for a Thesis in the field of Environmental Management
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Master of Liberal Arts Degree

Harvard University
Extension School
January 7, 2008


Tentative Title
“Global Warming and the Desertification Crisis: Reversing Desertification in Sub-
Saharan Africa by Reforestation and Tree Planting”

The Research Problem
Though discovered more than 100 years ago, global warming has never been as
important an issue as it is today. The world community has now recognized the far-
reaching effects of global warming. It is not simply an environmental nuisance, but a
serious economic, social, and geopolitical problem. The terrible impact of global
warming on developing nations, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has not
received the attention it deserves. The combination of rapid population growth, global
warming, and desertification is a serious regional issue with consequences that will
endure long after the present generation.
There are two main factors contributing to global warming in SSA: the increase of
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and deforestation. These factors also contribute to
the acceleration of desertification. Though more attention is given to global climate
change, desertification is of greater concern in tropical nations, with SSA in particular.
George Woodwell, an ecosystem botanist, has argued that twice as much carbon dioxide
may be released into the atmosphere through deforestation and agricultural activities than
through the burning of fossil fuel (Weart, 2003). It is widely recognized that the
industrialized nations of the world are largely responsible for anthropogenic carbon

dioxide emissions through the burning of fossil fuel, whereas developing nations are
responsible for deforestation. Urban sprawl and destructive logging are the two major
culprits behind this problem in SSA. Rural dwellers also contribute to loss of vegetation
and trees through overgrazing, slash-and-burn and uncontrolled use of wood for fuel.
These phenomena accelerate global warming and desertification in the Sub-Saharan
Africa region.
Desertification is devastating to the economic and social development of SSA

It is particularly problematic because of the rapidly dwindling freshwater supply
throughout Africa, especially in the Sahel savanna area of the continent. A recent study
has warned that Africa faces more droughts and could have 25 percent less water by the
end of this century (CBBC Newsaround, 2006).

This study also suggests that many of
Africa’s rivers and lakes could run dry because of changes in rainfall patterns. Under this
scenario, SSA faces complete social and economic catastrophes such as forced migrations
and regional conflicts over water resource management.
While advanced nations can seek to adapt to global warming, SSA nations lack
the capabilities for adaptation, given weak institutions, developmental limitations and the
sheer enormity of the problem. The question is how can the people of Sub-Saharan Africa
adapt to global warming and begin to reverse desertification? This is a crisis that
necessitates immediate action.
The governments of SSA, by-and-large, cannot be relied upon to deal with the
problem of global warming. Also, the world community has yet to establish any tangible
framework to address the issue of deforestation in spite of a series of international treaties
and declarations passed by the UN General Assembly on global climate change and the

environment. Nevertheless, it is imperative that the people of SSA find effective ways to
deal with the problem of global warming and desertification. An action plan that
incorporates a bottom-up approach needs to be adopted. This will be a sustainable
approach that involves participation and full commitment of all the stakeholders. The
people at the grassroots level need to take responsibility to adapt to global warming and
reverse desertification through reforestation and tree planting. Reduction of greenhouse
gases, especially CO
, is crucial to alleviating global warming because trees remove CO

from the atmosphere.
The intent of this research is to show that the community-based social marketing
(CBSM) method can be made to direct reforestation and tree planting in SSA. The
research will be conducted using a ‘Case Research Study’ method (Yin, 2003). This
method is preferred because it is flexible and can be easily adjusted for new data
collection methods and evidence analyses.
Four sources of evidence will be introduced in the process: documentation,
archival records, interviews and physical artifacts. The research will scrutinize
reforestation efforts underway in SSA and some other parts of the world. Interviews and
surveys will be conducted of important stakeholders, using the focus group method
(Krueger, 2000), and the survey method (Fink, 2006). The data obtained and evidence
gathered will be used to recommend a plausible CBSM afforestation and tree planting
method suitable for Sub-Saharan Africa and capable of reversing desertification. Several
cases, from SSA and other regions, will be analyzed to show how they would work with
and without a social marketing technique.

Reforestation and tree planting can be made more effective by using the
community-based social marketing (CBSM) method. Unlike the traditional information-
based campaign, or a purely government planned and implemented program, the core
theme of CBSM strategy is to maintain and enhance natural and human resources
(McKenzie-Mohr, 1999). This will tap into the value of grassroots participation as an
essential ingredient in achieving successful and sustainable development. The objective is
to foster the concept of a community afforestation program that emphasizes collective
actions by local communities. CBSM method is a developmental and operational
strategy, which, when applied effectively, will improve productive capacity and promote
a sustained socioeconomic welfare of the population.
Community-based social marketing concepts have been successfully utilized to
advance reforestation in many regions of the world. The CBSM method was used to
direct The Community Forestry Project in northeast Thailand (Hafner, 1995) and The
Redwood River Clean Water Project in Minnesota (Beran, 2003). Although CBSM has
never been used to promote reforestation in SSA, this method has been successfully
implemented in several other projects in the region. For example, CBSM method was
employed in promoting condoms for prevention of HIV and STDs in Soweto, South
Africa as part of the Adolescence Reproductive Health campaign (Meekers, 2002). The
method was also applied in The Use of Insecticide-Treated Nets efforts for malaria
control in Tanzania (Nathan, 2004).
The implication of this research is to develop a better understanding of human
behavior and to develop a method of change that can be successfully implemented in the
local culture. There are constraints posed by illiteracy, widespread corruption, and

poverty. Rumors, suspicion, and skepticism also thrive in developing countries. It is often
difficult for researchers to address these constraints in their work. Nonetheless, well-
planned CBSM reforestation programs have been implemented successfully in other
regions of the world with characteristics similar to those of SSA. The case comparisons
should help find an effective way to proceed in SSA. Additional information on the
problem and applicability of the CBSM approach is described further in the
“Background” section.

Definition and Terms
Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or
expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial
opportunities. (Source: International Panel of Climate Change)
Adaptive Capacity: The ability of a system to adjust to climate change
(including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take
advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences. (Source: International
Panel of Climate Change)
Climate Change: Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural
variability or as a result of human activity. (Source: International Panel of Climate
Climate Impact: Consequences of climate change on natural and human systems.
Depending on the consideration of adaptation, one can distinguish between potential
impacts and residual impacts. (Source: International Panel of Climate Change)

Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM): This is a social science research
method based upon the premises that behavior change is most effectively achieved
through initiatives delivered at the grassroots/community level with focus on removing
barriers to an activity and simultaneously enhancing the activity’s benefits (McKenzie-
Mohr, 1999).
Deforestation: The removal of vegetation, largely caused by human activities
such as sprawling, logging and agricultural activities.
Desertification: The process of creating desert (intentionally or non-
intentionally) where there was not one before.
Elements of Downward Spirals: a syndrome of closely related social, economic,
and ecological phenomena, which when taken together work to engender a self-
perpetuating cycle of environmental decline (Weiskel, 1992).
Emir: Islamic ruler; in some Islamic countries, an independent ruler, commander,
or governor. Emir is a title of traditional rulers in predominantly Muslim cities and towns
in northern Nigeria.
Environmental Refugees: The people that migrate because they can no longer
secure livelihood due to drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other
environmental problems (Myers, 2005).
Focus Group: A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of
people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement,
idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants
are free to talk with other group members. (Source:

Global Warming: Natural and anthropogenic increase in average global
temperature (of the atmosphere near the earth’s surface).
Greenhouse Gases (GHG): gas emissions, which include water vapor, carbon
dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, and other gases that contribute to the greenhouse
effect by absorbing infrared radiation produced by solar warming of the Earth's surface.
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): An international organization
established by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations
Environmental Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic
information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and
options for adaptation and mitigation. (Source: International Panel of Climate Change)
Sahel: A vegetation zone intermediate between desert and savannah conditions
where rainfall is irregular and unpredictable. The vegetation is a transitional scrubland.
The name is most commonly applied to the area south of the Sahara (the Sahel),
including parts of Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The area
frequently suffers from drought and famine. (Source:
Savanna: A savanna or savannah is a tropical or subtropical woodland
ecosystem. Savannas are characterized by grassland with trees being sufficiently small or
widely spaced so that the canopy does not close.
Selective Logging: Traditional logging of a specific tree, whereby other species
are left standing as long as those species do not interfere with the logging operation
(Botkin, 2003).
Slash-and-burn: Slash-and-burn refers to the cutting and burning of forests or
woodlands to create fields for agriculture or pasture for livestock, or for a variety of other

purposes. It is sometimes part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance
livestock herding (, 2007).
Sprawl: Sprawl or urban sprawl is the spreading out of a city and its suburbs
over rural land at the fringe of an urban area (Wikipedia, 2007).
Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA): Regions south of North Africa, below 23 degrees
Sustainable Development: This is development that meets the needs of the
present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs (The Brundtland Commission, 2007).
Tropical Moist Forest: This is a forest where average temperature is high and
relatively constant and where rainfall is also high and frequent throughout the year. This
includes lowland equatorial evergreen rain forests, which receive high amounts of rainfall
(more than 2000 mm, or 80 inches, annually) throughout the year. These forests occur in
a belt around the equator, with the largest areas in the Amazon basin of South America,
the Congo basin of central Africa, Indonesia and New Guinea. (Source:
Village Community: The village community consists of a group of people,
possibly linked by blood, using land, sometimes held communally, for cultivation and
pasturage. (Source:

Research Background
The Loss of World Forests
The world's forests cover about 30 percent of the total land area or approximately
3,500 million hectares. Almost 60 percent of the forests, mostly tropical, are located in
developing countries. It has been estimated that about 180 million hectares of those
forests were lost between 1980 and 1995 as a result of human activities (Center for
International Forestry Research [CIFOR], 2007). According to the United Nations
Environmental Program, almost half of the earth’s forests, which were present worldwide
before the industrial age, have disappeared. The report suggested that approximately 16-
20 million hectares of tropical forest are being destroyed every year (United Nations
Environmental Program [UNEP], 2006). In Africa alone, more than 5 million hectares of
forest is being lost annually and at about 1 percent, with the SSA region containing the
highest annual rate of deforestation. It was also established that nearly 75 percent of the
original tropical moist forest (TMF) in West Africa has already vanished (Sharma, 1994).
As shown on Table 1 below, SSA accounts for only about 17 percent of world’s forest
area, but it is losing its forests four times faster than the global rate. The high rate of
deforestation is alarming.

Table 1: Extracted from the State of World’s Forests (Rogers, 2004)
REGI ON Population
Forest Area
(1000 k m2)
Forest Area
Per capita
Forest As %
Total Land
Annual Rate
Of Deforestation
WORLD 5,978 38,609 0.006 29.7 0.2
643 6,436 0.01 27.3 0.8


Regions of Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is comprised of areas south of North Africa, below 23
degrees latitude. While generally subdivided into the political regions of West Africa,
East Africa, Central Africa, and southern Africa, SSA belongs to separate forest zones as
indicated in the Fig.1 below.
Fig.1: Sub-Saharan Africa: Major Regions and Forest Zones (Sharma, 1994)


Deforestation and Global Warming
Removal or loss of vegetation has been directly linked to higher surface
temperature, increased evaporation, and reduced rainfall. The sequestration of carbon
dioxide diminishes as forests are disappearing. The subsequent increase of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere is the basis for escalation of global warming. A loss of about 13
million hectares of forest is attributed to 1.6 billion tons annual emission of carbon-
dioxide (Eccleston, 2007). It is estimated that about 400 million tons of carbon enters the
atmosphere every year because of traditional deforestation. Selective logging is
contributing to the additional release of carbon dioxide. By accelerating erosion and fires,
selective logging also has devastating impacts on bionetwork of many plants and animals.
It has been suggested that an additional 25 percent or about 100 million tons of carbon
dioxide are released into the atmosphere each year from the decomposition of plant
material that the loggers leave behind (Jha, 2005).
The last 30 years were found to be very disastrous in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
due to the consequences of soil degradation, drought, and desertification (Weiskel, 1992).
The maps (Fig. 2) below elucidate the deforestation phenomenon typical of SSA. This
rapid decimation of forests is highly unsustainable.

Fig. 2: Deforestation in Cote-d’Ivoire (UNEP/GRID, 2007)

Impacts of Deforestation and Desertification on SSA
Global warming and desertification are factors of environmental degradation and
poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Desertification is linked to the decrease of
agricultural production and chronic food insecurity, i.e., the food production can no
longer support the increase in population. In addition to the problems described below,
cyclical and cumulative processes caused by desertification have led to the “Elements of
Downward Spirals” in SSA nations.

Loss of Watershed
Desertification is causing the loss of watershed in water catchments and riparian
areas throughout the SSA region. This contributes to the drying-up and pollution of
freshwater systems. Deforestation is also detrimental to a stable hydrological system.
Rich topsoil is eroded along with nutrients by persistent desertification, due to the
disappearance of ground cover that mitigates runoff. There is a strong connection
between the disappearing forestland and drying up of inland water bodies throughout the
region. Recent studies suggested that up to 135 million people in developing nations are
threatened by severe desertification while 550 million people are subjected to chronic
water shortages (Batten, 2007).
Loss of ecosystem
While tropical forests are only about 12 percent of all forests worldwide, they are
home to 50 percent of the global plants and animal species. At the current rate of
deforestation, it is predicted that tropical forests will no longer exist as a functional
ecosystem in the next 100 years (The Nature Conservancy, 2007). Global warming and
the destruction of natural habitats will lead to significant declines and extinctions of the
world’s 8,750 bird species over the next century, according to a study conducted by
biologists at the University of California, San Diego and Princeton University (Science
Daily, 2007). Since SSA is home to the second largest tropical forests, continuing
desertification threatens not only humans, but also the existence of all natural habitats in
the region.


Forced Migration (Environmental Refugees)
Drought, soil erosion, and famine resulting from desertification have led to forced
migrations of many settlements in SSA. While parting their lands for more hospitable
areas, these ‘environmental refugees’ are faced with the loss of important parts of
ecological heritage and the destabilization of their traditional lineage groups. Dr. Norman
Myers, an ecology professor, estimates that there are between 25-50 million global
environmental refugees, and more than half are in Africa. He suggests that there are
about 5 million refugees fleeing drought in Africa's Sahel while 4 million are affected in
the Horn of Africa region. He further estimates that at least 7 million people in other parts
of SSA are suffering from famine (Myers, 2005).

Why Reforestation and Tree Planting?
Reforestation and tree planting are crucial to reversing desertification. Dr.
Wangari Maathai, a Nobel laureate and Kenyan environmental activist, has said that the
land is being ‘stripped naked’ through deforestation, and that is why ‘the mother earth’
can’t provide sustenance for its people. “We must re-clothe the earth,” she exhorts, “by
planting trees.” Also, like Dr. Maathai, Aldo Leopold, a conservationist, offers an
effective model in his environmental ethics by associating land health with its capacity
for self-renewal (Finch, 2002). Forests and trees are essential to life sustenance in Sub-
Saharan Africa (SSA). They are related to food security, environmental protection,
energy needs, and job security.
Reforestation can also mitigate the effects of global warming and the loss of
freshwater. A forested watershed discharges a higher quality of freshwater; thus a

protected forest is preferable for municipal water. Forests are also found to efficiently
cycle nutrients and chemicals while decreasing the sediment exported downstream. They
also reduce pollutants such as phosphorous and heavy metals entering bodies of water.
Since most rural dwellers of SSA depend on firewood for fuel, reforestation can
provide more readily available wood. It will improve biodiversity conservation. It will
improve capacity-building for women and girls in rural areas, who are traditionally
responsible for gathering firewood and collecting water from the streams. Tree planting
will also provide economic opportunities, such as wood pulp for paper production and
timber logging.

The Need for Bottom-up Approach
The problem of global warming and desertification is an all-encompassing
developmental issue that affects the most vulnerable people of Sub-Saharan Africa
(SSA). Local people and rural dwellers are the core target of community afforestation. It
is therefore necessary to seek substantive, popular participation. It is argued that lasting
improvement cannot be achieved without strategies that preserve and boost human
resources (Hafner, 1995). The affected stakeholders must be part of the ultimate solution.
Through the use of community-based social marketing (CBSM) approach, it has been
demonstrated that productive and sustainable community reforestation activities, based
on participatory strategies, can be successfully implemented (Cernea, 1990). By
introducing community afforestation, the people of SSA would in essence take control of
their destiny.


Community-based Social Marketing (CBSM) Method
Community-based social marketing is based upon research in the social sciences,
which demonstrates that behavioral change can be effectively achieved through initiatives
delivered at the community level. This method involves four steps: 1) Identify barriers
and benefits to an activity. 2) Develop a strategy that utilizes “tools” that have been
previously shown to be effective in changing behavior. 3) Pilot the strategy. 4) Evaluate
the strategy once it has been implemented across a community (McKenzie-Mohr, 1999).
Unlike conventional methods of forest management, community afforestation
emphasizes substantive grassroots participation beyond the tasks of tree planting. The
effectiveness of this concept is entrenched in the participation of members of organized
groups with developed leadership, norms, and procedures for self-management. This
process involves voluntary participation, shared common interests, and a willingness to
associate and assume responsibility. The most important aspects of community
reforestation are the creation of a basis for collective action, development of local
institutions, and the promotion of values that will encourage participation (Cernea, 1990).
The community-based social marketing strategies will focus on enhancing
perceived benefits and reducing perceived barriers. Experiences have shown that action
occurs when benefits are greater than costs. Additionally, stakeholders for community
afforestation are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local leaders, while the
government is expected to provide a conducive environment for the project to succeed.
Iwasaki Campaign, Hope for Sahel: Tree Planting Project, TPP
The Iwasaki Campaign (1999-2000), a tree planting project, was part of the Green
Cross Burkina Faso and Green Cross Japan. The program was planned to reverse

desertification in the sahelian country of Burkina Faso, West Africa (Green Cross
International [GCI], 2000). Jointly instituted by two NGOs, the Green Cross International
and Green Cross Burkina Faso, it was aimed at regeneration -- to turn Sahelian soils of
the country green again. Nearly 10,000 saplings were planted in the provinces of
Yatenga, Katiogo and Comoe. The project resulted in valuable quantitative and
qualitative achievements. However, three problems were encountered during the project.
The first problem was the difficulties in transporting young trees (nurseries) from
where they were produced to the planting sites, due to poor road network systems. The
second problem was the rapid wearing out of work-tools that could not be maintained
locally by the users. The last problem was the delay in arrival of the rainy season, since
the trees were planted in anticipation of future rains. To eliminate these problems, the
CBSM theme will make people the target of the reforestation efforts, rather than relying
solely on technology. Adopting and trusting the judgment of locals will minimize long-
distance transportation of nurseries and the effects of a delayed rainy season. This is
because the local people understand their respective terrain and know well the native
trees suitable for reforestation. Education and training will also be an important part of
the CBSM reforestation efforts, so that the tools and equipment used can be easily
maintained by the locals.
Village Reforestation in Thailand
The Village Reforestation project in Thailand is one successful community
forestry project implemented with the aid of CBSM technique (Hafner, 1995). The
project is focused on selected rural communities in two provinces, Khon Kaen and
Mahasarakham. Like the situations in SSA, desertification had already decimated a large

portion of the land in these communities; the remaining forest was less than 5 percent of
the total provincial land area before the inception of reforestation. The projects were
initiated with the support of grassroots organizations known as Community-Based
Integrated Rural Development Centers (CBIRD).
Using the CBSM method, the project was directed in four interrelated phases. The
first phase, Organization and Implementation, was focused on developing community
support and commitment for the task of organizing and establishing a village woodlot.
The second phase, Sustaining Activity, stressed reinforcing local participation and the
transfer of agro-forestry technology. This process encouraged optimum use of the land
and provided short-term supplementary income. The third phase, Sustainable Woodlot
Cooperatives, organized revolving funds to enable the locals manage economic benefits
from woodlot harvests, and distribute those resources among small farmers for village
development activities. The final phase, Sustainable Village Reforestation, was directed
toward improving self-sufficiency through creating local seedling nurseries, diversifying
woodlot plantings, and extending tree planting throughout the community.
With slight modifications, the above reforestation method can be used to promote
reforestation in SSA. For example, the village community system in rural Sub-Saharan
Africa provides opportunity for organizing cooperatives because the village heads are
traditional chief executives who are capable of directing their subjects in these endeavors.
The people in SSA venerate, and are obedient to the traditional rulers. However, there is a
need for education and incentives to sustain the activities. Cash crops like cocoa trees,
mahogany and citrus trees like orange, mango, cashew, etc. flourish in SSA. Focusing on
useful trees like these will serve dual purposes. It will provide a source of jobs and

income for the locals, which is a potential economy base for establishing cooperatives. It
will also serve the intended purpose of reversing desertification.
The Green Belt Movement, GBM
Dr. Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM) during her active
participation in the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) in the mid 1970s. At
its onset, GBM was a grassroots organization focused on women’s empowerment and
capacity building. GBM was launched to involve women in tree planting to conserve the
environment, and improve their quality of life. The program has since grown and helped
women throughout Kenya. Almost 30 million trees have been planted on farms, school
grounds, and church compounds throughout Kenya and some other East African
countries (BBC Online, 2004). However, GBM has not been widely adopted in SSA
because the necessary incentives are lacking.
There are three limitations identified in GBM’s approach. First, by narrowly
focusing on capacity building for women, the program failed to include a broader range
of stakeholders. Secondly, the program was not given adequate exposure beyond Kenya
and some neighboring East African countries. Thirdly, Dr. Maathai has been actively
involved in politics and human right activism. As the current Kenyan Minister for the
Environment, Dr. Maathai’s involvement in partisan politics could undermine popular
acceptance and avert the opposing political parties from embracing her environmental
programs. The GBM can be improved upon by using the CBSM method to direct the
program. The UNEP Billion Tree Campaign launched at the November 2006 climate
change meeting by Dr. Maathai (UNEP, 2006) can also be advanced with the CBSM

method. As community afforestation, it will be given adequate exposure throughout SSA
and be directed as an independent non-governmental organization (NGO) program.

Adapting CBSM to Sub-Saharan Culture
Community based social marketing can be adapted for reforestation and tree
planting in Sub-Sahara Africa. As illustrated in the above projects, there are several
techniques of CBSM that can be used to harness the tradition and culture of SSA people
to promote community afforestation. First, by using community village system, the local
people can be organized for broad-based participation. Local chiefs, community heads
and paramount rulers are capable of exerting influence on their respective subjects to gain
and sustain community supports for social initiatives. Secondly, by engaging and
incorporating local involvement, native trees that are adaptable to local soil and climatic
conditions will be identified and used in the program. The indigenous people know and
understand their local environment. Thirdly, using cash crops and native plants will add
value to the program by providing economic opportunities and environmental sustenance.
Fourth, in order to ensure region-wide and sustained involvement, education, training
and adequate exposure about community afforestation will be made available to the
people of SSA. Finally, the CBSM method will be made independent of partisan politics.
This is necessary in order to gain the broad-based participation, and support of all the
relevant stakeholders.
There are always impediments researchers cannot anticipate, but these can be
overcome by understanding the people, culture and environment where the social
marketing technique is being applied. For example, under the Global Polio Eradication

Initiatives, the World Health

Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund made
efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria. But they were initially met with stiff resistance in the
northern part of the country. This was due to rumors that the vaccines were tainted with
HIV/AIDs viruses as part of deliberate efforts by the West to decimate the Muslim
population (Samba, 2004). The misunderstanding and confusion were overcome through
intervention of the emirs, political representatives, and the local medical professionals
who reassured the populace of the safety and benefits of polio vaccination. The program
has since regained momentum in Nigeria.
The impact of global warming and desertification has been disastrous on the
region of SSA. This research centers on how the people of the region can adapt to global
warming and reverse desertification through reforestation and tree planting. My
hypothesis proposes the use of CBSM to promote the reforestation. Using the case study
method, this research will examine projects like the ones discussed in this proposal and
explore how they can be improved upon for community afforestation in SSA. The
application of the case study method is described in the following “Research Methods”


Research Methods
In order to adapt to global warming, reverse the desertification and water crisis,
the people of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) need to take action at the grassroots level. The
purpose of this research is to show how community-based social marketing (CBSM) can
be used to promote reforestation and tree planting. The case study method (Yin, 2003)
will be used to test the hypothesis because it is a comprehensive research strategy,
comprising of method, logic design, data collection techniques, and specific approaches
to data analysis.
Five components of research design will be followed. The first is a study
question, which asks how the people of SSA can begin to reverse desertification? Second,
a study proposition is the clear mandate of the exact behavior to be promoted. This is the
use of community-based social marketing to promote reforestation and tree planting.
Third, the unit analysis involves considering and comparing of case studies.
Reforestation projects that utilized social marketing and other methods in the SSA and
other areas of the world will be examined. Fourth, linking data to proposition is the
“pattern matching” technique that will be used to relate data collected from various cases
with the proposition. Finally there are the criteria for interpreting study findings. Three or
four reforestation cases will be studied in this research. Two rival propositions, social
marketing reforestation and another method of reforestation (such as a government
sponsored project) will be compared.
A multiple case design will be used to pursue this proposition, because the
evidence obtained by this technique is considered to be more compelling than a single

case design. Three or four cases will be studied, using theoretical replication logic, where
the contrasting results can be predicted at the onset. This is necessary to show that the
CBSM is the best method to promote reforestation in SSA.
Three steps will be used to uncover the barriers and benefits of my proposition.
The first step is to review relevant documentation and archival records. The second step
is to develop a questionnaire, conduct a pilot survey and identify potential focus groups.
The third step is to conduct final survey and interview to obtain qualitative information
through the focus groups so as to explore in-depth attitudes and behavior of the people of
SSA regarding community afforestation.
The case study research method (Yin, 2003) consists of six sources of evidence:
documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation,
and physical artifacts. Four sources of evidence will be used in this research study as
noted in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Sources of Evidence (Yin, 2003)

Source Evidence
Review of books, journals, articles from leading scientific
and environmental organizations, records from international
organizations such as IPCC, UNEP, World Bank, African
Development Bank, etc. This will include news articles.
Archival Records
Local and area maps, charts, survey data, census records,
environmental studies, and historical data.
Interviews and survey will be directed on focus groups such
as NGOs, International organizations, and leading
researchers involved in reforestation and Sub-Saharan
Africa’s environmental affairs and sustainable development.

Exploration visit to the northern part of Nigeria, as part of
an environmental impact survey; collect and review data to
establish comparison between prior and current condition of
forest area/land, and reforestation projects.
Participant-observation evidence does not apply to this
research study.
Physical Artifacts Physical artifacts do not apply to this research study.

Extensive research will be conducted of relevant literature and archival records
during data review stage (potentially leading to identification of candidates for the focus
group). Between three and four focus groups will be sought for interviewing. The variant
of the focus groups will be determined in consultation with my thesis director.
Questionnaires for the focus groups will be developed during the documentary data
review stage. After developing a questionnaire, initial interviews will be tested through
pilot surveys conducted through a web site, Survey Monkey
( This process may be done several times until the final
version is developed. The focus group interviews will be conducted, using the method
recommended by Kruger and Casey (Krueger, 2000). The focus groups will be an
important means of acquiring feedback regarding community-based social marketing in
The Table 3 below shows a flow chart of the surveying and interviewing process.
It shows the various steps that will be taken to develop a survey questionnaire and
follows it through to the completion of data reporting (Fink & Kosecoff, 2005).


Table 3. Survey & Interview Methods Flow Chart
Develop Initial

Conduct Pilot Surveys
to Test Questionnaire

Revise Survey
and Possibly Test Again

Conduct Survey & Interview
of Focus Groups

Process the Data

Evaluate Results Using
Multivariate Statistical Analysis

Report Results

Develop Recommendations for
Policy Changes or Future

Following the survey and interview stages, all data will be organized and
analyzed. Harvard’s FAS approval will be sought for the interview procedures. If more
candidates (focus groups) are identified after initial interviews or during the exploration
visit, then new interviews will be conducted, and the data re-organized and re-analyzed.

After this action is completed, final recommendations and conclusions will be processed,
the hypothesis tested, and the research project will be written.
The quality of research design is judged by use of four social science tests:
construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and reliability. The qualitative
evidence in this research will be analyzed by using three of these four tests. First, through
construct validity, the specific type of change to be studied and the changes being
proposed will be clearly specified, i.e., how the people of SSA can reverse desertification
by using CBSM method to promote reforestation and tree planting. Secondly, through
external validity, findings will show whether social marketing reforestations in other
regions can be generalized to work in SSA. Thirdly, the reliability will ensure that errors
and biases are minimized. Every effort will be made to ensure that the conclusion arrived
at can be replicated under similar conditions.
In summary, the research protocol is divided into three main research stages. The
first stage, define and design, is to develop theory, select cases and design data collection
protocol. The second stage, prepare-collect-analyze, is to conduct case studies and write
an individual case study. The third stage, analyze and conclude, is to draw cross-case
conclusions, modify theory, develop policy implications and write cross-case report. Of
course, there are always limitations associated with both the proposed research topic and
the case study research method that will be used. Some of these limitations are discussed
in the following “Research Limitations” section.

Research Limitations

There are several limitations that may affect the scope of this research proposition
and the research method. Some of the limitations of community-based social marketing
(CBSM), as related to the people of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), are narrated in the
“Research Background” section. The research method itself can also be affected by
limitations of bias, data availability, up-to-date information, access to data and
information, political agenda and remoteness of the subject (Yin, 2003).
A major concern of focus groups is the issue of observer dependency, whereby
the results obtained are influenced by the researcher. This raises questions of validity.
From a personal point of view, I was born and raised in Nigeria, a SSA nation. There are
preconceived notions about the people, behavior, and attitudes that may influence my
interpretation of the research findings. I intend to overcome these biases by remaining
focused on the core issue of community afforestation and by working closely with my
research director.
Access to up-to-date information about deforestation problems and efforts of the
global community is vital to the development of any sustainable strategy. A new agenda
to combat global deforestation is being deliberated at the United Nations Environmental
Conference, which is underway in Bali, Indonesia. The outcome of this conference
regarding the desertification problem in SSA, if any, will be of particular interest.
Therefore, I intend to stay attuned to news about the possible outcomes of any new
declaration by the conference. Because of the remoteness of the subject, the information
obtained from the focus groups may not reflect the cultural behavior and attitudes of all
the people of SSA.

Another possible bias is the focus group’s potential political agenda. There may
even be a bias against environmentalists as doomsday alarmists. The focus groups and
survey questions will be carefully selected to minimize these types of limitations. My
analysis will also take into account that the researcher is not an observer, but a participant
(Walvis, 2003).
The duration of my exploratory visit to Nigeria may be affected by a limited
availability of funds and the unpredictable social and political atmosphere in SSA
nations. By staying connected with events and current news in the country, I intend to
plan the expedition with minimal interruption.
There are other important implications to be considered in this study. One
implication is whether reforestation can survive the severe dryness, which has already
taken its toll on SSA. Another is whether the rural dwellers would ever allow nurseries to
grow to maturity without plucking the young trees for firewood. Community afforestation
should be an integral part of poverty alleviation and other sustainable development efforts
in SSA, thus dissuading interference from the locals. Future studies can build upon
lessons learned from this research.
The following section is a detailed tentative schedule of the thesis preparation.
The schedule will ensure prompt completion of the proposed thesis and research within a
period of nine months.

Tentative Schedule
The proposed schedule follows the thirty-six week (nine-month) timeframe
suggested in Harvard Extension School ALM Thesis Guide.
Initial submission of proposal …….……………..………………January 23, 2008
Proposal returned for revision.…………………..…….................February 4, 2008
Submission of final proposal ….……………..……...................February 13, 2008
Proposal accepted by Research Advisor ….……………....…....February 25, 2008
Thesis Director selected ..................................................................March 12, 2008
First draft of thesis completed …………..…………………............May 19, 2008
Thesis Director returns first draft ………………………………......June 13, 2008
Revised draft of the thesis completed...…………………….................July 3, 2008
Thesis Director returns revised draft …….……………..………...August 1, 2008
Final text submitted to Thesis Director and Research Advisor. September 1, 2008
Final text approved …………...…………...………………….September 15, 2008
Bound copy submitted and approved ……………..................September 29, 2008
Graduation …………………………….……….......................…November, 2008



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