Does community forest management provide global environmental benefits and improve local welfare?

Diana E Bowler, Lisette M Buyung-Ali, John R Healey, Julia PG Jones, Teri M Knight, and Andrew S Pullin

Global financial donors have invested billions of dollars in "Sustainable Forest Management" to conserve forests and the ecosystem services they provide. A major contributing mechanism, community forest management (CFM), aims to provide global environmental benefits (reduce deforestation, maintain biodiversity), while also improving local human welfare (alleviate poverty). We have systematically reviewed available evidence of CFM effectiveness and consider the implications of our findings for future investment in CFM programs. There is evidence of CFM being associated with greater tree density and basal area but not with other indicators of global environmental benefits. We found no data on local human welfare amenable to meta-analysis. Poor study design, variable reporting of study methodology or context, and lack of common indicators make evidence synthesis difficult. Given the policy interest in and the planned donor expenditure on CFM, evaluation must be improved so that informed decisions can be made about appropriate investment in this approach.

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September, 2011
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