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Monitoring, indicators and community based forest management in the tropics: pretexts or red herrings?

Abstract

Over the last 20 years, transfer of the management of natural resources to local populations has been a major trend in the tropics. Many of these initiatives today incorporate the development of monitoring systems based on Criteria and Indicators (C&I), used to gauge environmental, socio-economic, and institutional consequences over a long period of time. The design of C&I at a local level involves combining scientific expertise with traditional ecological knowledge. There are numerous methods of merging these two branches of knowledge and developing a local monitoring system. The difficulty lies in setting up these local monitoring systems. A review of the literature available demonstrates that the handing over of monitoring systems to local communities has rarely been successful. In almost every case study, when the donor agency initiating the process withdrew, monitoring was either much less intensive or came to a complete stop. Despite this blatant deficiency local monitoring systems constitute an almost compulsory component of any donor-funded program/project dealing with sustainable management of natural resources. In our views, the real implementation of C&I by and for communities can only be achieved if there is a genuine devolution of management power, including responsibilities and benefits, to local stakeholders. Unless they link environmental changes to the communities’ own management decisions, formal participative monitoring systems will continue to fail.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    “Although no binding rules exist by which displacement behavior can be recognized, the term is applied to behavior patterns which appear to be out of context with the behavior which closely precedes or follows them, either in the sense that they do not seem functionally integrated with the preceding or following behavior or that they occur in situations in which causal factors usually responsible for them appear to be absent or at least weak […]. Displacement activities occur in three situations: motivational conflict, frustration of consummatory acts and physical thwarting of performance” in (Delius 1967).

Abbreviations

C&I:

Criteria and indicators

TEK:

Traditional ecological knowledge

CBFM:

Community based forest management

PRM:

Participatory resource management

PA:

Protected area

JFM:

Joint forest management

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Acknowledgments

This article was presented at the GECOREV conference (Co-management of natural resources and the environment—from the local to the global sphere, University of Versailles, France) on 28th June 2006. The authors wish to thank Robert Nasi, Philippe Guizol, Emmanuel Bon, Marieke Sassen and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and Arunima Choudhury for her valuable assistance in the preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Claude A. Garcia.

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Garcia, C.A., Lescuyer, G. Monitoring, indicators and community based forest management in the tropics: pretexts or red herrings?. Biodivers Conserv 17, 1303–1317 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9347-y

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Keywords

  • Community based forest management
  • Criteria and indicators
  • Local monitoring
  • Participation
  • Tropical forests