The World Bank/WBI’s CBNRM Initiative
Case Received: January 23, 1998
Author: Liz Wily
Fax: +254-2 252 456
Devolution: the critical institutional change in future resource management -- A case from the forestry sector of Tanzania
The founding premise of this presentation is that the core innovation in successful community-based resource management is the transfer of power from state to community, from center to periphery, with a concomitant narrowing-down of authority and responsibility to the discreet and name-able local community, a movement from what is in effect open access to closed access in a socio-political sense. ‘Devolution’ probably best sums up this process.
The intention of this paper is to explore this critical innovation in terms of tangible social, institutional and legal process. The establishment of working community-based management of three forests in Tanzania provides the case.
The institutional diversity of the three forests is relevant, representing the main frameworks within which the immense natural (and planted) forest estate of Tanzania falls; forests in village areas, forests in ‘public lands’ and Forest Reserves. The diversity aids assessment of replicability of the adopted approach to community-based resource management, and identification of those principles which remain stable across institutional boundaries within the forestry sector, and indeed, beyond, into un-forested common resource estates.
This paper critiques institutional innovation as occurring in three forests in the East African state of Tanzania, Duru-Haitemba, Mgori and Shume-Magamba. Three, rather than one forest is selected as the case, in order to better demonstrate how far the selected approach to establishing community-based resource management may be replicated. This is especially pertinent given that the developments are being pursued precisely for the purpose of evolving a strategy of modern management which has a realistic chance of embracing much (and possibly all) of the estimated 40 million hectare forest estate of Tanzania. Simplicity, following ‘common sense’, reducing costs to the minimum, making use of existing institutional and legal frameworks wherever possible, and evolving self-driven and self-regulating modes of operation, are thus essential concerns.
The national forest estate of Tanzania may be divided into predominantly dry woodlands of mainly the miombo type [c.38 million ha], moist, often montane forest [less than one million ha], and a minor proportion of exotic, industrial plantation forest [c.80,000 ha]. There are also some 70,000 ha of coastal mangrove forest.
Most of the estate is under the jurisdiction of Government. This is most formally so in the case of the 500+ Forest Reserves, which account for around 13 million ha or a third of total estate. Although strictly speaking ‘reservation’ is a land management rather than tenure category, it is common to refer to Reserves and Parks as being ‘owned’ by the state. Much of the remainder of the national forest estate is under looser state jurisdiction, in the so-called public lands. These are vast areas of usually dry woodland which fall under Local Government management, mainly in default of village or individual tenure having been formally established. A smaller proportion of natural forest is found within the boundaries of gazetted rural settlements [‘Villages’].
Duru-Haitemba, a 9,000 ha woodland in Arusha Region, falls into the last category. Mgori, a 40,000 ha woodland in Singida Region, falls into the category of public land - at least prior to establishment of community-based management. Shume-Magamba, a 12,000 ha moist montane forest in Tanga Region, is one of the oldest gazetted Forest Reserves in the country, unusual in both its special conservation status as a prime catchment forest, and in the fact that it includes within its boundaries one of the earliest industrial exotic plantations [c.2,500 ha].
As is frequently the case in innovative development, community-based management of these three forests has been initiated under the aegis of discreet, donor-funded ‘projects’. Developments in Duru-Haitemba and Mgori began in 1994/95 under Swedish-funded forest and land management programs. The more recent developments in Shume-Magamba Forest Reserve [1997-98] have arisen through a German-funded natural resource management program. Both programs are implemented by central government [mainly Forestry and Beekeeping Division] and local government authorities [District Councils]. The author has played the prime advisory role in all three cases, working periodically with those district-level Foresters who have been charged with implementation responsibility and who maintain the front-line support role. Of note is the fact that community-based management of Duru-Haitemba and Mgori continues without donor support in 1996/97, as will the more complex developments in Shume-Magamba in due course. Also of note is the fact that a small but growing number of Government Foresters in other districts are adopting the approach without the benefit of project or advisory support.
It is not incidental that the manner of community-based management that has evolved in these cases (and which continues to evolve) through practical address of problematic management at the local level, not through theoretical proposition or as a consequence of national level policy change. On the contrary, the latter is for once being driven in significant part, by the local level, these cases offering robust experience.
Duru-Haitemba, Mgori and Shume-Magamba Forests shared strikingly common circumstances prior to the establishment of community-based management. Although different in size, composition, and function, each forest was in the process of diminishment in area, quality and utility. The causes were consistent; rampant over-use of resources, much of it illegal. A good proportion of the damaging activity was being implemented or indirectly supported by the very agents of state [foresters, officials and local leaders] in whose trust the protection and management of the forests was placed.
Related, was the equally similar institutional status of the three forests as effectively under the aegis of Government. Shume-Magamba had been a Forest Reserve for more than 50 years, serviced by more than 50 staff. Although within the spheres of registered village settlements, Duru-Haitemba had been demarcated and surveyed for gazettement as a Forest Reserve, and Government Forest Guards posted. These actions prompted a flurry of encroachment and extraction by local villagers, determined, ‘to get what we could from the forest before Government took it away from us’. Mgori Forest, already under loose state jurisdiction as a public land forest, and subject to uncontrolled timber and wildlife harvesting and clearing for expanding cultivation, was similarly earmarked for formal reservation.
There was nothing unusual in this strategy. The withdrawing of valuable estates from the local or public domain into the supposedly protective hands of the state has been arguably the founding strategy of natural resource management this century in many developing and transitional economies this century. Reserves and Parks are the common legal manifestation. A comparable centralizing trend has affected un-forested common lands; common property resources have been frequently re-constructed as ‘public’ or ‘state’ lands. The effects have been singular: such local custodianship as may have existed is not only undermined in law and in the institutional framework of management, but in practice; the incentive for local level responsibility removed along with the rights. Meanwhile, the movement of the estate into the wider arena of state and governance tends to expose it to the very ills of open-access that ‘reservation’ was intended to pre-empt.
In this context, the establishment of community-based management of natural resources may be seen as a critical reversal of institutional trend, representing a return of authority (and by implication, often a return of property) and responsibility to the periphery. It may also represent a reconstruction and modernization of common property management to meet the demands of modern times. In either case, the fundamental change is a scaling-down and localizing of authority and therefore responsibility to a more workable and more accountable level; more workable and more accountable because control moves from the general to the specific, from theoretical to practical livelihood-driven stake-holding, accountability from the unknow-able [‘faceless’] state to the name-able, know-able discreet social group - in short, from open to closed socio-institutional access.
The manner in which community-based management has been established in each of the three forests is similar, beginning not with surveys of any kind but a socio-political dialogue between Government Forester and the community as to the most workable locus of controlling authority. ‘Community’ in this instance means those village settlements which share boundaries with the Forest. ‘Villages’ in Tanzania are registered institutional entities, with discreet and recorded physical boundaries [ ‘Village Area’]. In most cases, Villages which adjoin natural forest areas, have long-standing tenurial and user interests in the adjoining forest.
In this approach, dialogue was conducted on a village-by-village basis, and in two of the three forests, on a sub-village by sub-village basis, bringing the process to most local level possible. Much of the discussion was conducted during intensive physical review of the local forest area, in which an open-ended number of villagers normally participated. Faced with evidence of degradation, assessment have tended to be rigorous, and heated as to the rights and wrongs of Government management and the ‘excesses’ of local utilization. Debate invariably gained decision-making direction with the Government Officer agreeing that the community may take on controlling authority [‘if only on a trial basis at first’], and the village community, provided an open door, responding with a set of demands, key among which is usually a testing requirement that all Government Forest Guards are removed from the forest, to make way for full community-based custody.
With facilitation, provided by this author together with the Government Foresters, villagers in each area determined upon an immediate course of action - often with some periodic bouts of trepidation as they increasingly sensed the responsibilities they were securing to themselves [the ‘costs’ of empowerment]. Without exception the kind of ‘management’ they determined upon from the outset was practical and straightforward, and strongly orientated towards a perceived need to bring the local forest area firmly under their own control. Therefore it is not surprising that some of the early steps taken by each Village involved in the three Forests, has consistently been to:
firstly, define and demarcate that area of the Forest over which they would establish jurisdiction. Frequently the process was marked by dispute with neighbouring communities, and always by long days within the forest area, identifying, agreeing and demarcating the boundaries of the ‘Village Forest Area’; and,
secondly, to establish, through intensive discussion and decision-making, precisely how the Village Forest Area will be managed, and who by. Consistently this has led to the establishment of Forest Management Committees at various levels; the appointment of village youth as ‘village Forest Guards’, whose input is usually rewarded through receipt of a portion of fines paid by offenders they apprehend; the definition of ‘Forest Use Rules’, and procedures for dealing with those who break the rules. In the case of Shume-Magamba Forest, where the first involved Village Forest Area includes 1,200 ha of industrial plantation, an unusual section of these ‘rules’ includes rigorous guidelines as to how the commercial plantation area may be protected, used, and managed by village members - and in some situations, eventually purchased.
The details of each case of working community-based management are many and complex and space does not allow them to be recounted here. However, the most essential elements of the overall process will be clear in the above steps. Consciously or otherwise, what each Village community has done is, in effect to close down ‘their’ area of forest, in a socio-spatial sense. The Village Forest Area is physically em-bounded and un-wanted use and users denied. It is not incidental that one of the first actions many of the concerned Villages have undertaken, is to make it clear to members of neighbouring communities, that they are no longer free to use its forest resources freely. The restriction of grazing access into each others Forests has provided a particularly catalytic step.
Similarly, it will be evident that the nature of the process that has occurred [and which continues to occur] is first and foremost, a political process, one in which the community tackles the implications of gaining power, turns authority into responsibility. It is this basis of empowerment, that renders implementation a continuing rotation of decision-making and acting upon decisions, a process which is far removed from the linear ‘participatory’ appraisal, planning and [externally-driven] implementation of much development.
Because of the central function of authority, the embedding of new powers and relations with the supporting state in a stable and legally-binding institutional framework, has in each case become a matter of early concern. Formalization of what may be described as ‘a new balance of power’ has however been deliberately delayed until such time as the individual concerned village forest-managing authority, and the supporting Government office, have had a chance to exercise their new roles and responsibilities, make adjustments in their regimes and relations as necessary, refine and further their functions. Thus, by the time Villages and Government formalized the arrangement, both parties have been confident as to their commitments.
The manner of formalization has varied and in two cases, is still in evolution. Two main socio-legal instruments have been brought into play. The most important has been the promulgation by each community of a Village By-law. This is a uniquely Tanzanian instrument, integral to equally unusual status of Villages in Tanzania as legal persons under modern administrative law, able to hold property, elect [village] ‘government’ and regulate themselves and use of any resource within the defined and titled ‘Village Area’ in a legal manner. It is through Village By-laws, which become ‘law’ up-holdable in any court, when passed by decentralized Local Governments [District Councils], that the eight Villages of Duru-Haitemba and the five Villages of Mgori Forest have been able to secure institutional and legal recognition as not only the ‘Managers’ of respective areas of the two forests, but as the jurisdictional authority over these estates. This, in the modern Tanzanian context, is tantamount to ownership of the resource. The same by-laws establish the parameters of such empowerment; each Village retains the rights to control and manage its Forest for so long as it retains the forest intact and ensures it is used sustainably. That is, the Village will be ‘breaking the law’ if it fails to manage successfully, a law which is as binding upon itself as others and which it has itself designed.
The second instrument available to embed community-based management in this case is one widely available to communities in other developing economies; a Joint Management Agreement [JMA] between state and people. In this case, it is proposed that such Agreements be signed between those Villages which take on management authority over adjacent parts of Shume-Magamba Forest Reserve and the Director of Forestry and Beekeeping, of central Government. The first of such Agreements is in draft, relating to more than 5,000 ha of valuable montane forest within the Reserve and an adjacent 1,200 ha of commercial exotic plantation, falling with the now demarcated Gologolo Forest Management Area. This Agreement, to be formally signed in May 1998, will provide a medium term basis for what is more properly shared management by state and people, especially in respect to the harvesting and replanting of the plantation area. It is anticipated that over time, it will evolve into an increasingly nuanced Agreement as to the balance of power between the two partners, the Village partner taking on increasing responsibilities - and rights. It is not inconceivable that in even five or so years, that Gologolo Village and the remaining five other Villages with vested tenurial and management interests in Shume-Magamba Forest, will be awarded full jurisdiction over their respective natural and planted forests, ‘renting’ the standing plantation estate from Government, or, conversely, renting the same estate to Government.
The establishment of community-based management in the three case forests has had broadly similar effect to date.
Meanwhile, relieved of the burdens and costs of protection work and much silvicultural and related management work, the Forester cadre has been dramatically reduced in size, and those that remained, have been able to adopt the roles they were trained for; provision of technical guidance and support.
Secondly, practical ‘management’ has greatly improved. Because the forest-managing Villages are able to field large numbers of patrolmen from their membership and in accordance with the demands of locality and season, the actual area of forest inspected on a regular basis has multiplied manifold. Some communities have undertaken direct rehabilitation of springs, repaired forest roads, closed off cattle tracks, or re-planted the major denuded areas of ‘their’ forests, in a manner which Forest Officers have neither had the resources nor incentive to carry out. They are able to do so, because local Village communities already act as highly-organized self-governing entities, used in the Tanzanian context to mobilizing action and securing labour contributions from their constituent membership. They have the incentive to extend and further their skills and experience in this respect to the neighbouring forest, through what is in effect, the inclusion of that resource as an extension to their existing Village Area.
Thirdly, a workable and sustainable approach to resource management has emerged, which because both state and people are winners, eliminates much of the conflicts which drive encroachment and degradation of the resource in the first instance, and through a process which is uncomplicated and once operating, cost-free to the state. The state has gained a dramatic improvement in forest conservation and management, and yet through means which enables it to reduce its staff and inputs. The forest-adjacent community has gained control over resources of more direct importance to themselves than anyone else.
The central lesson of these examples is that successful community-based resource management requires a transfer of power to the community, not just the right to use certain products of the forest, or invitation to participate in forest management. Whilst this may appear obvious, it remains a fact that many Government and project players remain reluctant to ‘let go’ the extent of authority required to move community-based management into responsibility-driven and self-sustaining mode. Initiatives which ‘allow’ forest adjacent communities to use certain areas or products, tend on the whole to increase, rather than decrease the policing functions and burdens of the state, and have more to do with regarding communities as ‘rightful beneficiaries’, than as the logical source of authority and management. Viewed in this way, the difference between what is more correctly ‘participatory’ resource management and community-based management will be evident. Effective, cheap and sustainable resource means first and foremost, a transformation in power relations, and one which devolves authority to the local level.
A second important lesson of these cases is that the establishment of useful approaches to community-based management is best arrived at through practical ‘learning by doing’ rather than theoretical modeling. This is not only because practical realities give body to the principles and keep the concept at a workable and therefore sustainable level, but that the foundation of successful ‘community-based management’ means providing communities with the opportunity to determine themselves what this means in practice.. The ‘secret’ of success, if there is a ‘secret’, is simply that genuine community-based management is arrived at through empowerment, the transfer of enough powers to induce active responsibility. By definition, genuine community-based resource management, is built from the community upwards. In this framework, the state is but a catalyst.
The question of scale is also pertinent. Firstly, there is the less of ‘access’, that community-based management works in part precisely because it is a means of bringing resource estates out of situations of open access into a closed management environment. It has been suggested above that state ownership and jurisdiction is tantamount to open access. This occurs as a consequence of scale and locus of authority, in an un-named and therefore unaccountable entity.
Secondly, ‘community’ is by definition that level of social group which is both institutionally and in size, capable of self-regulation and yet large enough to assert authority. ‘Villages’ throughout the developing world tend to possess these attributes in practice if not in law, attributes which are nonetheless routinely undermined by the superior powers of larger-scale socio-political organization [district, regional and central governments]. A great many common resource estates lie today in an institutional limbo; state agencies do not possess the level of vested interest or resources to fulfill the obligations they have over time drawn upon themselves, but the local village has through the same processes, been stripped of the socio-legal basis to act. What the Tanzanian case shows is that there is enormous potential and benefit in revitalizing and furthering the (latent) capacities of the most local levels of ‘community’ in service of themselves and the nation and its resources at large. There is, that is, a strong case for turning attention to more comprehensive institutional devolution.
Further Case Reading by the Author
Collaborative Forest Management Villages & Government The Case of Mgori Forest, Tanzania 1996 Working Paper of Forests, Trees and People, Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome [also accessible from www:http://treesandpeople.lbutv.slu.se]
Community-Based Natural Forest Management in Duru-Haitemba Forest, Arusha Region, and Mgori Forest, Singida Region, Tanzania 1997 in Proceedings of the African Forestry Policy Forum, Nairobi 1996 The World Bank Group Washington [accessible in hard copy from The World Bank or http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/offrep/afr/afr_for/toc/htm]
Villagers as Forest Managers and Government ‘Learning to Let Go’ - the case of Duru-Haitemba and Mgori Forests in Tanzania 1997 Issue No 9 Forest Participation Series, Institute of International Development, London
Finding the Right Institutional and Legal Framework for Community-Based Natural Forest Management The Tanzanian Case 1997 CIFOR Special Publication Center for International Forestry Research, Jakarta
Power and Participation Getting to the Heart of the Matter in Community Forestry 1997 in Proceedings of the 15th Commonwealth Forestry Conference, Victoria Falls, May 1997 Office of the Standing Committee on Commonwealth Forestry, Edinburgh
Moving Forward in African Community Forestry: Trading Power Not Use Rights [forthcoming February 1998] Society and Natural Resources, New York