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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community forests for forest communities : an examination of power imbalances, challenges and goals in Brazil and Mexico Hajjar, Reem Fouad


Community forestry can deliver economic, socio-cultural and ecological benefits to local communities. Case studies from around the world have shown this, yet results have also been mixed, as many initiatives have failed to deliver their promises. Criticisms have arisen that community forestry remains dominated by decision-making by offsite experts, replication of models deemed successful in other contexts, and the spread of forestry practices that have been developed for the large-scale forest industry. This research provides further insights into community forestry from the perspective of the local forest user. A case study approach was used for an in-depth examination of six community forestry initiatives in Brazil and Mexico, assessing the current status of community forestry and suggesting a path forward based on local needs and wants. Qualitative content analysis of semi-structured interviews with community members, and elements of grounded theory methodology, were used to: assess the amount of forest management authority communities currently have; create a framework outlining the challenges facing communities in managing their forests; and, identify community-defined goals and processes for community forestry initiatives. Results showed that, despite the rhetoric of decentralization, communities continue to work within tightly regulated frameworks of forest management with limited decision-making power for forest product commercialization. Within this limited power structure, communities face interrelated challenges in both the development and operationalization phases of forestry initiatives, requiring a holistic strategy of intervention to encourage the maintenance of a profitable and self-sufficient enterprise. In identifying community-defined goals, this research found that other livelihood strategies, particularly agricultural practices, need to be considered when designing forestry interventions that are overly focused on timber production. This exercise also underlined the need to promote site-specific models of intervention that take into account the variety of contexts and community interests. A better understanding of local perspectives can aid in the design of community forestry interventions brought by conservation and development agencies, by adding an important and understudied perspective to the problems that face community forestry. Without the community member playing an essential and empowered role, the success of community forestry will be limited.

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Attribution 3.0 Unported