How can NGOs help communities to govern their forests?

How can NGOs help communities to govern their forests?

General - 18 October, 2023

Community forest management can contribute to local development, while playing an important role in the protection and restoration of the world’s forests — crucial to tackle the global biodiversity and climate crises. The success of community forest management is influenced by the functioning of community-level governance arrangements. What role can the NGOs play in supporting and strengthening community-level governance?

In 2022, members of the Tropenbos International, together with RECOFTC, shared their insights about the role of NGOs in community forestry initiatives in a perspective paper in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. They now publish the findings of this paper in an interactive format, adding their own experiences and lessons in the form of short case studies.

Download here the interactive publication

The authors argue that, rather than focusing on rigid interpretations of good governance principles and predefined community forestry models, NGOs need to assist communities with strengthening and adapting local governance structures, so they are better equipped to deal with opportunities and challenges associated with ongoing commercialization and pressures from external actors. This means that NGO practitioners must act as facilitators of community-level discussions, negotiations, and decision-making, and of interactions with external actors.

For NGOs to play this role effectively, they need to engage in long-term commitments with communities. Next to that, there is a need to invest in the training of practitioners, so they not only have the necessary technical and management skills, but also the skills to facilitate highly complex and dynamic social processes. Only then will community forestry initiatives contribute to local agency and ownership, as key requirements for successful community forestry in the long term.

Read more about these recommendations and the experiences from Tropenbos International in this publication.