markets in Guarayos is that illegal forest
become common practice in Guarayos. clearing – practiced by medium- and large-
While the Forestry Law states that the scale landholders and colonists – constitutes
Forestry Superintendence has to undertake another informal source of timber for local
a field inspection to confirm the validity sawmills, which competes with the formal
of the data contained in the management supply. In 2006 there were only 9 sawmills
plans, a resolution approved in the early in the Guarayos region, but the number
60 2000s states that verification is no longer has increased during the last year to almost
20 (BOLFOR II 2007). As mentioned in the region (STR 2001). These companies
earlier, a portion of indigenous lands is had been working in collusion with the
still contested. This provides an incentive mayor of the Porto de Moz municipality
for third parties to take possession of these to control the local timber market (Salgado
areas, and to clear cut them to justify their and Kaimowitz 2003). The RESEX, besides
ownership (under the agrarian law), which making a fundamental contribution to
in most cases takes place without the the formalization of tenure rights for local
required permits and thus without paying people, also led to the closure of the large
the taxes stipulated for forest clearing. The logging operations and weakened the mayor
timber cut in these landholdings supplies who defended their interests.
local sawmills, probably using certificates
of origin purchased in the informal market. The timber companies had put in place a
It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of relatively extensive network for logging on
these activities. community lands that mobilized numerous
sawyers, local loggers, middlemen and
Local buyers and sawmills are connected to truckers. This network was relatively intact
other actors in urban markets, and it is likely after the creation of the reserve, in spite
that some of the timber extracted illegally of the restrictions on logging within its
from the indigenous territory is exported jurisdiction imposed by the regulations.
by a few plywood and wood manufacturing But with the closure of the large companies,
companies as wood originating from areas there was insufficient capital to keep the
under sustainable management. There are system in motion. Over time, however,
several plywood industries working in the it has gradually been taken over by a new
region (i.e., Laminadora Suto, FOBOL, group of local politicians who now provide
SOBOLMA, CIMAL – IMR), which the financial resources, and use their
represent an important proportion of the influence and connections to supply timber,
timber demand (BOLFOR II 2007). Yet, some of which is exported, to industries
as noted, since illegal timber tends to be in Belem. Unfortunately there is no data
formalized as legal, it becomes extremely for estimating the extent of these informal
difficult to differentiate the sources: virtually transactions, though there is less logging in
all actors participate in both formal and the RESEX than before. One of the driving
informal markets. The proportion of factors for continued logging is that many
each depends on one’s expected gains and RESEX residents depend on timber sales for
assessment of risk. a portion of their livelihoods, particularly in
the absence of other sources of income.
In Pará, Brazil, informal markets are
widespread in the municipality of Porto An unintended consequence of the creation
de Moz. Probably the most interesting of the RESEX, mentioned earlier, was
implication of land regularization through to push the logging frontier east of the
the creation of the RESEX ‘Verde para Xingu River into the surrounding untitled
Sempre’ has been the restructuring of local community lands and a national forest
timber markets. Before the creation of the located in an area relatively close to the
reserve, 22 timber companies were operating RESEX (called FLONA Caxiuanã). Because 61
these lands are less protected (mainly in municipalities of Breves and Gurupá (Nunes
the case of the national forest) it is easier to et al. 2008).
obtain timber breaking the law without the
risk of being sanctioned. This has increased Finally, in the Bolivian northern Amazon
the pressure from local loggers on lands the situation is drastically different since
that had seen little intervention in the most producers rely on Brazil nuts as their
past. However, insufficient information is main source of livelihoods. As mentioned
available to compare the intensity of the previously, though the state has attempted
logging operations taking place east of the to introduce the use of management plans,
Xingu River with those taking place within communities have not complied, and the
the RESEX, or to analyze their evolution state has little capacity or political will to
over time. insist on their use. In this case, the norms
for Brazil nuts are not going to affect
There are several actors involved in informal the highly developed Brazil nut market,
logging in Porto de Moz. Communities in which almost all communities of the
are the main timber suppliers, but also Bolivian northern Amazon participate,
individual landholders provide timber with more than 200 barracas and about 20
mainly through selling standing trees to processing plants. The entire system of Brazil
local chainsaw operators. The sawyers are nut harvesting has been built upon informal
generally from the same communities. land tenure rights and a system of forest
products collection called habilito24 (Bojanic
Most sawyers transform round wood into
2001; Stoian 2000).
planks, although they also sell logs if there
is demand and transportation. They deliver
The habilito system, which was originally
the logs and planks to the riverbanks or
set up for rubber tapping and collection,
road. Sometimes chainsaw operators enter
lies at the heart of the commercial and
into agreements with middlemen in return
labor relationships in the region’s Brazil
for a cash advance, but some also operate
nut production chains (Pacheco 1992).
with their own capital. Once sold, timber is
The habilito is the lubricant for commercial
collected by middlemen. They need to pay
relations, as it allows capital to flow from
for transportation services to the bufeteiros,23
brokers to processing plants down to
who are the owners of the timber trucks.
barraqueros and middlemen, continuing
In the Porto de Moz municipality there are
into the forest to finance local nut gatherers.
roughly 50 to 60 active bufeteiros, although
These funds provide the means to initiate
anecdotal evidence suggests that there were
the harvest and allow those higher up the
many more in the past. The middlemen
production chain to secure their Brazil
deliver a portion of the logs to the three nut supply for export. The system was
large-scale sawmills (Maruá, Maturu, and historically a kind of debt peonage that
Grupo Galette) that are the main local bound workers to their employers but
buyers of the timber. The planks are sent on has persisted and been transformed into
to the city of Belem and the neighboring a variety of patron-client relationships.
23
Bufeteiros are the owners of the logging trucks that carry the
logs from the production areas to the sawmills. 24
See footnote 5.
62
Habilito has shaped (and still shapes) the Agroforestal Campesino), based in Riberalta,
labor relations inside barracas, and between and COINACAPA (Cooperativa Integral
the barraqueros and zafreros (temporary Agroextractivista Campesinos de Pando) in
migrant workers hired to gather Brazil nuts Cobija. The former has a processing plant,
during the harvest season from January and the latter is in the process of obtaining
to March). While it proved efficient in the financial resources for buying one. The
articulating transactions in a remote two cooperatives have made great strides for
undeveloped frontier market, it is becoming entering into the organically certified and
outdated in a context of better physical and fair trade markets, which have increased the
market integration, and increasing prices for benefits they can obtain from Brazil nut
Brazil nuts, which are progressively leading extraction. COINACAPA pays a premium
to the development of a more open market. to their members after the product has been
However, some residues of the habilito negotiated in fair trade markets in Europe.
system still persist.

Smallholders are in a better position today Economic gains derived by
to negotiate the price of Brazil nuts in the smallholders from their forests
northern Amazon, mainly as a result of There are few comparative studies of the
the formalization of land tenure described costs and benefits accruing to smallholders
earlier. This has enhanced the contribution and communities from formal timber
of Brazil nuts to smallholders’ livelihoods.
markets, and even fewer on informal
The harvesting process is not capital
markets. Comparing five different cases
intensive and is well adapted to household
of communities undertaking formal
production systems. Furthermore, there is
management initiatives, Pacheco et al.
a well developed system of transportation
(2008) found that profits for Carmelita in
from the forest to the processing plants, and
Petén, Layasiksa in RAAN and Cururú in
from there to Pacific ports, from which most
Guarayos are fairly comparable, ranging
of the production is exported.
from about US$ 28,000 for Carmelita to
US$ 30,000 for Layasiksa and US$ 34,000
Most residents of agro-extractive
for Cururú; though Arbol Verde in Petén
communities sell their Brazil nuts to
had much higher profits of US$ 225,000.25
middlemen. However, a growing number
Nevertheless, when considering these
are becoming more organized to directly
profits in relation to the number of families
market their nuts collectively. The prices
involved, they range from US$ 179 per
obtained by smallholders correspond to
the prices agreed among the different family in Layasiksa to US$ 1,043 in Cururú.
actors along the value chain, which are These data also suggest that profits per
negotiated among processing plans, hectare intervened are much higher in richer
barraqueros and zafreros at the beginning forests such as the Petén, and that forestry
of the collection season, and tend to be operations tend to be more selective there
adjusted depending on price fluctuations. 25
These figures are rough estimates as community accounting
There are two smallholder Brazil nut systems are notoriously weak, and there is substantial variation
in the way enterprises account for expenses and profits. Also,
cooperatives: CAIC (Cooperativa Integral some of the operations still receive subsidies. 63
Table 5. Comparison of selected community forestry initiatives

  Petén, Guatemala (a) Nicaragua Guarayos, Bolivia (c)
(b)
Arbol Carmelita Layasiksa Santa Cururú
Verde (2002-05) (2007) Maria (2007)
(2006) (2004)
First year of operations  2001 1997   2004 1999 2002
Total managed area (ha)  64,973 53,797   4,665 2,433 26,420
Annual harvested area (ha)  900 450  155 121 861
Annual volume harvested (m ) 3
1,029 1,365  1,363 500 2,119
No. of families involved  344 88 169 35 34
Total net profits (US$) 226,315 27,745  30,264 -3,221 34,486
Volume harvested (m3/ha) (f ) 1.1 3.0 8.8 4.1 2.5
Net profits (US$) / Annual
251.5 61.5 195.3 (26.6) 40.1
harvested area (ha) (f )
Net profits (US$) / No. families 657.9 315.2 179.1 (92.0) 1,014.3
Net profit (US$) / Volume
219.9 20.3 22.2 (6.4) 16.3
harvested in the year (m3)

Notes: (a) Data for 2004 based on NPV (NPV 1999), Stoian and Rodas (2006), Propeten (1997), and own calculations. Data for
Carmelita correspond to annual average obtained from analysis of financial flows between 2002 and 2005; (b) elaborated
by author based on Masangni/WWF/IFC (2006); (c) elaborated by author based on Albornoz et al. (2008), and financial
reports from the Indigenous Forestry Association of Guarayos (AFIG), and the BOLFOR Project; (d) correspond to the hectares
harvested during the year of reference (annual harvested area). Adapted from Pacheco et al. (2008).

as well, whereas logging is more intensive in members, in addition to net profits (Larson
poorer forests (Table 5). et al. 2008). For many rural communities,
this is one of the most important livelihood
While the net profits obtained from these contributions of community forestry
forestry enterprises could be considered operations.
reasonable, they tend to be quite low on a
per family or per hectare basis. Based on Outside of communities like these that
a financial assessment of 12 community have received substantial external support,
initiatives pursuing formal forest however, it is difficult for communities to
management in the Brazilian Amazon, find capital and service providers to assist
Medina and Pokorny (2007) concluded that them in their forestry operations, since
most community operations have relatively service providers and local loggers tend to
high production costs that limit the profits take advantage of them. The communities’
they can obtain from their forests, since only chronic lack of financial resources leads
large-scale initiatives are able to remunerate them to sell their timber resources as
the labor force and still obtain additional standing trees to local loggers, while in
profits for investments. Nevertheless, four some cases they also transform the wood
of the five operations studied (all but Santa into planks with the use of chainsaws in
María) provided between $22,000 and order to get a better price. Nevertheless, a
64 $43,000 in labor payments to community characteristic of informal markets is that
the logs, in most of the cases, tend to be constructed asymmetries of both power
undervalued just because they originate in and information (Larson and Ribot 2007),
areas without an FMP. There is anecdotal tend to produce a negative final outcome
evidence suggesting that, in some cases, in the distribution of rents among forest
such as the RAAN and Porto de Moz, stakeholders. The distribution of benefits,
communities capture a higher portion of in the end, tends to penalize smallholders
the benefits when they saw the wood with and communities due to their lack of assets,
chainsaws to produce planks, and sell these financial capital and information, which
to local buyers. The higher portion of the limits their ability to compete, as does their
rents obtained from roughly processed small scale of operation. As a result, local
timber could offset the lower value of timber timber buyers tend to control these markets
in informal markets, and contribute to and prices, leaving communities as simple
generating additional jobs as well. raw material suppliers, in both formal and
informal markets.
In the RAAN, Roper (2003) found that
the production of timber planks gave In short, there are two structural factors
communities a greater benefit (10% of the explaining the distribution of economic
gross benefits) than the sale of standing rents from timber resources along the
trees. The problem is that this is usually productive chain. The first is related to
illegal, and thus presents risks. A comparison the aggregation of value along the chain:
of Layasiksa’s two (formal) operations, it is widely known that selling logs leaves
one involving the sale of standing trees limited benefits in comparison with selling
in concession and the other, its own processed wood in planks or boards. Hence
community forestry enterprise, demonstrates higher profits can be obtained, for example,
that the former leaves less than 3% of the by producing planks with chainsaws, the
total value generated, from logging to sale technology closest to communities. The
in the capital, in the community, whereas second has to do with whether or not the
the latter leaves 43% (Arguello 2008). Flores activities are carried out in compliance with
and Mendoza (2006) found that the illegal the law. Since regulations usually penalize
sale of mahogany by organized community the production of planks with chainsaws,
members in the RAAN paid substantially in order to operate within the formal rules,
higher prices than sales to exporters or it is often easier to sell standing trees, since
local intermediaries; value chains with the the only alternative appears to be launching
participation of more intermediaries also larger scale operations with substantial
resulted in lower prices to communities, external support. Hence, communities and
since a larger number of actors are taking a smallholders, in the majority of cases, are
share of the rent. trapped in the dilemma of earning less but
complying with the law, or obtaining larger
Frequent distortions observed in timber benefits but breaking the rules of law for
markets, which are influenced by timber resources use and processing.

65
66
7 Conclusions:
putting the pieces together

T
he case studies assessed here suggest The latter is even more important as
that attention to the working rules, formalization of rules faces a highly
based on the interaction of both constructed reality of informal rules guiding
formal and informal institutions, constitute the behavior of both individual and social
the key focal point for understanding social groups in their relation to land and forest
behavior in forest resource management resource access and use. Furthermore,
and benefit generation and distribution. homogenous recipes for regulating forest
These cases suggest that although formal resource use, often adopted by governments,
rules are becoming increasingly important tend to neglect complex realities and
for influencing forest resource use in the existing working rules for land access and
context of expanding markets, mainly for forest use. The latter, however, were often
timber products, their outcomes depend not conceived for operating in open market
on their interactions with existing informal situations, and hence need to be altered and
rules. In this regard, understanding adapted to the new and evolving contexts.
the informal arenas becomes extremely In addition, the organizational solutions
important for shaping state efforts for for communities to manage their forest
the formalization of property rights and and organize their forest production, that
regulation of forest resource use. We assert are inspired in entrepreneurial models,
that this realm of consideration will later often ignore existing local institutional
have decisive implications on the generation arrangements, and thus create new problems
and distribution of economic benefits related to land access, decision making for
throughout the forest sector. forest resource use, and benefits distribution.

67
It is evident that states have made significant indigenous lands. In the RESEX in Porto de
progress in land tenure formalization Moz, the lack of clarity about internal land
through different tenure models, some more allocation has not constituted a problem to
sensitive to local rights and conservation the extent that the previous internal land
concerns. Most of these models recognize rights were not affected. In all cases, the
collective land rights, based on claims of growth of informal land markets, forbidden
either indigenous, traditional or agro- by formal law and tolerated by local
extractive communities. Internal land informal rules, tends to become the primary
allocation is often left to existing customary mechanism for land redistribution, mainly
rules, though the creation of multi- in the areas more exposed to pressures from
community territories has added new external agents and relatively weak local
challenges involving the construction of governance structures.
new layers of governance and management
systems to administer these land claims and In most of the cases studied, there are few
to exclude outsiders. In this regard, some formal rules regarding the management
indigenous communities have developed of NTFPs, hence working rules for using
relatively more complex rules for collective these resources are largely influenced by
land management than other traditional existing informal rules which are relatively
communities and smallholder settlements, well developed, as local populations
but this is not always the case. The others tend to depend more on them for their
may have rules that regulate forest access local livelihoods. Yet, these rules tend
and management in both individual and to erode to the extent that formal rules
collective lands. and management models for timber are
introduced into communities. The formal
The outcome of land formalization in rules devised for introducing reduced
indigenous territories does not depend impact logging practices, as a way to ensure
greatly on the content of the formal law sustainable forest management, are based on
– since most schemes tend to recognize the model of large scale commercial forestry,
customary rules – but in their modes with implied logging and silvicultural
of implementation. The approach to practices from an industrial scale and
recognizing collective rights seems to have modus operandi. The results tend to be at
worked relatively well in the RAAN, but ‘cross-purposes’ in the field, reinforcing the
it has led to substantial conflict around abandonment of NTFPs and unnecessary
rights and land speculation in Guarayos. complexity and time to access formal timber
This is mainly due to the construction of markets.
new (informal) rules of the game in the face
of multiple competing demands, first for This commercial forestry model is relatively
expanding the occupation of community homogenous in the different countries
lands, and second for certifying illegal rights assessed here, nuanced by the fact that
of third parties inside the TCO. In contrast, imposed regulations vary in terms of
in the communities studied in the RAAN, bureaucratic and technical requisites. In
leaders have created new working rules to Petén, where land rights were granted on
68 control the presence of third parties on a concessionary basis, the pre-existing
informal rights to withdrawal of non- limited resources and conditions for meeting
timber forest resources (like xate and chicle) them tend to be excluded. Those unable
were ignored. Also in Petén, and in the to comply are thus forced to seek informal
participating communities in indigenous and/or illegal market alternatives. In this
territories of RAAN and Guarayos, quite context, external support and subsidies have
orthodox models for sustainable forest been crucial in helping some communities
management were imposed as result of to overcome such barriers and sustain formal
a the active intervention of conservation forestry operations.
NGOs, like WWF and TNC, often tied
to schemes of ‘voluntary’ certification. Market access, per se, however, is not often
In the RESEX in Porto de Moz, forest a problem. Extensive shadow networks,
management was halted by additional operating informally, offer alternative
conservation-inspired land-use regulations market channels. These informal networks
that require the formulation of a plan for are problematic, as they tend to concentrate
natural resource management in the reserve, economic benefits outside the communities,
which has progressed quite slowly. This with little security, such as legal protection
has constituted an administrative barrier or recourse, as well as risks associated with
for the development of sustainable forest illegal practices. Wood prices also tend
management in the reserve. to be lower, though this is not always the
case. Most forest actors engage in both
It is not surprising that sophisticated formal and informal markets, which makes
forestry regulations, recently approved it difficult to distinguish the entangled
in the different countries, so far have interactions that they establish in the market
succeeded poorly in achieving their place.
expected outcomes regarding sustainable
management and increased prosperity Two central issues arise in relation to the
from timber management for forest- formalization of land tenure, implantation
based communities. The inability of of forest management models in smallholder
smallholders and communities to afford and community lands, and engagement
the FMP, or the transaction costs involved with timber markets. First, although local
in their approval, is complicated by the forest users have gained formal rights over
fact that the rules of the game neglect their land and forest resources, the state
local working rules, often tied to existing still holds essential management rights
governance structures. Formal rules have through the regulation of these resources,
tended to favor forest actors with better limiting community decision-making
asset endowments and greater bargaining power regarding resource use. Second, this
power in the market. Forest user groups in turn restricts local capacity to capture
must constitute formal enterprises and the economic benefits from the use and
register them, pay the stipulated taxes, and sale of these resources; their capacity to
comply with labor regulations, all designed compete in the market is mediated by
for larger scale operations. Compliance managerial skills, bargaining power, and
with these regulations makes it difficult to market knowledge, among other factors
enter into formal markets, as those with inherent in the industrial model. At the 69
same time, structural inequities shape power placing a priority on securing the indigenous
and information asymmetries in the market land claims within the territories in order
place. Few external support policies and to avoid perverse situations like those in
forestry development projects address these Guarayos. Finally, serious consideration has
crucial topics. to be given to the governance organizations
that are granted titles. These issues should
The trends described above are difficult be taken up not only by states, but also by
to reverse. However, there is still scope NGOs and donors as well as the indigenous
for improving the way in which land and smallholder organizations who are at
tenure formalization is put into practice the forefront of land and forest claims.
by the state, as well as for correcting the
imperfections and failures of forest policy The resource management realm also merits
implementation by taking greater account
some suggestions. The most important
of informal rules in shaping these policies’
is that it makes little sense to rely on a
actual outcomes. Below we summarize some
single model for achieving sustainable
recommendations that may help in this
forest management – the one inspired
regard.
by entrepreneurial models of large-scale
commercial forestry. This model neglects
The shortcomings of land tenure
a diverse range of forest management
formalization need to be urgently addressed
practices and organizational models that are
to avoid further conflict, reduce negative
used by indigenous, traditional and agro-
impacts from power asymmetries in illegal
land appropriation, and ameliorate improper extractive communities and that are also
land-use practices. There is a need to make appropriate. The imposed model does not
existing (mostly informal) tenure rights to work without very high levels of investment,
land and forest resources more visible. This substantial community upheaval and, most
could be done by establishing mechanisms often, ongoing dependence on external
for explicit ‘negotiation’ between the formal subsidies and support. In this context, over-
rules and existing working rules regarding regulation of forest management, such as
land access, possession and use. This means the requirement of FSC certification, is
moving beyond land-use mapping to tenure likely only to tip the balance of an already
rights mapping, linked to other forest asymmetrical situation even further. Future
resource uses besides timber, including policies and projects should acknowledge
NTFPs and environmental services. that diverse systems of forest resource use are
Clear procedures should be defined and possible, and hence advance more explicitly
implemented for recognizing indigenous towards pluralism in forest management.
claims over territories and for the fair and
transparent negotiation of the rights of With regard to timber markets, for the vast
third parties within them. Furthermore, majority of communities, informal actors
the state should play a more active role in and linkages appear to have a more decisive
defense of these territories, supporting and effect than formal networks on forest
defending community exclusion rights and resource management and the distribution
70
of economic benefits accruing from such In the end, forest management should
resources. This is a topic that needs to begin with the community and be rooted
undergo more in-depth scrutiny. First and in effective and locally legitimate working
foremost, however, operating under formal, rules; new innovations should based
legal conditions has to be (1) accessible and on community members’ interests and
(2) in the interest of communities. Though aspirations, and their levels and types of
assets, skills, experience and technical
markets cannot be mandated, policies can
capacities. From this starting point,
aggressively tip the playing field in ways that
productive activities could be developed
support communities, such as by reducing
incrementally, as needed, from simpler
transaction costs, explicitly facilitating
to more complex, from smaller to larger,
community management, researching allowing for more gradual adaptation and
markets for a variety of products, placing learning-by-doing. Explicit concern for
vigilance authority in the hands of equity and for building or strengthening
communities themselves, promoting transparent and accountable governance
community-company partnerships and structures throughout this process will lower
fair trade policies, facilitating access to the risk of elite capture of the benefits of
credit and information, and training in new developments. The result should be
organization, accounting and technical forestry activities built on a solid and more
support. sustainable foundation.

71
72
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80
CIFOR’s Forests and Governance Programme examines how decisions about
forests and forest-dependent people are made and implemented in order to
promote the participation and empowerment of disadvantaged groups; the
accountability and transparency of decision-makers and more powerful groups;
and democratic, inclusive processes that support fair representation and decision
making among all groups.

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
CIFOR advances human wellbeing, environmental conservation, and equity
by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in
developing countries. CIFOR is one of 15 centres within the Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). CIFOR’s headquarters are in Bogor,
Indonesia. It also has offices in Asia, Africa and South America. CIFOR works in
over 30 countries worldwide and has links with researchers in 50 international,
regional and national organisations.

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