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Has Decentralisation of Forest Governance Achieved its Objectives? A Case Study of Participatory Forest Management in North Rift Conservancy, Kenya

Stephanie Kasaon

Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan

Decentralisation of Forest Management in Africa began in earnest in the 1990s with the primary goal of involving local communities in management strategies and activities through mechanisms such as Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM). The main objectives were to improve the forest’s condition as well as the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. There are a variety of CBFM types being applied in different countries, depending on the levels of devolved rights and tenure arrangements. Studies have shown mixed results in the levels of devolved powers and rights to the local level. Most studies have highlighted the significant supervisory powers of the state and the limited decision making autonomy of communities through Community-Based Organisations, especially in African countries. The state still retains significant control of high-valued forests, restricting access to the communities. In Kenya, CBFM is practiced through Participatory Forest Management where the Kenya Forest Service in collaboration with the Community Forest Associations (CFAs) manages state/public forests. in order to ascertain the state of devolved forest governance in Kenya, this study conducted an empirical case study in the North Rift Conservancy, following the decentralisation framework of Agrawal and Ribot (1999) which emphasises the actors involved in resource governance, the degree of powers transferred, and upward and downward accountability. The results show that minimal management powers have been devolved to the communities, communities have limited capacity to participate in rule-making, and that the CFA leadership needs to be more representative of the youth, women, and indigenous communities.

147/5000 La décentralisation de la gouvernance forestière a-t-elle atteint ses objectifs? Une étude de cas de gestion participative des forêts à North Rift Conservancy, Kenya

Stephanie Kasaon

Université Sophia, Tokyo, Japon

La décentralisation de la gestion des forêts en Afrique a véritablement commencé dans les années 90 avec l’objectif principal d’impliquer les communautés locales dans les stratégies et activités de gestion par le biais de mécanismes tels que la gestion communautaire des forêts (CBFM). Les principaux objectifs étaient d’améliorer l’état de la forêt ainsi que les moyens de subsistance des communautés tributaires des forêts. Il existe une variété de types de CBFM appliqués dans différents pays, en fonction du niveau des droits déconcentrés et des régimes fonciers. Des études ont montré des résultats mitigés au niveau des pouvoirs et des droits décentralisés au niveau local. La plupart des études ont mis en évidence les pouvoirs de contrôle importants de l’État et l’autonomie limitée de prise de décision des communautés par le biais des organisations communautaires, en particulier dans les pays africains. L’État conserve encore un contrôle important des forêts de grande valeur, limitant l’accès aux communautés. Au Kenya, le CBFM est pratiqué par le biais de la gestion participative des forêts, où le Kenya Forest Service en collaboration avec les associations forestières communautaires (CFA) gère les forêts publiques / publiques. afin de vérifier l’état de la gouvernance décentralisée des forêts au Kenya, cette étude a mené une étude de cas empirique dans le North Rift Conservancy, suivant le cadre de décentralisation d’Agrawal et Ribot (1999) qui met l’accent sur les acteurs impliqués dans la gouvernance des ressources, le degré de pouvoirs transféré, et la responsabilité ascendante et descendante. Les résultats montrent que des pouvoirs de gestion minimaux ont été dévolus aux communautés, que les communautés ont une capacité limitée à participer à l’élaboration des règles et que la direction de la CFA doit être plus représentative des jeunes, des femmes et des communautés autochtones.

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you Kasaon Stephanie.

    One of your recommendations is on how the communities could lobby for increased participation under reformed institutional arrangements.

    My question is: In line with the subsidiarity principle, what are the roles, responsibilities (maybe even resources) that the community could manage locally?

    1. Thank you for your comment Mapedza. The current decentralized forest institutional structure creates avenues for the forest communities to co-manage forests with the Kenya forest Service(state body) at the local level. The community forest associations are involved in forest monitoring and rule enforcement. There is however a missing link in terms of making and influencing forest rules. This could be done through liaising with the county governments(devolved government structures from the national level). There is currently no official body or linkages between the Community forest associations, the Kenya forest service and the county governments at the local, regional and national levels. Linking them at the county and sub-county levels would ensure the subsidiarity principle is upheld while linking them horizontally and vertically through to the national level ensures the community is represented and involved in policy making.

  2. Thank you for your presentation. I was struct by the large percentage of women who were part of these management committees. Is that indicative of the culture of the area? or to what do you attribute this high level? Many studies show that women are often marginalized from such committees.

    1. Thank you for your comment Carolyn. The high percentage of women participation in leadership does not indicate the current situation-the figure represents the associations that have ever included women in leadership since their formation. That being said, it is a comparatively high number and this can be attributed to the general women empowerment drives and campaigns in the country(in education, politics, employment) that may have influenced their participation. There is currently a general rule mandating a third of committees and leadership positions to be filled with women. This may further influence the participation of women in forest associations.

    2. Thank you for your comment Mapedza. The current decentralized forest institutional structure creates avenues for the forest communities to co-manage forests with the Kenya forest Service(state body) at the local level. The community forest associations are involved in forest monitoring and rule enforcement. There is however a missing link in terms of making and influencing forest rules. This could be done through liaising with the county governments(devolved government structures from the national level). There is currently no official body or linkages between the Community forest associations, the Kenya forest service and the county governments at the local, regional and national levels. Linking them at the county and sub-county levels would ensure the subsidiarity principle is upheld while linking them horizontally and vertically through to the national level ensures the community is represented and involved in policy making.

  3. Thank you for your comment Mapedza. The current decentralized forest institutional structure creates avenues for the forest communities to co-manage forests with the Kenya forest Service(state body) at the local level. The community forest associations are involved in forest monitoring and rule enforcement. There is however a missing link in terms of making and influencing forest rules. This could be done through liaising with the county governments(devolved government structures from the national level). There is currently no official body or linkages between the Community forest associations, the Kenya forest service and the county governments at the local, regional and national levels. Linking them at the county and sub-county levels would ensure the subsidiarity principle is upheld while linking them horizontally and vertically through to the national level ensures the community is represented and involved in policy making.

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