You are on page 1of 28

Open University

MSc (Development Management) Programme

TU874 Final Report

The Role of Community Forest Enterprises in Poverty Reduction

and Conservation: Discourses, Contradictions and Ethics

Dominic Mark Malone Elson


April 2009
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

Executive Summary

This project aims to discuss the ways in which community forest enterprises may come to
contribute to overcoming rural poverty whilst managing forests in a sustainable manner. It reviews
the background to the changing attitudes towards the relationship between poor people and forests
and presents a methodology for researching current thinking, with an evaluation of the research
process actually carried out. The report gathers qualitative evidence from a number of forest
professionals in order to review the discourses, theories and dispositions that inform policy and
program design in relation to forests, particularly community forest enterprises. The findings are
analysed through the conceptual lens of ‘community’, ‘enterprise’ and ‘conservation’.

The paper argues that conservation and development goals are rarely reconciled in either theory or
practice, partly because of the contradictions inherent in conceptions of the composition and
capabilities of communities, and also because of the ambivalence of some organisations towards
commercialising forest production. The key recommendations are that NGOs and policy makers
should: critically examine institutional discourses, separate business goals from social goals, assist
conservation organisations in finding local partners and, finally, work with all actors to clarify the
ethical approach to forest communities. The report concludes that conservation, enterprise and
pro-poor development are not mutually exclusive, but are part of a sequence of overlapping steps
whereby the solution to seemingly disparate goals in the preservation of global public goods
actually lies in embracing the complexity of the social, institutional and ecological landscape.

Page 2
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project


1. Acknowledgements 4

2. Aims and Objectives 5

3. Introduction and background 6

3.1 Relevance to Development Management 7

3.2 Structure of report 8

4. The Problem 9

4.1 Literature Review 9

4.2 Defining the problem 12

5. Methodology 14

5.1 Shaping the questions 14

5.2 Tools 15

5.3 Outputs 15

5.4 Case Studies 15

5.5 Evaluation of research 15

6. Analysis 17

6.1 Community 17

6.2 Enterprise 18

6.3 Conservation 20

7. Conclusions and Recommendations 23

8. References 26


Page 3
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

1. Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the many forestry experts from around the world who agreed to
participate in the research for this report, including John Palmer, Iola Leal Riesco, Kerstin Canby,
Moray McLeish, Augusta Molnar, Samuel Nnah Ndobe, Silverius Unggal, Rakhmat Hidayat, Suardi
Sunusi, Agus Djailani, Lars-Gunnar Blomkwist, Hugh Speechly, Adrian Wells and the many other
contributors who asked to remain anonymous. Additional support and advice was given by Simon
Counsell, Duncan Macqueen and Matthias Rhein, and most crucially by the OU tutor Richard

All respondents were acting in a personal capacity and their views do not necessarily represent the
policy of their organisations, except where indicated. Any errors of interpretation, transcription or
attribution are the fault of the author alone.

Page 4
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

2. Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to examine the literature, institutional discourses and prevailing
expert opinion regarding community forest enterprises (CFEs) in tropical countries, in order to
ascertain how they may contribute to overcoming rural poverty whilst managing forests in a
sustainable manner.

a) Personal and Learning outcomes

Successfully completing the project will develop skills of:

‣ Designing and undertaking a structured investigation

‣ Designing and undertaking interview-based research

‣ Critically investigating case studies

‣ Writing concise and focused reports

b) Outcomes for stakeholder organisations

The successful completion of the project will provide stakeholder organisations with a
theoretical framework that can be used to plan, analyse and evaluate projects aimed at
supporting CFEs. This outcome will be achieved through:

‣ The opportunity for organisations to reflect on their own discourses and

approaches during the investigation process

‣ Receiving a copy of the project report

‣ Cross-sectoral and inter-organisational discussions and debate, e.g. through

networks such as Forest Connect1

c) Outcomes for development management

The successful completion of the project will lead to:

‣ A better understanding of the relationship between the institutional discourses

that inform CFE project design, and the outcomes of those projects.

‣ A theoretical framework for analysing CFE projects in multi-stakeholder


‣ Some broad ethical principles that may be applied to the design of

conservation projects

1 Set up by International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Page 5
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

3. Introduction and background

‘FOR rent: 830,000 hectares of pristine tropical rainforest. Rich in wildlife, including forest
elephants and gorillas. Provides a regionally important African green corridor. Price: $1.6m a year.
Conservationist tenant preferred, but extractive forestry also considered. Please apply to the
Cameroonian minister of forestry.’ This mock advertisement was how an article in The Economist
(2008) illustrated the increasing trend for forests to be presented as global public goods, that
should be able to attract global finance. There were no takers for this parcel of land as the price
was deemed too high, even by wealthy conservation organisations, though an alternative
suggestion was made that that the land be given over to community management for sustainable
hunting and forestry. Sadly, this plan would yield little for the Cameroonian treasury, and there
were concerns that road-building would bring development to the area, presenting additional risks
to the ecosystem. The Economist article concluded that ‘armchair conservationists’ need to step up
and take advantage of the opportunity to ‘outbid the foresters’. No mention was made of the
people actually living in the putative reserve, or how they may perceive development differently
from the armchair conservationists, or armchair economists for that matter.

Tropical forests are increasingly becoming the focus of global efforts to tackle climate change,
preserve biodiversity and combat poverty. A number of factors have contributed to forestry’s place
in the spotlight. Deforestation over the past thirty years has led to a depletion of forest landscapes,
the degradation of mosaic lands on the fringes of forests and the conversion of millions of hectares
into agriculture or pasture land. Approximately 800 million of the world’s poorest people live in
and around forests, and are often the scapegoats for forest degradation (Chomitz, 2007). The huge
financial returns that can be made from exploiting high value timber, or from conversion to crops
such as oil palm has fuelled corruption and conflict in states with poor governance. Many
international conservation organisations have taken steps to protect areas of forest through
purchasing or leasing it from governments, as a means to keep the loggers out and protect the
biodiversity. Most recently, tropical forests have been seen as a solution to climate change, with
their ability to lock up carbon far into the future. All these debates have usually taken place far
from the forest themselves, and without the participation of the people who rely on them for their

In recent years, community forestry has been proposed as a development policy approach that
may hold many of the answers to the challenges and threats faced by tropical forests. Of course
forest management by communities is nothing new, it has been taking place for as long as humans
have inhabited forests; in Europe it is the most common form of tenure. However, its promotion
by development agencies in developing countries is relatively recent, and as a policy process it has
mixed results, with some governments resistant to the notion of surrendering control of such a
valuable resource. From a normative development management perspective, community forestry
has some clear attractions: it implies local participation, decentralisation and equity (Brown et al,
2002). It also claims some logical rationale as those closest to the forest are more likely to have
cultural and practical knowledge of the local landscape, and have a vested interest in the long-
term conservation of its ecological services and income-generating features (ibid.).

Page 6
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

However, the beneficent role of communities in forest management is not uncontested. Whilst it is
almost an article of faith amongst NGOs that communities are inherently ‘good’ for the forest, this
stance is coming under pressure. International conservation NGOs (ICNGOs) have a tendency
(though not always explicit) to conceptualise humans as an invasive species in the forest, and a
driver of forest degradation (Cernea and Schmidt-Soltau, 2006). Meanwhile the timber industry,
which has sunk capital into a vertically integrated industrial model of forestry, claims that only
they have the economies of scale to manage forests sustainably (Karsenty et al, 2008). As carbon
financing mechanisms attract more investment to the sector, and attempts to reduce illegal logging
gain more traction, forest communities increasingly find themselves in the centre of a passionate
and occasionally disorderly debate that encompasses issues far beyond their own area of interest.

3.1 Relevance to Development Management

The topic of community forestry thus touches upon a number of key development management


Brown et al (2002) argue that as forestry links global values to national and local rights and
patterns of resource use, governance reform is the first step in tackling the sector effectively.
Tenure is often contested, some open access regimes lead to over-extraction that requires
good public management, and high timber values can encourage rent capture and
corruption. Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) are often placed at a disadvantage by
regulations that are ostensibly designed to control illegal logging but in reality favour large
companies that are politically well-connected. Governance reform that is influenced by
ICNGOs may lead to tenure reform that devolves some autonomy back to the community
but with restrictions on permitted economic activity, limiting the scope of the CFE to build a
viable business and address local poverty.

Institutional Development

The process of enabling CFEs, either through deliberate intervention or through facilitating
development, requires an understanding of the institutional landscape. How communities
define institutions may be at odds with how intervening agencies view them, and this may
lead to institutional contradictions (Engberg-Pedersen, 1997). Unlocking indigenous
knowledge may be achieved though participatory approaches, but interpreting local
decision-making could reveal power relations that are inimical to the rights of the most
marginalised in the community. Developing a culture of management and leadership within
the CFE, and its relationship with other institutions such as the market, may disrupt the
institutional status quo.


To the extent that CFEs are seen as the agents of sustainable development, different meanings
of sustainability may be at work: e.g. economic sustainability of the enterprise, sustainability
of the local forest ecosystem in the face of managed extraction, and sustainability of any
improvements in human well-being. Concepts of sustainability are contested by those that
argue that we have already reached what Korten calls ‘the ecological frontier’ (1995, p.168),
and that encouraging CFEs to increase their economic output may hasten the ‘collective

Page 7
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

march toward ultimate ecological disaster’ (ibid.), which in turn will actually increase

The ethics and philosophy of development

Any discussion of CFEs often entails reflection on how development management theories
are implemented in practice. Notions of empowerment and solidarity can form a discourse
of community forestry as redolent of the mythic power of the collective: Overcoming
adversity armed with its inherent values of equity and ecological sensitivity. However, this
conceals sharply different thinking regarding the objectives of development, the definition of
poverty and the ethics of encouraging remote indigenous tribes to abandon traditional
subsistence lifestyles. As forests are increasingly seen as global public goods, it follows that
‘western’ concepts of environmental ethics and inter-generational equity may influence
development projects. As Slim (1997) argued, development organisations may stand on the
deontological side of the debate, emphasising the interaction of local peoples’ rights and
duties in respect of the forest. Other institutions, (such as ICNGOs) may take a more
teleological approach, arguing that forestry management should be aimed at conservation,
and not extraction in the name of economic development. At a further extreme, deep
ecologists may argue that the rights of the ‘biotic community’ (Leopold, 1999) trump those of
the local human population, and that all development is thus immoral.

3.2 Structure of report

This report consists first of a literature review, examining the history of community forestry in the
context of efforts to conserve forests and overcome poverty, in order to define the problem at hand.
A research methodology is presented that was used to investigate current discourses and insights
from a range of professionals working in the sector, followed by an analyses of some of the
contradictions and misunderstandings that may be preventing community forestry from becoming
more successful. Lastly, recommendations are made as to how some of these contradictions may
be overcome, and how the competing interests in the forest may collaborate to attain better
outcomes for both the environment and the people.

Page 8
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

4. The Problem

4.1 Literature Review

To set community forestry in some historical context, Arnold (2001) records that the development
management approach to forestry has changed according to prevailing discourses, which over
time have shifted focus from the forestry industry, to rural development and more recently to
biodiversity. In the first stage, forest industrialisation in the 1960s was designed to accelerate
economic growth and promote urbanisation. The plan was that growth would 'trickle down' to the
poorest in rural areas. However, evidence shows that this has failed to generate skilled jobs or
alleviate rural poverty (Mayers, 2006). The next phase was the Rural Livelihoods approach,
reflecting the turn back to agriculture and away from urban industrialisation as the means to
improve rural economies. The key insight was that forests are used by poor people to top up
agricultural and subsistence incomes, and to fall back on in hard times. Arnold believes this
approach seems to trap poor people in the forest, producing low-input / low return outputs which
as ‘inferior goods’ will be displaced over time (fibre baskets, fuel-wood etc.). However, Arnold
overlooks certain higher value non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as resins, oil nuts and
pharmaceutical ingredients.

The most recent phase is driven by concerns about deforestation and biodiversity loss. Arnold
replays the common argument that forest dwellers over-exploit the forest, leading to its
degradation, and that they are driven to this action by poverty. (The 'poverty-causes-deforestation'
argument) Ironically, this in turn undermines their own livelihoods (effectively eroding their only
asset base), leading to further forest destruction, creating a vicious circle. The solution appears to
be better livelihood options, which means relocating the people outside the forest, in so-called
'buffer zones', as compensation for the loss of access to the forest. Over time, therefore, it seems
that forest communities have been seen first as objects of development, then as victims of
development and most recently as obstacles to conservation. The approaches taken by
development managers designing projects in forestry may still retain vestiges of these previous
phases, none of which could be said to be particularly empowering for the forest-dwellers.

The notion that forest destruction is an example of humans ‘fouling their own nest’ is perhaps best
understood in the context of property rights and decision making. Irimie and Essmann (2008)
examine property rights over natural resources using the theoretical framework of New
Institutional Economics (NIE). They suggest that property rights theory is good for understanding
how regimes evolve in relation to natural resources, but is less useful in predicting what outcomes
may be expected for natural resources given certain changes in rights and rules. To understand
these factors, one has to appreciate the wider context of political, social and economic changes
that are taking place around the individual. Schluter (2006) questions whether informal foresters
are capable of behaving rationally, partly because forestry is so complex, markets so opaque and
regulations so unpredictable. He concludes that where forestry is just one part of a diverse
livelihood, less time will be invested in becoming more competitive, or to become more 'rational'
in the neo-classical sense. Why invest time in becoming more 'efficient' when it ‘...does not
matter. Instead, goals other than economic goals will come to the fore' (p1096).

Two points of interest arise out of the discussion on property rights and rationality. Firstly, Hardin’s
theory about the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (1999) suggests that the absence of property rights

Page 9
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

creates an open-access resource, compelling users to over-use the resource even as it leads to the
resource’s degradation (this correlates with the ‘poverty-causes-deforestation’ argument).
Conversely, when the poor obtain assets (for instance through tenure reform) they are encouraged
to invest labour and capital into building a more sustainable livelihood, partly through leveraging
the asset as collateral for loans (De Soto, 2000). However Irimie and Essmann (2008) suggest that
property rights are not as relevant as the institutional context in which such rights are situated.
They also point out that if environmental awareness correlates to socio-economic development,
this will influence the actor's behaviour in relation to forests. However this is not a strictly positive
correlation, Kuznet’s curve demonstrates that environmental destruction increases with economic
progress until basic needs are met, at which point environmental awareness leads to a change in
behaviour, and more careful treatment of the environment (Pirard and Karsenty, 2008).

However, our unit of analysis for this project is not only the individual, it is the forest ‘community’,
a word described by Sihlonganyane (2001) as a ‘motherhood' word, used in a ritualistic or
rhetorical manner, but with increasingly vague meaning. Yet in much of the grey materials
produced by NGOs and donors, ‘communities’, indigenous or otherwise, are apparently the
answer to many of the planet’s woes. For instance, the UK government’s recently published
Eliasch Review (2008) uses the terms 'indigenous communities', 'local communities' and
'smallholders' interchangeably without attempting to define these groups. Meanwhile, the report
argues that 'migrants' are both a consequence and a driver of deforestation. It is not clear how
long one needs to live near a forest before one is re-classified as a 'community' member rather
than a mere 'migrant'. Interestingly, there is no mention of the needs of migrant communities,
which is a common inconsistency in the literature on the rights of rural communities. This is
echoed by Wells et al (2006), who report that NGOs have developed a hierarchy of rights
claimants, most of which are seen through the lens of the environment rather than human rights
(or wider development discourse). Thus we have the 'deserving poor' such as hunter-gatherers in
culturally interesting tribal groups who are deemed to be 'good' for forest resources. On the other
hand there is the 'undeserving poor', for example landless peasants, shifting cultivators and
migrants, who are see as destructive. How development managers conceptualise different types of
community may have a profound influence on project design.

Even if the problems of definition can be overcome, communities also present challenges in terms
of institutional development. Brown et al (2002) write approvingly of a forest user group concept
(FUG) in Nepal that is on a separate legal basis from the village leadership, seeing this as a
strength as it allowed the FUG to include actual users of the forest, who tend to be the poorest,
rather than village elites (who may have a different agenda). However Engberg-Pedersen (1997)
argues that as well as having practical use, village institutions could be said to have a symbolic
role that may offer some stability in times of uncertainty, warning that development projects that
include radical changes to institutions, or the introduction of parallel institutions may lead to
instability and resistance. Macqueen (2007) suggests that: 'Communities are less prone to
'paralysis by committee' or infighting than is generally perceived' (p.2). The problem with this
statement is that it uses a generalisation to overcome a generalisation. Are communities inherently
inclined to consensus? And if so, is it not likely that this consensus conceals power relations at

A further influence on development project design is the occasionally competing discourses of

poverty and the environment. Vermeulen and Sheil (2007) warn that projects must take into
account the realities of poor people's lives rather than simply be an imposition of northern values.
They accuse a 'small group of powerful, external voices' (p.434) of imposing conservation values

Page 10
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

and expertise on local communities. It seems that limiting the livelihood options available to
forest communities in the name of conservation has not been successful in either protecting
environmental services or tackling poverty (Scherr et al, 2003). In the spirit of Gifford Pinchot’s
statement that the ‘great fact about conservation is that it stands for development’ (1999), bold
claims have been made about how sustainable forest management (SFM) may square this circle by
providing sustainable livelihoods for communities. Though it is certainly a pervasive discourse
(Arts and Buzier, 2008), less than 5% of tropical forests are currently subject to SFM (Mayers,
2006). Some believe that communities are inherently incapable of meeting the criteria for SFM,
and that large industrial concessions are the only answer (Karsenty et al, 2008), which seems to be
a return to the industrial development model outline above. On the other hand, indigenous
people’s advocacy groups argue that SFM is possible only when management is devolved to
communities (Griffiths, 2008).

A more extreme manifestation of the imposition of northern values on tropical forestry is revealed
in the Cernea and Schmidt-Soltau report (2006) that analyses the displacement of forest dwellers in
the name of conservation. They point out that the 'conflict between biodiversity conservation and
poverty reduction is neither new nor easy to solve' (p.1809). For a long time it has been
acknowledged that the costs of conservation are borne locally, whilst the benefits accrue far from
the park, usually in northern countries. ICNGOs such as Conservation International and Birdlife
International are well funded and have significant political clout, whilst NGOs standing up for
forest peoples (such as The Forest Peoples Programme) are less visible. Geisler estimates that
globally 'at least 8.5 million people have been displaced by conservation' (2003, p.71). There
seems to be little practical justification for the displacements, as the policy usually fails to protect
biodiversity, following the law of unintended consequences. According to Cernea and Schmidt-
Soltau (2006), the people drift back to the forest, and may actually increase their hunting because
they now have better access to markets (their displacement may have introduced them to the cash
economy) and because they are so alienated from conservation projects. The impact on
settlements around the parks is negative, with increased degradation, soil erosion and
unsustainable land use, which in turn feeds into increased incursion into the park.

These discourses are developing in the context of increasing alarm about the state of tropical
forests, and NGOs have developed a ‘crisis narrative’ that has shifted over time from biodiversity
loss to climate change (Wells et al, 2006), prompting what Mert calls the ‘carbonification’ of
environmental discourses (2007. p.11) Some argue that such concerns are essentially unethical as
they either recruit poor people to a cause that is not in their interest (Mavhunga, 2007), or they
conceptualise the forest as purely of instrumental value, rather than intrinsic value, thus neglecting
the rights of the ‘biotic community’ (Leopold, 1999). Whether forest biodiversity conservation is
demanded in the name of use values, option values or intrinsic values, the rights of poor forest-
dwelling communities become compromised by the larger forces and interests at work. Sunderlin
et al (2005) point out that conservation often presupposes ‘the right to survival of threatened life
forms and habitats and not presume human benefit at all.' (p.1386, emphasis added), which sets
up people in opposition to the ecosystem that they inhabit and that provides them with sustenance
and livelihoods. As Richard North observed: 'Isn't it true that for most of us, the animals and
wildlife of the Third World seem glorious, and their peoples an embarrassment?' (Quoted by
Garner, 1999, p.172).

A further theme that can be detected is the paradox of market-based solutions. The market, as an
institution, can be discerned in most discussions about forestry. For instance the debate about

Page 11
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

using forests to mitigate carbon emissions is an attempt to place a price on standing forests that
raises their opportunity cost and makes felling uneconomic (Eliasch, 2008). SFM, meanwhile, is
presented as a means to attract a price premium in the market but has little to say about pro-poor
issues (Mayers, 2006). Communities are encouraged to form enterprises to allow them to
participate in the market, but with the proviso that governments provide a safety net in case they
fail (Brown et al, 2002). This reflects risk aversion on the part of community advocates, which may
over-state the real risk of failure and in the process may create moral hazard. It seems that
development managers are also wary of entrepreneurs, preferring 'democratic community forest
enterprises’ (Macqueen, 2007), yet in the real world very few successful enterprises are

A report on CFEs by the International Tropical Timber Organisation defines them as '...forest
industries managed by indigenous and other local communities for livelihoods and profit...' (ITTO,
2007, p.14), though goes on to say that they also contribute to the community through, among
other things, ' in social goods and services’ (ibid., p.14) without defining what these
are, how they differ from ordinary taxation, or if they are compatible with ‘livelihoods and profit'.
The inclination to ameliorate potential failings of enterprise by enhancing social and
environmental goals (e.g. Thomas et al, 2003) may be understood as ambivalence to market-based
solutions. This is ironic as McCarthy (2004) argues that community forestry is inherently neo-
liberal. In devolving state control of the resource to local actors, it tacitly subscribes to the view
that freedom starts with the roll-back of the state. Although neoliberals invoke 'civil society' and
advocates of CFEs obviously refer to 'communities', they are in fact similar abstractions that are
interchangeable, as they have similar traits assigned to them. They do 'similar kinds of work within
each discourse' (ibid., p.998). In each case, an appearance (or pretence) of homogeneity within
the group serves to highlight differences with those outside the group. This veneer of solidarity and
cohesion may conceal inequalities, injustices and power struggles within the group. It suits this
analysis for communities to be coherent actors, as they can thus be assigned the same
characteristics as rational individuals, seeking to maximise their utility in the market. These
contradictions may point towards a third way for community enterprises, that combine sustainable
development with peaceful low risk businesses, market-focused yet democratic. On the other
hand, they may expose why so few projects designed to assist community forest enterprises
actually succeed.

4.2 Defining the problem

Based on the aims of the project, and the issues raised by the literature review, the problem can be
defined as:

In what ways might community forest enterprises come to contribute to overcoming rural poverty
whilst managing forests in a sustainable manner?

On the face of it, this definition appears to be a straightforward compound objective: how can a
development project achieve both ‘A’ and ‘B’? However, in investigating this problem it is
anticipated that the goals may be in tension, perhaps even mutually exclusive in the eyes of some
practitioners.   For instance, the literature review suggests that many projects are initiated by
conservation NGOs that arguably impose external (western) values on local communities who
may not share those values, and in setting constraints on forest usage (e.g. by limiting timber
usage), the project fails to provide for peoples' livelihoods.  Alternatively, NGOs (or governments)

Page 12
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

set up a community business, but impose social goals upon it in the belief that a 'profit-making'
enterprise may be somehow unethical or divisive.   In the process they confuse the distinction
between enterprise and welfare.     So different contradictions are at work here, as depicted in
figure 1 below. The contradiction between profit and environment is a commonplace, but the
contradiction between business / welfare or environment / livelihoods is less well appreciated or

Business goals Social goals

(profit) (welfare)

Livelihood goals

Figure 1: Contradictions in community forestry objectives

The investigation needs to consider if these contradictions are real, and if they are acknowledged
by development managers. Some organisations may implicitly believe that environmental goals
are the pre-condition for achieving sustainable livelihoods, whilst others may believe the opposite.
Similarly, some NGOs may feel that the raison d’être of community enterprises is to achieve local
social goals, whilst others may propose that such an enterprise is not sustainable and thus would
require permanent subsidy. There may be a process in which these seemingly disparate goals can
be brought together in the recognition that environmental and livelihood goals are interdependent,
and that a profit-oriented enterprise may also lead to socially desirable outcomes.

Page 13
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

5. Methodology

To research the problem accurately the key concepts need to be defined (forest, community,
enterprise, poverty, environment, sustainability). However, as all these terms are contested, the
definitions chosen will influence the outcome of the investigation. Also, any variables studied
need ‘empirical counterparts’ (Stone, quoted in OU, 2006, p.13), yet many of these issues, even if
defined, are hard to measure quantitatively. These concepts are largely socially constructed, and
thus susceptible to partial interpretation, or meaningless conclusions (Thomas and Chataway,
1998). One possible approach would be to perform a meta-analysis of a large sample of
community forest projects, but in such a way as to bypass the discourses and institutional agendas
of the powerful actors, perhaps using participatory analysis tools to learn about project outcomes
directly from the beneficiaries. However, such an approach was beyond the scope, resources and
timescale of this project.

This investigation is trying to get to the heart of the ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ questions that Woodhouse
(1998) suggests are more suited to semi-structured interviews than a structured survey. This entails
communicating with experts and development managers to answer policy questions, and perhaps
unearthing further evidence and contacts. Hanlon (1998) recommends a less formal investigative
approach, that starts with the people one already knows to unearth the key issues. These can then
be redefined depending upon what the investigation reveals. The objective is to focus the analysis
on one or two key points, and then assemble the evidence to tell the story.

To strengthen the body of evidence, some of the issues raised in the literature review and research
may be best illustrated with reference to a limited number of case studies. The choice of case
studies will depend upon their relevance and the availability of information about them. Thomas
(1998) points out that in order to generalize from case studies one needs to distinguish between
‘extreme’ or ‘revelatory’ cases, that may have explanatory potential but are not representative, and
cases that are suitable for comparative analysis.

This approach, combining questionnaires, interviews and case studies, seems best suited to the
nature of this investigation, and the available resources.

5.1 Shaping the questions

A survey that has the appearance of being more daunting than a twenty minute task (a coffee break
exercise, if you will) is unlikely to be even started. It is therefore counter-productive to pose
questions that require a disquisition of broad issues, and in any case such responses would make
analysis more troublesome.

On the other hand, closed questions, demanding a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, may be swifter to answer
but are unlikely to supply the depth of information required. Simply posing various hypotheses and
asking: ‘Is this true?’ is unlikely to be a rewarding experience for the informant, or a useful source
of information for the report. Therefore, the questions sought to gather thoughts from around the
edges of the subject to reveal discourses, ethics and preconceptions:

i) How should we measure the success of a Community Forest Enterprise?

Page 14
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

ii) Is the risk of failure an acceptable price for Community Forest Enterprises to pay for
learning lessons?

iii) In 1901, as the US National Parks were being set up, The American conservationist
Gifford Pinchot said the ‘...great fact about conservation is that it stands for
development.’ In your experience, is this true for forest conservation?

iv) Are entrepreneurs born or made?

v) Which ‘community’ would you consider yourself a member of, and how does that
community make decisions?

5.2 Tools

The tools for the research process consisted of:

‣ Pre-approach e-mail to obtain the informant’s consent

‣ Questionnaire, with guidance notes, in English (see APPENDIX A)
‣ Questionnaire, with guidance notes, in Indonesian
‣ Database tool for monitoring progress and chasing up non-respondents and recording

5.3 Outputs

The pre-approach e-mail was sent to 35 contacts working in INGOs, southern NGOs, CFEs,
donors and government. 27 people (77%) agreed to participate, and of these 20 returned the
questionnaire (74%) and a further 4 were interviewed. This is a total response rate of 89%. No
one refused to participate, and those that were subsequently unable to do so gave plausible

It is hard to place the informants into hard and fast categories, but broadly speaking 6 work for
southern NGOs and community groups, 12 are from international NGOs and 6 are from
governments and/or donors. 9 respondents are from southern countries (mainly Indonesia) and 15
are from Europe and USA.

5.4 Case Studies

The case studies were chosen on the basis of their suitability in illustrating themes arising from the
research. Rather than introducing secondary sources, each example has been visited by the author
in the past six months, and followed up recently with further communication. In some instances
additional sources have been used to triangulate the data and ensure a more rounded description.

5.5 Evaluation of research

The respondents are a fair cross section of those invited to respond, with almost all the main
constituencies represented. However the initial target list of informants was limited to existing
contacts, and inevitably some groups fell outside this definition, including the more dogmatic
international conservation NGOs (though one ICNGO did respond).

Page 15
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

The high response rate from those who were sent the questionnaire (74%) reduces the likelihood
of self-selection bias, though inevitably, the responses represent the views of the people who feel
most comfortable responding, and have the time to do so. If there is any bias in the data, it is
likely to be due to the initial list of contacts, rather than in the nature of the respondents.

An e-mail questionnaire was the best method available given the constraints of time, poor Internet
access and unreliable telephone service where this project was conducted. None of the research
subjects objected to the format, or raised any concerns about it. It yielded a good response rate in
quite a short space of time.

Half the respondents have asked for their comments to be kept anonymous, meaning they can be
quoted in the report but not attributed to any person or organisation. This is the trade-off for
inviting honest answers to potentially provocative questions, but this seems to be rewarded by
greater authenticity.

Page 16
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

6. Analysis

The responses to the research questions can be organised into a framework of the key concepts of
community, enterprise and conservation. ‘Community’ encompasses notions of identity and
institutional meanings; ‘enterprise’ leads to a discussion of ways and means to address poverty;
and ‘conservation’ demands a definition of the value and meaning of the forest. The output of the
research can be analysed using this framework, to establish if any synthesis can be constructed
that allows these strands to be woven together in resolving the problem of rural poverty and
environmental sustainability.

6.1 Community

The research was interested in finding out if a clear definition of ‘community’ existed, and if
perhaps the term is more of an artefact of prevailing development discourse rather than a tangible
reality that can be managed. It is striking that those respondents from developing countries were
emphatic about their community and its processes, whilst those from developed countries were
more equivocal (one donor observed that he did not “see any political or social unit as
community”). It is a commonplace that well-educated, well-travelled urban elites are no longer
part of a recognisable cohesive community, whereas people from rural areas, especially those in
developing countries, are more rooted in traditional structures. However, what is interesting about
this response is that the same people who design community forest projects, and whose other
answers disclose that they have such lofty ambitions for what forest communities are capable of,
are unable to coherently describe their own community. This may lead to assumptions being
made about rural communities, based on mythology and wishful thinking rather than empirical
evidence. Perhaps in institutional terms there is an expectation that individuals should think in a
certain way about communities, even if this is at odds with their own experience. As one
respondent, who grew up in communities where feuds and factions were the norm, warned: “I
don’t think that proponents of community anything, not just forestry, usually realise how fragile is a
‘community decision’.”

Whilst it would be unwise to generalise from such a small sample of respondents, it seems that
different concepts of the meaning of ‘community’ reflect personal and institutional discourses.
Iola Leal Riesco2 sees her community as born out of the “environmental and social movement”,
and the concept of community as a movement born out of struggle seems to be a powerful image.
This depicts the forest communities as opponents to deforestation, rent capture by elites and
marginalisation by government. However according to McCarthy’s analysis, their struggle has
been romanticised, and the ‘appeal of community as the locus of pre-modern sensibilities and
potential for resistance is entirely understandable' (2004, p1001). A senior manager of a
Multilateral Donor suggested that some notions of ‘community’ are merely a “construct to impose
the idea of ‘community’ onto a village or indigenous group that lives near the forest”.

In the event that a bounded entity of ‘community’ can be discerned, for it to be successful it will
need to take, and enforce, decisions. Development managers were ambivalent about their own
community’s procedures (“decision-making dressed up as democracy” as Duncan Macqueen3

2 Programme Manager, FERN, Brussels

3 Senior researcher at International Institute for Environment and Developent (IIED), Edinburgh

Page 17
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

noted). This is in contrast to Rakhmat Hidayat4: “To make decisions we use the process of
‘musyawarah’, and the resulting agreement becomes a decision that is adhered to by all members
of the community”. 'Musyawarah' was cited by almost all the Indonesian respondents, referring to
the Indonesian culture of achieving consensus through deliberation. This process is not without its
critics, and arguably the regime of the former dictator Suharto abused the Musyawarah tradition to
achieve its anti-democratic aims.

However, there is a danger that the alternative to ‘guided consensus’ is paralysis by committee.
Macqueen felt this risk was over-stated and was dependent on context: “In many parts of Africa
traditional leaders listen carefully to what everyone has to say first but then take a virtually
unilateral decision about how to proceed. In Guyana Amerindian communities much the same
applies. In Brazil, many of the communities I met were of recent migrant origin so the conflicts
were much more prevalent”. In contrast, John Palmer’s5 view was that community cohesion is not
just about how decisions are taken, but also how they are enforced: “Does the community have
effective and durable sanctions against members who break community agreements and
decisions? If yes, then community forestry may have a chance...if no, as in Amerindian villages...,
then chances are slim”. Interestingly, the Amerindian communities are cited as both paragons of
guided consensus and yet weak enforcers of decisions.

The case of the Koperasi Hutan Jaya Lestari (KHJL) community forest in Sulawesi, Indonesia, may
be instructive, though it is not typical6. The co-operative was formed by a group of smallholders
looking to find a market for their teak, and over time it has grown to over 600 members, has
attained FSC certification and has recently been granted 9,000 hectares of degraded state forest as
part of a community plantation scheme. In an interview, the key members attributed their success
to the fact that the co-operative was not externally imposed by government or donors. All the
members have coalesced around a shared endeavour and vision that cuts across class, ethnicity or
gender. They believe that their ‘community’ is strong precisely because it is not homogenous. To
outsiders, KHJL may sometimes behave like a ‘movement’, for instance when it appeared that the
local government would renege on the deal to grant the state forest to the group, political
advocacy and direct action was required. However, it is first and foremost a business that is
owned by the members, and that is what motivates it, rather than externally-imposed constructions
of ‘community‘ values and expectations.

6.2 Enterprise

In exploring the nature of enterprise, the study initially considered how the success of a CFE
should be measured. The key themes that emerged were:

‣ Sustainability, which seemed to be used in three different ways: financial, ecological and
‣ Economic success (“make a profit”, “decent return on inputs of capital and labour”)
‣ Ecological soundness (“natural resources not destroyed”, “biodiversity not declining”)
‣ Social factors (“education”, “equitable distribution of benefits”)

4 Director of WARSI, a prominant Indonesian NGO

5 Forest Management Trust, Florida
6 Based on site visit and interviews in April and November 2008

Page 18
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

There were also some more nuanced responses that referred to achieving the desirable balance
between costs and benefits, and the balance between “income generation and social goals”, as
Augusta Molnar7 put it. Interestingly, whilst success is seen in terms of economic, ecological and
social factors, failure is seen exclusively as insolvency of the business. No one mentioned
ecological failure (e.g. the business is successful but the forest is degraded) or social failure (e.g.
the rewards are captured by elites).

Whilst most of the responses did not assign any timescale to these successful outcomes, Molnar
spoke of the emergence of “sound resource management over time” and “social inclusion over
time”, reflecting the fact that it is possible to construct a hierarchy of desired outcomes from CFEs,
and not expect all good things to happen at once. Allowing for a sequence of outcomes to emerge
recognises that some of them may be dependent on others, though the sequence itself may be
influenced by NGO preferences. Some respondents imply that ecological performance is the
prerequisite to improved economic and social performance. A major donor suggested that a
financial return will happen in due course, whilst a southern NGO suggested that livelihoods must
improve first to create the rationale and space for ecological sustainability.

Analysing the responses in relation to the origin of the informants is instructive (with the caveat
that generalising from a small sample is problematic). For instance, responses from southern
NGOs show that their notion of success for CFEs is predominately led by economic considerations
- the CFE needs to make a profit. Most of the INGOs and donors seem more concerned with
environmental goals, or a range of social outcomes. In summary, those that are closest to the
forest dwellers are interested in the immediate livelihood gains and material poverty reduction,
whereas those furthest away allow themselves the luxury of contemplating broader development
goals. This cuts to the heart of the problem that this research hopes to address, which is the extent
to which CFEs can accomplish multiple goals. It seems that, prima facie, those with the power
over development funding believe CFEs are the means by which improved environmental
outcomes can be accommodated with livelihood needs, whereas the local people who will
actually execute these programs are a little more pragmatic, seeing satisfying livelihood needs as
the pre-requisite to better environmental outcomes

Another way of testing the attitude to ‘enterprise’ is to consider if the benefits of failure outweigh
the costs. The responses to this question range from “failure is acceptable” through to “no, failure
comes at too high a price”. The majority, however, reflect the view that enterprises fail in the real
world, so stumbling is an inevitable part of running any business, even a community-owned
enterprise. Some respondents discuss how CFEs may need help learning the lessons that may be
drawn from poor outcomes. Others point out that the concept of failure itself needs definition, as
donors may under-estimate a community’s ability to absorb the bad times (for instance through
reverting to subsistence), and thus inhibit an otherwise healthy enterprise by imposing risk
aversion. There was some reflection on the fact that donors rarely learn from mistakes, and Hugh
Speechly 8 concluded that CFEs “should not have to bear the cost of external parties’ experiments”.

To consider the compatibility of ‘enterprise’ with ‘community’, the case of Association Femmes et
Hommes Amis Nkolenyeng (AFHAN) in Nkolenyeng village, Cameroon, is revealing 9. AFHAN is a

7 Director, Rights and Resources Initiative, Washington DC

8 Programme Co-ordinator, Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, DFID
9 Site visit with village chief Manuel Bifene Elle and CFA president Mme Mbia Salome, 05/10/08

Page 19
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

fairly typical example of a CFE in that country, with a license to manage 1200 hectares of
marginal forest that has already been logged-over. The group aims to find a market for the lower
value timber species that usually do not attract a good price, “thus attaining development goals for
the village, as well as empowerment and positivity”. In 2007 they received $1300 in sales
income; this cash was not invested in the business but spent on repairing the borehole, buying a
generator, and some sports equipment for the children. However, in 2008 they achieved sales of
only $180, partly because they did not have cash in the business to submit the permit request to
the forestry department earlier in the year. It thus resembles a project rather than a sustainable

This is a common problem, and similar stories were heard from other CFEs in Cameroon. Often
the supporting NGOs need to pay for the government permit, as the CFEs do not allow for
amortization of the expense in their business planning (though one should also acknowledge that
perverse government regulations, poorly applied, also play a part). A recent ICRAF survey, which
included AFHAN, revealed that ‘Some community forests claim to be held ‘hostage’ by local
NGOs in a bitter-sweet relationship of mutual need’ (Mbile, 2008, p.7). One could speculate that
the CFE is fulfilling social goals at the expense of long-term business sustainability to either comply
with the wishes of the NGO, or to perpetuate the symbiosis. An alternative to ‘NGO capture’ is
the often touted but little understood phenomenon of ‘elite capture’. Simon Counsell10 explained
in an interview that there are many examples of CFEs that would not have happened if they did
not have the involvement of an elite member of the community (e.g. someone who worked in the
city and has returned to the village) who can negotiate the complex procedures and provide the
initial cash to get the permit. In Cameroon it is expected that a villager who does well for himself
returns to the village and makes a contribution, such as building a school. Counsell concluded
that “the role of elites is part of the social context, and not always to be resisted”.

There appears to be an overlap between notions of ‘community’ and capacities for ‘enterprise’.
Where CFEs are expected to achieve social goals in preference to business aims, the enterprise is
unlikely to be sustainable without outside subsidy. Where CFEs become the client of a local
businessman they may run on more entrepreneurial lines, but with the risk that the benefits are not
evenly shared, and environmental goals may become subservient to the profit motive.

6.3 Conservation

Opinion was divided over whether Pinchot’s phrase that ‘conservation stands for
development’ (1999) could be applied to forestry. The answers ranged from ‘I strongly agree” to
“no, absolutely no!”, revealing some strong opinions, some flexible interpretation of the question
and, I suspect, existing prejudices. One of the key themes is causality: the Kuznets curve shows
how an improved standard of living eventually leads to better conservation, but Moray Mcleish11
pointed out that there is no evidence that better conservation leads to better development. In
general the respondents felt that people need livelihoods that utilise the forest, not just jobs as
gamekeepers to guard the forest. Rakhmat Hidayat pointed out how Integrated Conservation and
Development (ICD) has been deployed in Sumatra, with poor results, yet most informants agree
that some form of joint management is the way forward. As Palmer put it, accommodation means

10 Director, Rainforest Foundation UK

11 Associate Director, Proforest, Oxford

Page 20
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

“less conservation than the ICNGO would like, and more than the local farmers and hunters and
loggers would prefer”.

Depending upon how it is conceived, some informants believe that conservation may actually
harm development. Indeed, they suspect that many ICNGOs still believe in the 19th century US
model of “parks without people”, and are still “hungry for acreage” which can be enclosed and
protected as a global public good. Forest reserves are frequently scheduled as the most protected
Category I or II in the IUCN scale (2002) regardless of their scarcity value, when in most cases they
could be Category VI, allowing sustainable use (Swiderska et al, 2008). It seems that ICNGOs
apply the same criteria to a populated complex forest mosaic, as they would to a remote pristine
wilderness. It is not surprising, therefore, that as Lars-Gunnar Blomkvist12 suggested, some
governments see conservation as “a sacrifice, not as a contribution to development”.

It is clear from the research that the ICNGOs are perceived not to have altered their approach
much in the past twenty years, despite poor outcomes and criticism. Initiatives such as the Durban
Principles (Swiderska, et al, 2008, p.29) lobby for change on behalf of indigenous people, but
Simon Counsell reports that there is no change at the higher levels of policy by ICNGOs, though
there may be some changes at the country manager level. Where changes have occurred, it may
be of rhetoric than policy, as the ICNGOs find that to fund their programs from outside their own
base of supporters, “donors look for a more people-centred approach to development”.
However, people-centred may be different from pro-development. It seems that depending on the
circumstances ICNGOs may adopt a ‘post-development’ approach to forest peoples (the theory
that development is not in their best interests and should be suppressed so they remain in a pre-
lapsarian idyll, at one with nature). Counsell suggests that the problem lies in the way
conservation projects are evaluated: “In rich biodiversity parks these projects are looking for a state
of frozen stasis: nothing moves, nothing develops, nothing changes.” As this is hard to measure
objectively, “they build up an array of proxy indicators: poachers arrested, traps foiled etc. So they
get locked into objectives that are anti-people and anti-development.” Furthermore, John Palmer
suggests ICNGOs may be aware that moving forest dwellers off the land can contribute to urban
drift, and that once these people are settled in peri-urban slums they may rarely return to the
forest, as their tenuous land claims will have been eroded through their absence. This would, over
time, reduce the likelihood that former forest-dwellers would threaten the protected area. Both of
these positions are ethically dubious.

The impact of the ICNGO discourse can be seen at work in the case of the 100,000 hectares
Birdlife Harapan (BH) restoration forest in Sumatra, Indonesia, supported by the Birdlife
International organisation13 . Swiderska et al (2008) reports that Birdlife is one of the few ICNGOs
to include benefit-sharing and people-centred approaches in its policies. However, the new park
in Sumatra is encountering difficulties (Sarwadi, 2008). There are 22 villages in and around the
concession, and large numbers of rubber trees (and other agroforestry) within the concession that
are deemed to be 'owned' by local people. However, BH does not formally acknowledge any
competing claims on the land, and in any case would be forbidden from doing so by the terms of
its concession from the state. Local managers acknowledge that some form of benefit-sharing
arrangement, perhaps through a joint venture company, may be a good way to get local people on
board and prevent future incursions and erosion of the forest.

12 Forestry consultant, based in Indonesia

13 Based on confidental interviews with various sources within and outside the organisation

Page 21
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

However, at an international level, Birdlife International is worried that any economic activity
within the park will act as a magnet, attracting human incursion from both proximate communities
and migrants alike, and preventing the ecosystem restoration from taking place. Their concern is
that the locals agitating for access rights are themselves recent arrivals to the area - they do not
have long-standing claims.  This may be true, but of course the Birdlife Harapan site assumes the
boundaries of a former concession that was itself contested, and the incursion by communities
when the former concession was wound up was a fairly reasonable action.  The institutional view
seems to be that carbon credits will provide the income to pay for locals to patrol the perimeter of
the park, but this fails to address the difference between 'jobs' and sustainable livelihoods, and
thus ironically makes the same mistakes as the large industrial concessions that have had such a
disastrous impact on Sumatra’s ecosystem (Mayers, 2006).

Beyond the practical considerations of conservation, and the evidence that displacement and
exclusion of people fails to contribute to good outcomes for either the people or the ecosystem,
there is clearly an ethical debate to be had within the ICNGOs. This may need to start with an
acknowledgement of the utilitarian aspect of the ICNGO approach, and how it sets up a
contradiction between the notion of ‘animal rights’ (or ‘biotic rights) and the instrumental value of
any living thing, including humans. If humans can be displaced in the name of ecosystem
protection, to preserve the ‘greater good’ (whether that be expressed in terms of global public
goods such as biodiversity and climate change or local goods such as the economic value of the
timber), then those people have become instruments of development, not participants.

Slim argued that ‘moral views which believe in a single golden rule’ (1997, p.229), such as
utilitarianism, are less likely to run up against moral dilemmas, but that does not necessarily
recommend them. Moral complexity - balancing the needs of different groups of people against
the ‘rights’ of animals and ecosystems - may require more trade-offs, but these are not moral
dilemmas as such, as they do not involve the choice between two comparable things (ibid.).
However, in order to consider trade-offs in the first instance one needs to to have an idea of which
groups are available for negotiation, and to what extent they can enter into binding commitments.
Birdlife International’s problem is partly a legitimate fear that more commercial activity in the area
may lead to forest degradation, and also the difficulties in identifying the ‘forest community’ that
can be brought into the project as either partners or beneficiaries. Development organisations that
are critical of ICNGOs do not help this problem by permitting a word with such a large semantic
footprint as ‘community‘ to be presented as if it were plainly self-evident.

Page 22
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

7. Conclusions and Recommendations

The aim of this project was to explore institutional discourses that inform the project design and
management of community forest enterprises, in order to ascertain how CFEs may best overcome
rural poverty whilst managing forests in a sustainable manner.

In summary, the main findings emerging from the research are:

‣ Conservation and development goals are rarely reconciled in either theory or practice.

‣ There is a dissonance between institutional concepts of community and the personal

experience of development managers.

‣ Communities do not necessarily inherently possess the capabilities to make important

decisions and follow them through.

‣ Heterogeneity of membership of CFEs could be a strength rather than a weakness,

providing that they are assembled around a common cause.

‣ The requirement for CFEs to attain social and/or ecological goals in preference to business
goals may be externally imposed by NGOs, and this may not be the route to sustainability.

‣ Whilst conservation NGOs are wary of commercialisation of forest products, projects that
do not address the holistic livelihood needs of the proximate communities are built on
questionable practical and ethical foundations and thus unlikely to succeed.

‣ One of the possible reasons conservation projects overlook the needs of forest dwellers and
users is their difficulty in locating a coherent entity that can negotiate on behalf of the

‣ Institutional discourses relating to ‘community’, ‘enterprise’ and ‘conservation’ are often

contradictory, yet as dimensions of policy and project design they are probably inter-

One possible route to synthesis of these seemingly disparate (and potentially contradictory)
findings may lie in organising the development goals into an inter-dependent sequence of
outcomes (see figure 2). If communities are conceptualised accurately, then enterprises may be
more successful. If CFEs do well, then livelihood improvements (and the reduction of poverty) will
enhance ecological sustainability and meet some conservation goals. Therefore, if conservation
projects start from a livelihood perspective rather than a 'global public goods' perspective, and
incorporate genuine enterprise, then this may support institutional and cultural aspects of
communities, capturing valuable local knowledge, and strengthening rather than undermining

Page 23
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project


Shared Vision

Poverty Viable
Reduction Enterprise


Figure 2: Linking community enterprises to poverty reduction and conservation

This report therefore makes a number of specific recommendations for NGOs, consultants, donors
and other professionals involved in community forestry, conservation or policy making:

Critically examine institutional discourses to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of

‘community’. It may be better to locate the community in shared goals and values rather than
shared opposition, circumstances or ethnicity.

Separate business goals from social goals. As different types of community exist in any setting,
and different sub-groups, the group that makes the profit (via the CFE) may not be the best body to
decide upon its disposition in social projects. The latter may require democratic accountability
whereas the former may be hampered by too much consensus.

Assist ICNGOs in identifying partners in conservation, by recognising that in most cases the
proximate ‘community’ may be a multi-layered and complex kaleidoscope of competing interests,
rather than a homogenous group united in poverty.

Provide evidence and make the case that sustainable livelihoods consist of more than just a
‘steady job’ or income derived from cash transfers.

Acknowledge the importance of sequencing desired outcomes, with the knowledge that this may
require some trade-offs in the medium term between development and conservation goals, but that
accommodation of these seemingly disparate goals will in the long term lead to better, more
holistic outcomes for both humans and ecosystems alike.

Work with all actors, including ICNGOs, to encourage each organisation to clarify its ethical
approach to forest communities, and express how moral dilemmas will be navigated.

Page 24
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

The subject for this report arose from the general observation that different institutions seemed to
discuss forest communities according to certain norms and assumptions that almost resembled
mythology rather than empiricism. Furthermore, their notions of enterprise, and business in
general, seemed to reflect ambivalence towards the market, and perhaps some misunderstanding
of how small enterprises form and thrive. The process of articulating these intuitions into a
problem, and researching them - albeit using a limited sample of qualitative data - has led to the
emergence of a number of associated themes that has broadened the original scope of the report.
The findings extend into quite fundamental aspects of project design, and touch upon a wide
range of institutions. However, the core message is quite simple: characterising forest
communities as victims, villains, obstacles or saviours, depending upon each NGO’s proclivity, is
neither practical nor ethically sound.

As Sen remarked, communities should not be asked to bear ‘the terrible burden of narrowly
defined identities’ (1999, p.8), but should be allowed to flourish according to their own lights, or
even not flourish at all. Well-meaning organisations, motivated by the crisis narrative that
demands action to save the forests right now, may propose approaches that have utility in
conserving environmental resources. However, these may spring from an indifference to the
complexity of human interaction with the forests that, to paraphrase Marx (1848), will drown the
poor and marginalized ‘in the icy water of egotistical calculation’.

_______________  _______________

Page 25
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

8. References

Arnold, J.E.M., (2001) Forestry, Policy and Aid, Occasional Paper No.33, Center for International Forestry
Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia
Arts, B., Buzier, M. (2008) 'Forest. discourses, institutions', Forest Policy and Economics, doi: 10.1016/
j.forpol.2008.10.004, Elsevier
Brown, D., Malla, Y., Schreckenberg, K. and Springate-Banginski, O. (2002) 'From Supervising 'Subjects' to
Supporting 'Citizens': Recent Developments in Community Forestry in Asia and Africa' in ODI Natural
Resource Perspectives Number 75, February 2002, Overseas Development Institute, London
Cernea, M.M. & Schmidt-Soltau, K. (2006), 'Poverty Risks and National Parks: Policy Issues in Conservation
and Resettlement', World Development Vol. 34, No. 10, pp. 1808–1830, 2006, Elsevier Ltd.
Chomitz, K.M. (2007) At Loggerheads? Agricultural Expansion, Poverty Reduction and Environment in the
Tropical Forests, The World Bank, Washington DC
De Soto, H. (2000), The Mystery of Capital, Basic Books, New York
Eliasch, J. (2008) 'Climate change: Financing Global Forests', The Eliasch Review, HMSO, UK
Engberg-Pedersen, L. (1997) 'Institutional contradictions in rural development', European Journal of
Development Research, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 183-208
Garner, R.(1999), 'Conserving Wildlife' in Smith, M.J. (ed), Thinking Through the Environment: A reader,
London, Routledge / Open University
Geisler, C. (2003), 'A new kind of trouble: evictions in Eden', International Social Science Journal, 55(1), 69–
Griffiths, T. (2008) Seeing 'REDD'? Forests, climate change mitigation and the rights of indigenous peoples,
Update for Poznan (UNFCCC COP 14) Advance Draft, Forest Peoples Programme, UK
Hanlon, J. (1998) ‘Grabbing Attention’ in Thomas, A., Chataway, J. and Wuyts, M. (eds) Finding Out Fast:
Investigative Skills for Policy and Development, The Open University, Milton Keynes/Sage, London
Hardin, G. (1999) 'The Tragedy of the Commons' in Smith, M.J. (ed) Thinking Through the Environment: A
reader, London, Routledge / Open University
Irimie, D.L., Essmann, H.F., (2008) 'Forest property rights in the frame of public policies and societal
change', Forest Policy and Economics, doi: 10.1016/j.forpol.2008.10.001, Elsevier
ITTO (2007) Community-based forest enterprises. Their status and potential in tropical countries, ITTO
Technical Series #28, International Tropical Timber Organization, Yokohama
IUCN (2002), The IUCN Protected Area Management Categories, Information Sheet 3.,
accessed 15/03/09
Karsenty, A., Drigo, I.G., Piketty, M., and Singer, B. (2008) 'Regulating industrial forest concessions in
Central Africa and South America', Forest Ecology and Management doi:10.1016/j.foreco.
2008.07.001, pp. 1498–1508, Elsevier
Korten, D.C. (1995) ‘Steps towards people-centred development: vision and strategies’, in Heyzer, N., Riker,
J.V. and Quizon, A.B. (eds.) Government–NGO relations in Asia: prospects and challenges for people-
centred development, London, Macmillan
Leopold, A. (1999) 'The Land Ethic' in Smith, M.J. (ed) Thinking Through the Environment: A reader, London,
Routledge / Open University
Macqueen, D. 2007. 'Cutting edge: how community forest enterprises lead the way on poverty reduction
and avoided deforestation', Sustainable Development Opinion Dec 2007, International Institute for
Environment and Development (IIED), London
Marx, K and Engels, F. (1848) The Communist Manifesto, London
Mavhunga, C. (2007) 'Even the rider and a horse are a partnership: a response to Vermeulen & Sheil', in
Oryx. Vol. 41(4), 441-442, Flora and Fauna International, UK
Mayers, J. (2006) Poverty Reduction through Commercial Forestry: What evidence? What prospects?, The
Forests Dialogue, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven

Page 26
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project

Mbile, P, Ndzomo-Abanda, G., Essomba, H. and Misouma, A. (2008), Towards Alternative Tenure and Forest
Enterprise Models: Opportunities, Constraints & Recommendations for Community Forest Enterprise
Development in Cameroon (Draft), Rights and Resources Initiative, Washington DC
McCarthy, J. (2004) 'Devolution in the woods: community forestry as hybrid neoliberalism', Environment
and Planning A 2005, volume 37, pages 995 - 1014, Pion, UK
Mert, A. (2007) 'Partnerships for sustainable development as discursive practice: Shifts in discourses of
environment and democracy', Forest Policy and Economics, doi: 10.1016/j.forpol.2008.10.003,
OU (2006), Block 3 Guide, Collecting, Analysing and Using Data, TU874 Development Management
Project Study Guide, The Open University, Milton Keynes
Pinchot, G. (1999) 'Conservation and human welfare' in Smith, M.J. (ed) Thinking Through the Environment:
A reader, London, Routledge / Open University
Pirard, R. and Karsenty. A. (2008), 'Climate Change Mitigation: Should "Avoided Deforestation" (REDD) Be
Rewarded?' Journal of Sustainable Forestry, In Press
Sarwadi, S (2008), 'Small farmers victims of forest carbon trading',, accessed
Schluter, A. (2006) 'Institutional change in the forestry sector - The explanatory potential of New Institutional
Economics', Forest Policy and Economics, doi: 10.1016/j.forpol.2006.11.001, Elsevier
Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Sherr, S.J., White, A. and Kaimowitz, D. 2003. A new agenda for forest conservation and poverty reduction:
Making markets work for low-income producers, Forest Trends, Washington, DC
Sihlongonyane, M.F. (2001) 'The rhetoric of the community in project management: the case of Mohlakeng
township', Development in Practice, Vol. 11(1), Carfax Publishing, UK
Slim, H. (1997) ‘Doing the right thing: relief agencies, moral dilemmas and moral responsibility in political
emergencies and war’, Studies on Emergencies and Disaster Relief, no. 6, Nordiska Afrikainstitute, pp.
Sunderlin, W.D., Angelsen, A., Belcher, B., Burgers, P., Nasi, R., Santoso L. and Wunder, S. (2005) World
Development Vol. 33, No. 9, pp. 1383–1402, 2005 Elsevier Ltd
Swiderska, K., Roe, D., Siegele, L., & Grieg-Gran, M. (2008) The Governance of Nature and the Nature of
Governance: Policy that works for biodiversity and livelihoods, IIED, London
The Economist (2008), 'The price of conservation: The unkindest cut', The Economist, Feb 14th 2008,
Thomas, A. (1998) ‘Challenging Cases’ in Thomas, A., Chataway, J. and Wuyts, M. (eds) Finding Out Fast:
Investigative Skills for Policy and Development, The Open University, Milton Keynes/Sage, London
Thomas, A. and Chataway, J. (1998) ‘Personal Effectiveness and Integrity’ in Thomas, A., Chataway, J. and
Wuyts, M. (eds) Finding Out Fast: Investigative Skills for Policy and Development, The Open University,
Milton Keynes/Sage, London
Thomas, R., Macqueen, D.J., Hawker, Y. and DeMendonca, T. 2003. Small and medium forest enterprise in
Guyana, Guyana Forestry Commission and IIED, London
Vermeulen, S. and Sheil, D. (2007) 'Partnerships for tropical conservation' in Oryx. Vol. 41(4), 434-440,
Flora and Fauna International, UK
Wells, A., Luttrell, C., Brown, D. and Bird, N. (2006) 'Public Goods and Private Rights: the illegal Logging
Debate and the Rights of the Poor' in ODI Forestry Briefing Number 9, February 2006, Overseas
Development Institute, London
Woodhouse, P. (1998) ‘People as Informants’ in Thomas, A., Chataway, J. and Wuyts, M. (eds) Finding Out
Fast: Investigative Skills for Policy and Development, The Open University, Milton Keynes/Sage, London

Page 27
D M M Elson X5114414 TU874 Final Project


Dominic Elson - Development Management Research Project

January 2009

Research Survey

Notes for Informants

I have designed this short survey to be a ’coffee break’ exercise, meaning that it should be a
reasonably pleasurable activity, stimulating rather than onerous, and should ideally take no
longer than twenty minutes.

Therefore some of the questions are a little unconventional, and for some respondents may
even be provocative. In some cases it may be best to simply record the first thought that
comes into your head. In fact, as this survey is more about attitudes than formal systems,
instinctive responses may be the most appropriate and interesting.

You may write as much, or as little, as you like. Also, feel free to record any wider thoughts
or preoccupations about community forestry, REDD or conservation that you may have. For
instance, you may wish to attach briefs you have written in the past, or send me links to
relevant documents or other sources.

You may answer ‘in-line’ in the e-mail, or use this document, whichever you find most
convenient. Please return your answers to

Please try to respond to this survey (even if it is to decline to be involved) before Friday 6th
February. Many thanks for you help.

Please indicate the following:

‣ Are you are responding on behalf of your institution, or making personal observations?

‣ Do you prefer these responses to remain confidential, or can you and/or your
organisation be specifically referenced in the report?

Survey Questions

1. How should we measure the success of a Community Forest Enterprise?

2. Is the risk of failure an acceptable price for Community Forest Enterprises to pay for
learning lessons?

3. In 1901, as the US National Parks were being set up, The American conservationist
Gifford Pinchot said the ‘...great fact about conservation is that it stands for
development.’ In your experience, is this true for forest conservation?

4. Are entrepreneurs born or made?

5. Which ‘community’ would you consider yourself a member of, and how does that
community make decisions?

Page 28