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Responsive Forest Governance Initiative

Research fields Development, societies, environments
Keywords Governance
Conservation projects
Funding Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
Duration January 2011 - January 2016
Researchers Murombedzi James (Project co-applicant)
Ribot Jesse (Project co-applicant)
Walters Gretchen (Principal Investigator) [web] [email]

The Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI) was a US$ 3 million, 4-year research and conservation application programme focused on enabling and strengthening representation of forest-based people within local-government environmental decisions in Africa.

Nations worldwide have introduced various reforms aspiring to bring natural resource decisions closer to the people who use, manage and administer them, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Decentralisation of decision-making occurs when the authority to make or influence decisions is passed down to government jurisdictions closer to the resources. In this case, it is intended to make local government more responsive and accountable to local people's needs and aspirations so as to improve natural resource management. But how well does decentralisation work, and how can existing systems be improved?

RFGI explores ways to best work with local governments to make decentralisation more effective for the communities and for the forests on which they depend.

Natural resources, especially forests, play an important role since they provide people with needed revenue, wealth, and subsistence. Responsive local governments can provide forest-dependent people with the flexibility they need to manage, adapt to, and remain resilient in their changing environment. Responsive and accountable local governance can reduce vulnerability, enhance local wellbeing and improve forest management.

The goal of RFGI research and related outputs is to help conservation agents, researchers, local people and local governments find ways to strengthen local governance in these capacities.

The RFGI was executed by the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA, James Murombedzi & Ebrima Sall), the IUCN (Gretchen Walters, Barbara Nakangu, & Ed Barrow) and the University of Illinois (Jesse Ribot). The research team includes postdoctoral fellows and more than 30 researchers working in 13 countries. These countries are: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

RFGI Resources

Learning from projects to improve conservation interventions
Despite good intentions, conservation interventions sometimes have negative outcomes for the environment and local residents. The following RFGI research identifies some of the questions raised by unintended consequences of well-meaning decisions within the context of forest conservation, and it offers guidance on how to improve outcomes from future interventions.

Quand la représentation résulte à des fragmentations d'identités de genre

Zonage des terres, conservation des paysages et représentation locale déboîtée en RD Congo

At the Expense of Democracy Payment for Ecosystem Services in Hoima District, Uganda
Institutional Choice and Fragmented Citizenship in Forestry and Development Interventions in Bikoro Territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Démocratie locale « en berne » ou péripéties d'un choix institutionnel « réussi » dans la gestion forestière décentralisée au Burkina Faso
Representation through privatisation
Autochthony, democratisation and forest
Resources, rents, representation and resistance
The process of institutional choice and recognition for decentralized forest management in charcoal-producing zones of Tambacounda, Senegal

Sharing the benefits of forest resources
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are many ways local communities are officially entitled to share in the benefits derived from their community forests. These interventions can include carbon projects, state-recognised community forests, and legal arrangements between local people and forestry companies. The following RFGI research identifies some of the issues that can trigger poor benefit sharing.

Calling for Democracy? Villagers Experience of the Production of Class Relations for Ecotourism and Carbon Markets in Niombato
Représentation locale compromise dans la gestion de la rente forestière communautaire au sud-est du Cameroun
Gouvernance de la redevance forestière annuelle et citoyenneté au Cameroun
Choix institutionnel, gestion autoritaire et privatisation de la rente forestière communautaire en Province Orientale (République démocratique du Congo)
Déficit de redevabilité dans la gestion de la rente forestière communautaire

Improving representation of local people
Working with local administrations in order to help represent people's environmental goals is often fraught with difficulty. This can include conflicting political and environmental goals, struggles between local NGOs and government administrations, and challenges in working with other types of representatives such as customary authorities. The following RFGI research identifies some of the issues around ensuring adequate local representation in conservation interventions.

From Recognition to Derecognition in Senegal's Forests Hemming in Democratic Representation via Technical Claims
The Re-emergence of Customary Authority and its Relation with Local Democratic Government
Effect of institutional choices on representation in a community resource management area in Ghana
Waiting for democratic representation in Africa's social forests
Land governance, local authorities and unrepresentative representation in rural South Sudan
Decentralization, institutional choice and the production of disgruntled community representation under the modified taungya forest management system in Ghana
Chiefs, representation and non-citizenship in forestry

Carbon forestry, including REDD+
Conserving forests through creating carbon markets could be one effective means of reducing climate change. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is one such approach being developed and adopted by many tropical countries. However, attempts to manage forests for carbon benefits will have definite impacts on the people living in and around those forests, and the construction of equitable interventions is not always straightforward. The following research from the Responsive Forest Governance Initiative identifies some of the social issues that arise as part of these interventions.

The Illusion of Democratic Representation in the REDD Readiness Consultation Process in Ghana
Representation in REDD: NGOs and Chiefs Privileged over Elected Local Government in Cross River State, Nigeria
Gouvernance climatique dans le Bassin du Congo Reconnaissance des institutions et redistribution
REDD+ Institutional Choices and their Implications for Local Democracy in the Kasigau Corridor, Kenya. Responsive
The effects of REDD+ on forest people in Africa: access, distribution, and participation in governance
Review of REDD+ and carbon-forestry projects in RFGI countries
Social protection in REDD+ initiatives: a review
Assuming women's representation in carbon forestry projects
REDD stakeholder consultation
Examining the democracy outcomes of environmental subsidiary

Background documents and handbooks
The following documents provide more information on the theoretical background of RFGI research and in depth discussions of the natural resource governance concepts of institutional choice, recognition, and local representation.

Studying local representation: a critical review. Also available in Arabic.
Choix, reconnaissance et effets de la décentralisation sur la démocratie
RFGI handbook I : leveraging local democracy through forestry
RFGI handbook II : implementing improved natural resource governance in practice

Blog: Failed conservation projects or improved outcomes?

Blog: Better natural resource governance in practice: improving how institutions work with people

Ile de Gorée, Senegal