Stakeholders and tropical reforestation: challenges, trade-offs, and strategies in
, John Zinda
, Aoife Bennett-Curry
, Patricia Balvanera
, Gillian Bloomﬁeld
, Catherine Lindell
Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, Universidad Nacional Aut
onoma de M
exico, 04510, Coyoac
an, Cd., M
Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University, 240A Warren Hall, 137 Reservoir Avenue, Ithaca, NY 14853
Mansﬁeld College, Mansﬁeld Road, OX13TF, Oxford, United Kingdom
Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Aut
onoma de M
exico, Apdo Postal 27-3, 58090,
Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 301 Prospect, St.
New Haven, CT 06511
CGCEO, 1405 S. Harrison Rd., East Lansing, MI 48823
Versant Vision, 253 West 73rd Street, #17H, New York, NY 10023, USA
Reforestation involves potential trade-offs: hard choices between environmental and social beneﬁts, individual and community beneﬁts,
and among stakeholders who bear different costs and beneﬁts. In this manuscript, we aim to show that successful long-term reforesta-
tion requires stakeholder engagement beyond planning stages and a recognition of the dynamism of stakeholder outlooks as stakehold-
ers’opportunities, relationships, interests, and roles change over time. We ﬁrst summarize lessons from recent literature on stakeholder
involvement within reforestation efforts. We then present ﬁndings from a multiple-stakeholder workshop organized in west-central Mex-
ico, in which we illustrate their choices on how to navigate trade-offs among different reforestation intervention strategies (agroforestry/
silvopastoral, natural regeneration, native species reforestation, commercial plantations). We conﬁrm that individual stakeholders’circum-
stances, interests, and roles, as well as the contextual factors shaping them, are dynamic, continually changing the nature of the choices
stakeholders face. Finally, we propose a four-phase pathway for addressing dynamic trade-offs and synergies in stakeholder participation
in order to select, implement, and sustain successful reforestation activities. The pathway comprises four phases: (1) collaborate to devise
a reforestation strategy through dialogue about dynamic trade-offs; (2) pledge robust stakeholder commitments to mutual arrangements
for implementing reforestation; (3) implement reforestation interventions; and (4) adjust strategy through continuous evaluation of out-
comes. We then elucidate how components of these four phases can be operationalized so that, on one side, scientists and practitioners
might better understand the dynamic trade-offs reforestation poses for stakeholders, and on the other, stakeholders might balance their
hard choices in ways that promote forest recovery.
Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.
Key words: Chamela-Cuitzmala reserve; environmental and social beneﬁts; Mexico; reforestation trade-offs; stakeholder dynamics; tropical reforestation.
TROPICAL REFORESTATION CAN PROVIDE MULTIPLE ECOLOGICAL,ECO-
NOMIC,AND SOCIAL BENEFITS including increased biodiversity, lan-
dscape connectivity, ecosystem services, and social and cultural
well-being (Chazdon 2008, Knoke et al. 2009, Rey Benayas et al.
2009, Smith & Ely 2015). It also can involve substantial inputs,
leading to hard choices and a potentially uneven distribution of
costs and beneﬁts among stakeholders in a context of high vulne-
rability (Hirsch et al. 2010). The trajectory of reforestation and,
thus, the costs and beneﬁts accruing to different stakeholders,
will depend on the reforestation strategy implemented, as well as
biophysical (Nagendra & Southworth 2009), political (Smith &
Ely 2015), and socioeconomic contexts (Januchowski-Hartley
et al. 2012).
Any reforestation intervention, from more passive appro-
aches like natural regeneration to more active management as in
agroforestry or commercial tree plantations, involves potential
trade-offs. Trade-offs are deﬁned here as situations in which get-
ting more of something you want requires giving up something
else you value. Trade-offs pose hard choices, meaning that even
the best or ‘optimal’choices involve at least some loss that is
likely to be signiﬁcant for those affected (McShane et al. 2011).
In particular, reforestation efforts can raise trade-offs between (1)
environmental and social advantages, (2) individual and commu-
nity beneﬁts, and (3) burdens and gains borne by different stake-
holders (Gibson et al. 2000, Hirsch et al. 2010, Bullock et al.
Received 13 January 2016; revision accepted 3 September 2016.
Corresponding author; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
900 ª2016 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
BIOTROPICA 48(6): 900–914 2016 10.1111/btp.12391
2011). For example, the individual social beneﬁts to local people
from carbon credits counted toward global environmental goals
are not comparable to ﬁnancial proﬁts of global ﬁrms that use
those credits to justify lucrative ventures. Tensions in choices
about land management emerge between human and nonhuman,
individual and collective, local and distant parties. Reforestation
advocates hope to realize synergies in cases where stakeholders’
interests are aligned, restoring forests while enhancing livelihoods
and promoting equity (Adams et al. 2016, Chazdon & Uriarte
2016a, b). In practice, trade-offs are unavoidable and must be
recognized and managed to deliver effective reforestation.
Promoting reforestation initiatives as a win-win solution for
environmental and socioeconomic outcomes sidesteps the hard
choices that most stakeholders face, the inherent trade-offs invol-
ved, and the challenging reality that trade-offs change over time.
The inevitability of hard choices is increasingly recognized, but the
ways trade-offs change over time have received little attention. Pre-
vious analyses have emphasized the importance of stakeholder
engagement in initial phases of reforestation planning (Chambers
2005, Khater et al. 2012, Kukrety et al. 2013, IUCN & WRI 2014).
Some have described mechanisms for maintaining stakeholder
involvement beyond planning stages (Chambers 1997, Armitage
et al. 2009, Kozak & Piazza 2015). However, approaching conser-
vation and reforestation with a static view of trade-offs obscures
the reality that stakeholders at various scales of governance expe-
rience reforestation activities differently (McShane et al. 2011,
Hirsch & Brosius 2013). More importantly, stakeholders may be
affected both positively and negatively, in diverse ways that change—
sometimes dramatically—over time (Hirsch et al. 2010).
The truism that all people and all landscapes vary over time
has crucial implications for reforestation efforts. When different
human and biophysical elements change in tandem, potential
trade-offs and synergies also change. Broad economic and politi-
cal shifts inﬂuence the prices of commodities and demand for
land, altering the effective cost of turning farmland into forest.
As conservation paradigms shift, subsidies, grants, and land pol-
icy instruments evolve, reshaping opportunities. As local stakehol-
ders’life circumstances change over time, they may come to
value agriculture less relative to lucrative off-farm opportunities.
Later in life, they may return to the land for security in old age.
Where new forests become established, the changed landscape
presents new options for people who live within it. This can lead
to changes in stakeholders’perceptions and values surrounding
different land uses and land covers (Agrawal 2005). As a result,
the set of trade-offs that present themselves today may not be
the same that emerge a few years on.
In this manuscript, we aim to show that successful long-
term reforestation requires stakeholder engagement beyond plan-
ning stages and a recognition of the dynamism of stakeholder
outlooks as stakeholders’opportunities, relationships, interests,
and roles constantly transform. Some of the ways in which stake-
holder trade-offs related to reforestation change over time is
shown in Figure 1. The article comprises three main parts. First,
we summarize lessons from recent literature on stakeholder invol-
vement within reforestation efforts. Then, we present ﬁndings
from a multiple-stakeholder workshop organized in west-central
Mexico to illustrate key issues for identiﬁcation of dynamic trade-
offs within reforestation in this region. Finally, we propose a
four-phase pathway for addressing dynamic trade-offs and syner-
gies in stakeholder participation in order to select, implement,
and sustain successful reforestation activities that are robust to
inherent stakeholder dynamism and variation across scales of
governance, income strategies, and time trajectories. With this
article, we aim to assist scientists and practitioners in better
understanding the dynamic trade-offs reforestation poses for
stakeholders and to help stakeholders address their hard choices
in ways that promote forest recovery without compromising their
DIVERSITY AND DYNAMISM OF
LEARNING FROM CURRENT RESEARCH
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN REFORESTATION.—Any effort at refo-
restation will encounter historically sedimented social and political
relationships surrounding land use and development. In Latin
America, major reforestation projects in the 1970s and 1980s
emphasized tree production at massive scales (Jardel 1996, Cho-
kkalingham et al. 2006, Lazos 2013) with only occasional conside-
ration of biophysical suitability (Nagendra & Southworth 2009).
Poor reforestation outcomes were linked to disregard for local
and regional social and cultural dimensions (O’Neill et al. 2008,
Hirsch & Brosius 2013). To address this shortfall, international
environmental organizations subsequently began promoting com-
munity-based forest management (Chambers 2005, Ribot et al.
Where government reforestation plans disregard local needs
and realities, unintended consequences can include impaired liveli-
hoods, insecurity of employment and land tenure, and socio-eco-
nomic inequality, as well as conﬂicts, violence, and illegal logging
or poaching (Grulke & Tennigkneit 2012, Galudra et al. 2014,
Zinda et al. 2016). Reforestation success is less likely when parti-
cipants are offered token rewards or unclear incentives for parti-
cipation, when trust among stakeholders has not been fostered,
and/or when legal and policy barriers exist (Le et al. 2012, Leo-
taud & Eckelmann 2014). Early planning requires processes for
understanding ‘whose claims matter’(Galudra et al. 2014).
Involvement of local communities on its own does not gua-
rantee successful reforestation. Gender, generational, and power
disparities within communities, as well as tensions between local
and regional, private and communal interests, or among national
political institutions, make engaging with communities more com-
plex than idealized notions of community suggest (Agrawal &
Gibson 2001, Paz 2005). While many initiatives fail at different
points in time and for different reasons (Chokkalingham et al.
2006, McShane et al. 2011, Pramova et al. 2012, Hirsch & Bro-
sius 2013), some collaborative initiatives and governance arrange-
ments have ﬂourished when a common agrarian history has
fostered strong social relationships and enabled resilient institu-
tions (Ostrom 1987, Berkes 1989, Bray et al. 2003).
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 901
STAKEHOLDER DYNAMISM.—Meaningfully involving community
members and other stakeholders in reforestation endeavors
means stepping into and understanding a complex and dynamic
network of stakeholder relationships that includes, but is not lim-
ited to, landholders, entrepreneurs, national and regional govern-
ment agencies, and organizations from the transnational to the
local level (Nygren 1995, Maldidier 1999, Pieck & Moog 2009).
Members of different stakeholder groups have differing and often
contrasting options, opportunities, and preferences related to live-
lihood strategies. For example, stakeholder options tend to vary
by cultural background, sense of and connection to place, access
to resources and information, quality of infrastructure, economic
security and diversity of income, and political power (Escobar
2001, McAfee & Shapiro 2010). Additionally, individuals may not
ﬁt neatly into typical stakeholder categories. For example, paid
farm-hand workers may also have land where they produce their
own crops, tend livestock, or harvest forest products (Ellis 1999,
Van der Ploeg 2009, Lazos 2011). Individual stakeholders invol-
ved in reforestation projects often play multiple roles, and their
different political and social positions can be synergistic or may
represent a conﬂict.
Shifting activities and socio-economic circumstances can
change the stakes and options an individual considers. Cattle ran-
chers, for instance, differ in terms of age, education, herd size,
ranching area, and land distribution. A herder’s interests can
evolve as the herd or land holdings grow, perhaps in response to
favorable national or international meat market conditions, or
contract, as might happen in response to prolonged drought. A
farmer may sell or lease part of his land, or his children may
transition out of agriculture into formal professions or migrate
and send remittances. As roles change, the costs and beneﬁts of
reforestation initiatives experienced by each stakeholder may shift.
Rural residents may reassess forest value in response to gains or
losses of ecosystem services or social beneﬁts (Meyfroidt 2013).
Smallholders may prize a subsistence livelihood, or access to capi-
tal and markets may incentivize them to take strategical risks to
maximize immediate ﬁnancial gain (VanWey et al. 2007).
Involvement in new activities and exposure to innovative
markets can change people’s perspectives toward forests. These
changes can include off-farm income reducing investment in agri-
culture (Hecht 2014), commodity production heightening the
commercial value of trees or agricultural products (Sturgeon
2010), or participation in forest conservation leading rural resi-
dents to value forests more (Agrawal 2005). Likewise, the refores-
tation goals of governments, intergovernmental organizations,
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and how they pur-
sue these goals, change with shifts in policy emphases, political
conditions, markets and increased information (Gadgil & Guha
1993, Lena 1999, Rudel et al. 2005, Biermann & Pattberg 2008).
Stakeholders’dynamic interests and roles are embedded in
intertwining processes operating at different geographical and
political scales. Economic globalization, population growth, and
cultural transformations increase demand for commercial crops
and off-farm labor, while economic volatility disrupts demands
for both, as well as reforestation funding (Lambin & Meyfroidt
2010, Hecht 2014). Environmental degradation, in gradual shifts
FIGURE 1. Examples of the ways in which stakeholder trade-offs related to reforestation may change over time. We focus on individual and community trade-
offs because these groups experience the greatest costs and beneﬁts of reforestation. Dynamism in stakeholder’s trade-offs will also affect regions and the global
902 Lazos-Chavero et al.
or sudden disasters, as well as short-term policies, can change
how stakeholders evaluate costs and beneﬁts (Blaikie & Muldavin
2004, Meyfroidt 2013).
For long-term reforestation success, practitioners need to
consider how multiple and unpredictable processes might change
how stakeholders relate to landscapes and one another. Scholars
and practitioners have increased our understanding of trade-offs
and synergies (Kanowski et al. 2005, Chhatre & Agrawal 2009,
Stickler et al. 2009, Brooks et al. 2012) and have developed tools
to incorporate multifaceted considerations into reforestation
efforts (IUCN 2014). Yet this body of work insufﬁciently
addresses the dynamism of diverse stakeholders and the corres-
ponding economic uncertainty, which necessitate involving all
stakeholders in making decisions and building relationships that
are resilient to evolving circumstances.
DYNAMIC TRADE-OFFS AND SYNERGIES OF
REFORESTATION TYPES: CHAMELA-
CUITZMALA CASE STUDY
Just as different stakeholders experience unique trade-offs and
synergies, alternative reforestation strategies will bring diverse sets
of trade-offs over time. To understand the dynamism of trade-
offs inherent in reforestation initiatives, we held a stakeholder
workshop in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the
South Coast of Jalisco, Mexico (Fig. 2), to explore plausible hypo-
thetical scenarios for reforestation and to assess trade-offs, uncer-
tainties, and potential strategies to increase the likelihood of
reforestation success. This reserve was selected in light of long-
term social-ecological research that has been carried out since
1980 (Maass et al. 2005). The reserve encapsulates many issues
central to tropical reforestation and exhibits varied and pronoun-
ced stakeholder interests, necessitating a socially oriented appro-
ach to future land management (Castillo et al. 2005,
Luna 2013, Lazos n.d.).
SITE HISTORY.—The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, decla-
red in 1993, covers 13,142 hectares and is dominated by (1) low-
land tropical dry forest, (2) riparian semi-deciduous tropical
forest, and (3) highland temperate forest. These landscapes have
been transformed since pre-colonial times by indigenous popula-
tions (Regalado 2008, Lazos n.d.). During colonial times, Spanish
authorities recognized the land tenure of private landowners and
some indigenous communities. Originally, these communities had
a communal system; but in many cases, communal lands were
gradually divided into family plots. After the Revolution (1910),
FIGURE 2. Map of the region.
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 903
in some regions, the government little by little granted land to
landless communities that had struggled for it. In Jalisco, during
the early 20th century, vast haciendas dominated and large lando-
wners exploited forests, exporting wood to buyers around the
world. In the 1940s, agrarian leaders began to push for land
redistribution, but made limited inroads against large landowners,
who used intimidation and violence (Lazos n.d.). Over time,
encouraged by federal policies, migrants streamed in from other
parts of Jalisco and nearby states, struggled for land, and establis-
hed ejidos—a collective land tenure system established under
Mexico’s agrarian land reforms (Castillo et al. 2005, Lazos n.d.).
In the 1990s, privatization of ejido tenure fragmented smallholder
communities, weakening ejido institutions and local governance.
Approximately 20 percent of the current formal land rights
allocations in the Cuixmala watershed pertain to indigenous com-
munities, 30 percent to ejidatarios, and 50 percent to large and
medium landholders (Lazos n.d.). Organizing stakeholders around
land use management is challenging because of the legacy of fai-
led reform. Examples of how reforms have collapsed include the
diversion of development funds away from smallholders, state
and federal agencies aligning with agrarian elites to deliver only
token land reform, and ofﬁcials buying votes with beneﬁts like
agricultural production credits. Nevertheless, families have always
cultivated small diversiﬁed cornﬁelds and little by little they esta-
blished pasturelands, resulting in extensive cattle raising. Agricul-
tural policies since the 1970s have opened a ﬂow of credits to
convert maize plots into pasturelands and transformed the region
into a cattle producer. At the same time, some ejidatarios and big
landowners started commercial agricultural lines (i.e., sugarcane,
watermelon, papaya, mango, palms). Meanwhile, as a site of
rapidly growing beach tourism, Chamela-Cuixmala has seen ﬁerce
battles between conservationists and developers (
Avila & Luna
2013). This troubled history, combined with a mix of cultural
backgrounds, inhibits cooperation, which must be cultivated for
successful reforestation endeavors.
Reforestation depends also on biophysical feasibility. In Cha-
mela-Cuixmala, high temporal (seasonal, interannual) and spatial
(topographic gradients) heterogeneity in water availability are criti-
cal factors in forest regrowth (Garcıa-oliva et al. 2002). Although
much of the region’s abundant and largely endemic biodiversity,
particularly plant, animal, and insect taxa (Noguera et al. 2002),
has been able to persist within the current land cover mosaic
(Martınez-Ramos et al. 2012), land management is changing rela-
tive species abundances (Rendon-Carmona et al. 2009) as well as
ecosystem integrity. Local inhabitants observe that large trees
have disappeared due to logging; rivers, streams, and wells are
getting drier and dirtier; river fauna is going extinct; and soils are
being degraded (Lazos n.d.). Any reforestation effort must begin
by acknowledging the challenges presented by political conﬂict
and environmental change.
WORKSHOP METHODOLOGY.—The workshop was held at the Cha-
mela Biological Field Station, which is operated by the National
University of Mexico. The workshop convened stakeholders that
reﬂected the heterogeneity of the region with respect to: (1) type
of stakeholder (ejidatarios; members of indigenous communities;
municipal, state, and federal government representatives; agricul-
tural extensionists and consultants; NGO personnel), (2) geogra-
phic balance across the study region, (3) historical connection to
the region (ranging from indigenous communities to settlers who
arrived from the 1970s onwards), (4) age of stakeholders (from
25 to 70), and (5) education (ranging from illiterate informants to
bilingual individuals holding master’s degrees). The twelve partici-
pants adequately reﬂected the region’s diversity, with some impor-
tant exceptions. There was sub-optimal representation of people
from the upper Chamela-Cuitzmala watershed and, of particular
concern, women. The participation of men only was reﬂective of
gender bias in land management decision-making in the region
and does not critically limit the current analysis. Many of the par-
ticipants simultaneously represented multiple stakeholder catego-
ries, as well as changing roles and categories over time. For
example, some farmers also worked as consultants or technicians
for governmental programs or had previously been employed by
To inform our proposed pathway, it was important to work
with this small, but heterogeneous group of participants to
understand the reforestation opportunities, constraints, and trade-
offs and the potential socio-environmental futures of the region.
We were inspired by Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) methods to
derive the desired information. RRA involves collecting informa-
tion by talking directly to people ‘on the ground’, using participa-
tory activities and games to enable discussion and stimulate
interaction. This approach prioritizes the involvement of local
stakeholders in collecting, interpreting, and presenting informa-
tion. Accordingly, RRA practitioners use tools that are easily
understood by a wide range of people, as well as methods for
quickly reporting ﬁndings and suggesting appropriate action
(Chambers 1985). The workshop data showed markedly varying
perspectives and visions. While the size and nature of the sample
did not support statistical analyses, our presentations reﬂect quali-
tative differences that correspond to the divergent experiences
and relationships of the stakeholders.
The workshop had four principal phases. The ﬁrst was a
group brainstorming exercise in which participants were invited
to talk about their roles, their histories, their afﬁliations, their land
use strategies, and their hopes for the future. The questions
posed by the organizers facilitated conversation among stakehol-
ders that may not normally interact and encouraged less conﬁ-
dent attendees to address the whole group. This exercise also
allowed us to understand stakeholders’social contexts and the
different ways their experiences instantiate dynamism.
The second phase was a group activity in which research
team members invited attendees to condense the themes dis-
cussed in the brainstorming session into categories of the most
relevant land use types based on their shared perceptions.
These categories were transcribed as topic ‘headings’and placed
in the center of the workshop space. The intention was to use
these headings as a conceptual framework to guide the rest of
the sessions’activities, so that the data could be analyzed com-
904 Lazos-Chavero et al.
The third phase comprised a series of preference ranking
exercises (Chambers 1985). These exercises were ﬂexible but con-
sistent in their method to facilitate analysis. We posed a series of
questions that involved participants reﬂecting on their own prefe-
rences and experiences as well as perceived positions of other
stakeholders, with reference to the focal land use types. Each par-
ticipant was given 20 tokens (seeds, beans, thumbtacks, etc.),
which were unique to each individual. Facilitators invited partici-
pants to distribute their tokens across the ﬁve reforestation stra-
tegies (reducing burning, establishing agrosilvopastoral systems,
facilitating natural regeneration, reforestation with native species,
establishing commercial plantations), that they preferred accor-
ding to, in the ﬁrst instance, their personal interests; second, per-
ceived interests of the other ﬁve stakeholder categories; and,
third, perceptions of two hypothetical funding scenarios (adapted
from Chambers 2002). More tokens went to the headings that
they agreed with most or preferred, and fewer tokens went to
the options they preferred less. With each exercise, a member of
the research team recorded counts of tokens by heading category
and individual. These activities allowed us to identify patterns for
the group as a whole and compare across stakeholder categories.
Additionally, we asked participants to make ‘opinion’slips in
order to compile preferences in a more informative way. Each
participant was invited to write down, or dictate to workshop
facilitators, up to three key reasons that explained the allocation
of tokens. Participants assigned the slips to the reforestation alter-
native they believed each statement applied to. We repeated these
activities for a series of questions. Results are not indicative of
participants’likely decisions about engaging in reforestation activi-
ties. Rather, they illuminate hypothetical stakeholders’perspectives
on what salient costs and beneﬁts each of the ﬁve alternatives
would be likely to have.
The fourth phase was a plenary session. At several occasions
during the workshop, we invited participants to discuss what they
had learned about other stakeholders’perspectives.
PARTICIPANTS’DYNAMISM.—The personal histories shared in the
brainstorming session allowed us to assess how relevant our pic-
ture of dynamism was in the Mexico-Chamela context and to
identify particular ways trade-offs vary. Some participants spoke
about their shifting views on land use over time, related to chan-
ges in their lives. Government representatives changed positions
every 3 yrs, shifting from municipal to state level or from
government to consultancy. Those working for NGOs had been
recently hired or participated in NGO creation in the last 10 yrs.
Older ejidatarios had established themselves in the region more
than 40 yrs ago from other areas of the country at a time when
governmental programs promoted colonization and rural develo-
pment. Younger ejidatarios were born in the region, and had been
constantly looking for opportunities in the cities or in the United
States. Ejidatarios face year-to-year shifts in cattle market prices
and water availability and have to adjust accordingly the amount
of land devoted to cattle ranching as well as herd size.
Analyzing the transcripts of the workshop, we identiﬁed
three prominent dynamic elements with relation to land use:
income strategies, generational change, and governance scales.
Over time, participants’land use and income strategies varied in
response to both external factors, such as national markets and
policy incentives, and internal factors, such as diverse ﬁnancial
needs across the household life-cycle. Three common foci of
changing strategies were cattle, conservation, and land holdings.
New government incentives for community-based conserva-
tion, as well as a general increase in the number of branches of
the environmental ministries, had effects at both community and
individual levels, bringing new alternatives for people and lands-
capes. First, paid government and non-government programs
provided temporary environmental jobs which brought a small
income source and different roles within the communities as out-
reach workers or communications personnel for individuals.
These jobs also build capacity within communities. Although state
jobs and the individual beneﬁts reached a few people, they also
brought new ideas about the environment into the heart of
socio-political life. Participants reported that in two communities,
these changes in environmental thinking translated to an increase
in forest cover and wetland area in community lands. As a result
of pro-environment incentives, one community had become hea-
vily engaged in eco-tourism and wildlife conservation based on
turtles and crocodiles.
Different opportunities for individuals led to diverging expe-
riences across generations. Workshop participants included two
indigenous community members, a community leader and his
son. The indigenous leader, although illiterate, told of a life of
diverse land-based activities such as ﬁshing, forestry, and animal
husbandry. His son, on the other hand, was educated to third
level, had been to the United States to work, and spoke English.
His ideas about how the community could move forward inclu-
ded intensifying land use through mechanization and ‘scaling up’.
Generational transitions like this and the diverging perceptions
they bring are a challenging element of social reality for reforesta-
Participants also showed dynamic involvement at different
levels of governance. Some participants who had worked in
government roles had moved across administrative levels from
local to state, due to political shifts and involvement in particular
projects at given points in time. Others who had once worked in
an ofﬁce at the state or federal level had moved to regional or
local-level government roles, bringing their knowledge and netwo-
rks with them.
FRAMING REFORESTATION.—To frame a discussion of reforestation,
participants addressed the question, ‘Do we need trees, and how
could we increase the amount of trees in the region?’To refrain
from imposing preset concepts, facilitators deliberately avoided
the terms reforestation or restoration. None of the participants men-
tioned ‘restoration’in discussions about how to increase the
coverage of trees on the landscape. However, the word ‘reforesta-
tion’was used by participants in reference to planting native spe-
cies under speciﬁc federal programs. Participants focused on a
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 905
set of plausible reforestation interventions and key stakeholders
who might be involved.
IDENTIFICATION OF REFORESTATION INTERVENTIONS.—While brains-
torming reforestation alternatives that could be feasible within
their current cultural heritage, socio-political, economic and bio-
physical conditions, participants demonstrated familiarity with
numerous strategies for proliferating trees on the landscape. The
group narrowed these down to ﬁve interventions. (1) Reducing bur-
ning: participants explained that woody vegetation grows quickly
in active pastures when slashing and burning are not conducted
regularly; in fact, current regulations restrict the use of burning
around the reserve. (2) Establishing agrosilvopastoral systems: partici-
pants listed multiple combinations of pasture grasses, annual or
perennial crops, and trees or palms (planted or naturally regenera-
ting) that have been explored in the region. (3) Facilitating natural
regeneration: participants stated that, in this region, native woody
vegetation establishes and grows quickly in areas where pastures
or agricultural lands are not weeded and maintained. (4) Reforesta-
tion with native species: participants mentioned that seedlings from
native species are available at some greenhouses in the region or
from governmental programs, or they can be directly grown from
seeds land users collect on their own. (5) Establishing commercial
plantations: participants knew of instances in which non-native
trees with high commercial value for their wood, fruits, or oil
content of their seeds have been cultivated.
KEY STAKEHOLDERS.—Next, participants identiﬁed what they con-
sidered the ﬁve most contrasting and representative regional stake-
holder groups to consider in subsequent reforestation exercises.
(1) Cattle ranchers, including ejidatarios, indigenous community
members, private land-owners, and those who rent the land for
raising cattle. (2) Federal government ofﬁcials from the Ministry of
Environment, Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources
(SEMARNAT). (3) Federal government ofﬁcials from the Ministry
of Agriculture, Secretary for Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Develo-
pment, Fishing, and Food (SAGARPA). (4) Municipal government
representatives. (5) Entrepreneurs and local business owners.
PREFERENCE RANKING OUTCOMES.—Personal preferences among
reforestation alternatives were evenly distributed (Column 1,
Fig. 2), with somewhat greater amounts for natural regeneration
(25%), agro-silvopastoral systems (24%), and reforestation with
native species (20%), while commercial plantation was least desi-
red (14%). Agro-silvopastoral interventions were equally liked by
participants who directly manage land (ejidatarios and indigenous
communities) and those who do not (government ofﬁcials,
NGOs and consultants), as cattle raising has played an important
role in the regional development. However, land managers sho-
wed greater inclination for natural regeneration, while all others
combined had higher preference for commercial plantations.
Preferences for reforestation alternatives shifted when parti-
cipants were asked to ‘stand in the shoes’of other stakeholders
(Fig. 3). Agro-silvopastoral systems, involving continued livestock
production, were ranked higher when participants envisioned
themselves as cattle ranchers (65%) and Ministry of Agriculture
ofﬁcials (43%). As participants expressed, cattle raising, as an
important driver of deforestation, can be converted into a posi-
tive driver of reforestation if it is labor-intensively managed in
agro-silvopastoral systems. Nevertheless, this transformation
needs political and ﬁnancial support through adequate policies.
These requirements induced serious doubts among ejidatarios that
agro-pastoral systems would lead to sustainable management of
pastures and forests. Commercial plantations, perceived to offer
the highest potential economic beneﬁts, were ranked higher when
participants envisioned themselves as entrepreneurs and business
Participants repeated the token distribution exercise for two
hypothetical funding scenarios. For partnerships between ejidatarios
and private investors (a prospect suggested by workshop partici-
pants), interest in agrosilvopastoral systems increased from 24
percent (with no outside funding) to 34 percent. A scenario of
international investment support under a Global Reforestation
Initiative (brieﬂy described by workshop organizers) raised inte-
rest in commercial plantations from 14 to 19 percent.
PERCEIVED TRADE-OFFS.—In the ‘opinion slip’exercise and plenary
discussions, participants identiﬁed a range of trade-offs and
synergies associated with each of the ﬁve reforestation interven-
tions (Table S1), which were seen as competitors for space requi-
red for livelihood activities. In some instances, participants saw a
tension between income prospects, mainly from cattle raising,
which would lead to income over the short-term but which
would degrade the land over the long-term. Natural regeneration
was seen as well suited for the region’s poor soils and dry cli-
mate, especially in comparison with tree planting, due to its low
cost of establishment, despite low proﬁt potential and a long
delay in realization of beneﬁts. Native species were seen as bioph-
ysically suitable, while commercial plantations with exotic trees
were seen to have the highest potential for long-term ﬁnancial
gains. In other instances, participants saw long-term rewards
pitted against short-term costs and risk due to long maturation
periods. Potential economic returns made both planting native
species and commercial tree plantations attractive, although high
establishment costs, long delay in return on investments, and high
risks were perceived as obstacles (see quotes in Table S2). Partici-
pants favored agrosilvopastoral systems and reduced burning as
options that allow continued cattle ranching. However, long esta-
blishment time, high cost, and concerns about suitability given
the region’s arid climate were seen as trade-offs (Tables S1 and
S2). They found balancing short-term risks, long-term gains, and
biological suitability daunting.
These trade-offs pitted different values across diverse social
units. In particular, participants tended to associate environmental
considerations with community-level beneﬁts and costs (52% and
51% of slips, respectively). Improved ecosystem services (e.g.,
reduced erosion or increased carbon stocks) were among the
most cited communal environmental beneﬁts, while undesirable
plants and animals, as well as climatic or soil limitations to plant
growth, were shared communal environmental costs. These
906 Lazos-Chavero et al.
collective concerns often came into tension with economic consi-
derations experienced by households. When households were the
focus, 75 percent of slips relating to costs and 80 percent of slips
concerning beneﬁts referred to economic issues, with change in
net income most commonly mentioned (Table S1). For example,
forest conservation may bring environmental beneﬁts for the
community by protecting land from hurricanes and improving
water quality and quantity. Nevertheless, nowadays families need
to convert their land into pasturelands to capture rising cattle pri-
ces. Also, a water source in a plot can be controlled individually,
and this has environmental and social costs for the community.
Another example is hunting. It has individual economic beneﬁts,
but may cause loss of biodiversity at the community level.
LIMITING FACTORS AND ENABLING CONDITIONS.—As limiting condi-
tions for reforestation, participants most frequently indicated
socio-political factors (55% of paper slips), followed by environ-
mental (26%) and economic (18%) factors. Participants lamented
weak consideration of stakeholders’knowledge, culture, and
family economic needs by government ofﬁcials. They asserted
that ofﬁcials may see local stakeholders as having cultural resis-
tance to innovation. Other perceived obstacles to reforestation
included the following: interannual variability in precipitation and
seedling establishment; tendency of volatile market prices for cat-
tle, wood, and other commercial trees to turn attractive reforesta-
tion investments into failures; technological knowledge and
support gaps; poorly timed seedling delivery; varied, contradicto-
ry, and insufﬁcient government incentives for conservation and
reforestation; pervasive problems with burdensome and changea-
ble bureaucratic processes, low transparency, corruption, and
power imbalances; land grabbing; regional violence and personal
safety risks related to land conﬂict; variable and often deﬁcient
informal institutional arrangements within communities.
Perceived information gaps included tree species-level infor-
mation (growth rates, pests, longevity, seasonality for harvesting,
and maintenance), regional zonation maps (fertility, ecological
characteristics), land tenure maps, technological information and
training, and mechanisms to increase political and project-level
Participants frequently mentioned social enabling factors for
reforestation (84% of paper slips). They emphasized transparent
and corruption-free paper trails, reduced bureaucracy, and long-
term training programs. Economic enabling factors included mar-
ket orientation training, programs with clear economic support,
and higher value payments for ecosystem services.
FUTURE ACTIONS.—In considering future actions, participants most
commonly mentioned social strategies (84% of slips) such as par-
ticipating in training, establishing family commitments, increasing
knowledge, and being responsible about environmental issues
linked to reforestation. Strategies for strengthening economic
resources (personal savings) for reforestation included committing
a portion of their land to reforestation and investing in long-term
maintenance (Table S2).
Participants indicated that actions by others should include
both social (56% of slips) and economic items (48% of slips).
Clear informal and formal governance arrangements, improved
infrastructure (roads, information systems), technical education,
access to credits, less bureaucratic processes, and good communi-
cation, as well as reduced corruption and conﬂict among sectoral
policies, were suggested. Other factors mentioned included gua-
ranteed markets and clients, ﬁnancial inputs from large landhol-
ders, economic diversiﬁcation, and alternative incomes during
crisis periods (Tables S1 and S2).
Perceived needs for long-term regional reforestation success
were largely economic (84% of slips), particularly income diversi-
ﬁcation (22% of slips) and stabilization as well as increased awa-
reness of environmental issues and establishing long-term
commitments for maintenance of selected reforestation interven-
tions. From this perspective, agrosilvopastoral systems could pro-
vide income diversiﬁcation and economic as well as ecological
stabilization over the long-term.
FIGURE 3. Changing preferences for reforestation alternatives by different stakeholders for tropical dry forests in western Mexico. In a ﬁrst step, workshop par-
ticipants were asked to assess their own preferences (ﬁrst column); in the following steps they were asked to express the preferences of each of the other stakehol-
ders identiﬁed during the workshop.
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 907
INSIGHTS GAINED IN THE WORKSHOP AND
IMPLICATIONS BEYOND THE STUDY AREA
The Chamela-Cuixmala workshop gave clear evidence of varied
trade-offs facing different stakeholders and change over time in
the trade-offs a given stakeholder or stakeholder group may face.
Different stakeholders recognized a range of possible reforesta-
tion interventions and associated trade-offs and synergies rather
than perceiving reforestation as a monolithic land use strategy.
Four key aspects of these situations stand out.
DIVERSITY.—Farmers preferred agrosilvopastoral systems that
might sustain cattle and crop production as well as tree cultiva-
tion for environmental values, reﬂecting a strong sense of place
and a need to prioritize subsistence production to cover their
families’needs. Entrepreneurs considered reforestation as a busi-
ness activity and were more interested in commercial plantations,
while ecological protection was crucial for participants working
for federal environmental institutions. Federal agricultural ministry
representatives prioritized crop and cattle production. Divergent
stakeholder priorities may combine with different cultural, histo-
ric, and economic backgrounds to inhibit cooperation around
reforestation. To build robust engagement, stakeholders’priorities
should be discussed and addressed within short- and long-term
DYNAMISM.—Workshop participants repeatedly stressed how bio-
physical, political, and economic factors shift continuously. Decrea-
ses in total annual precipitation had jeopardized previous
reforestation efforts. Vacillating governmental programs brought
plantations of a particular species 1 yr and a different one the next.
Abrupt changes in market prices of commodities like beef and tim-
ber hindered people in making long-term commitments. As a
result, participants preferred reforestation strategies that demand
little change in current activities, such as establishment and mainte-
nance of agrosilvopastoral systems. If ecological, social, and ﬁnan-
cial unpredictability increase in the future, stakeholder appetite for
reforestation may be reduced, and a range of potential beneﬁts
may be foregone.
MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS OF TRADE-OFFS.—In Chamela-Cuixmala, like
in many other places, trade-offs run across multiple domains.
Workshop participants highlighted weighing short-term opportu-
nity costs against long-term prospects, tensions between econo-
mic and environmental values, and conﬂicts between household
beneﬁts and the welfare of broader collectives. In any given
locale, the nature and intensity of trade-offs raised by reforesta-
tion will be speciﬁc to that place’s conﬂuence of historical, politi-
cal, and environmental conditions. But the need to address
multifarious tensions, far beyond the ambit of cost–beneﬁt anal-
yses, will arise in any context.
CONFLICTS AND COVERNANCE CONCERNS.—For many decades, far-
mers in Chamela-Cuixmala have been accustomed to clientelist
relationships with government agencies. These relationships
perpetuate corruption and hamper development of community
institutions. As in many regions, governance continues to be opa-
que, non-participatory, and unreliable. Workshop participants
suggested alternative, participatory models in which government
institutions respect the needs of ejidatarios and other landowners,
laying the ground for all stakeholders to respect collaboratively
established norms and rules. They envisioned a coordinated,
multi-centered governance structure capable of bringing together
diverse stakeholders from local, regional, state, and national levels
to jointly develop solutions. In light of the diversity, dynamism,
and trade-offs they discussed, arriving at durable arrangements
requires inclusive processes toward reforestation. But instituting
inclusive processes requires clearing up sclerotic governance
(Berkes et al. 2003, Armitage et al. 2009).
Regeneration assessments rarely include this full range of
considerations nor extend beyond forest establishment into forest
growth and maturation. Greater focus is needed on mechanisms
for robust deliberation among stakeholders, for local and regional
governance, for cultivating trust and cultural respect, and for
ensuring co-ﬁnancing and information ﬂow across the long lifes-
pans of tropical reforestation initiatives (Hirsch et al. 2010).
A PATHWAY FOR CONSTRUCTING A LONG-
TERM REFORESTATION INITIATIVE
How might people of different walks of life in Chamela-Cuix-
mala, or anywhere else, turn this tangle of hopes, worries, expec-
tations, and doubts into a workable collaborative effort to restore
forests and strengthen human ties? Conclusive answers have elu-
ded generations of people deeply committed to working through
hard choices. In each instance, the answer will depend on the
extended, painstaking efforts of stakeholders. But the insights gai-
ned from the literature review in the ﬁrst section and from the
workshop in the second section yield a set of heuristic principles
from which we can sketch a pathway that will be of value in
undertaking reforestation efforts.
Principles that emerge from the literature review and the
workshop.—Any reforestation initiative hinges on a workable
strategy for reforestation; however, what makes for a workable
strategy is not self-evident. A reforestation strategy will be built
around one or several interventions such as those that workshop
participants proposed. It will outline reforestation goals and the
roles of different stakeholders in achieving them. Arriving at
these will require inclusive and iterated discussions that identify
and bring in stakeholders and engage them in bringing to light
potential trade-offs and synergies and ways to balance the needs
and aspirations of different stakeholders.
Realizing a reforestation strategy depends on securing commit-
ments from stakeholders to implement the strategy. Our literature
review highlighted the importance of community involvement, yet
the dynamism of trade-offs and stakeholders revealed through
the workshop calls for speciﬁc strategies to secure commitments
that are robust to changing conditions over the long-term. Com-
modity and carbon offset prices, government policies, political
tensions, and trends among international environmental NGOs
908 Lazos-Chavero et al.
change unpredictably, creating uncertainty for reforestation plan-
ning, which requires reforestation proponents to provide assuran-
ces and contingency plans, particularly for the most vulnerable
stakeholders. Since conditions change, with the potential to
enhance or lessen the rewards of participants, keeping people
involved requires commitments. Securing commitments requires
establishing reciprocity and trust (Armitage et al. 2009, Poteete
et al. 2012), which in some cases may necessitate repairing the
credibility of governance structures where these have been dama-
ged by historical corruption. Of course, dialogue grounded in
trust is vital at all phases and reciprocity is central to establishing
legitimate governance arrangements. Addressing uncertainty and
conﬂict requires innovative strategies that foster collaboration,
contribute to trust building, and consolidate social networks
among diverse stakeholders, highlighted by the theoretical current
known as adaptive co-management (Armitage et al. 2009).
People implement commitments within governance arrangements.
Our literature review emphasized the need for understanding the
complex and dynamic network of stakeholder relationships;
workshop results underscored the importance of legacies in such
relationships. Effective governance arrangements center on rules
and procedures that sustain rights, responsibilities, and reciprocity.
Reforestation initiatives rely on voluntary engagement and depend
on ﬂexible, dynamic platforms for stakeholder engagement that
emphasize information-sharing, collaboration, and innovation.
Land users need clarity and security of rights surrounding land
tenure, terms of participation, and cultural and territorial belon-
ging. Reciprocity entails good faith dialogue as well as material
transactions. Inadequate ﬁnancial incentives for small-scale land
managers hampers many reforestation efforts (Lemenih & Kassa
2014, Mansourian et al. 2014). Substantial and reliable ﬁnancial
incentives can make it possible for smallholders to participate
(Melo et al. 2013). Nonetheless, where money ﬂows, diversion
and corruption often germinate. The bedrock of effective opera-
tional arrangements is establishing rules and relationships that are
ﬁrm enough to maintain commitments, sanction violators, and
respond to differing and changing situations.
Reforestation participants can balance ﬁrmness and ﬂexibility
through recursive monitoring and evaluation. Governance arrange-
ments must provide for regular assessment of progress toward
goals and changing conditions. Such arrangements allow stakehol-
ders to jointly take stock so as to adjust reforestation strategies
and implementation arrangements as needed.
A SUGGESTED PATHWAY
These principles inform a pathway that we propose below as a
heuristic aid to participants in reforestation initiatives. The path-
way suggested here is intended to assist stakeholders—land users,
government staff, NGOs, funding entities—in adopting strategies
that could lead to long-term forest regeneration projects (Fig. 4).
In seeking more successful navigation of dynamic stakehol-
der reforestation trade-offs, the proposed pathway comprises four
‘phases’: (1) collaborate to devise a reforestation strategy through
dialogue about dynamic trade-offs; (2) pledge robust stakeholder
commitments to mutual arrangements for implementing refores-
tation; (3) implement reforestation interventions; and (4) adjust stra-
tegy through adaptive evaluation of outcomes. We picture these
phases as conceptually distinct components of an interconnected
and recursive process. In practice they are likely to overlap as
people backtrack or jump from one point to another as they deal
with emergent concerns, making a linear sequence unlikely. For
FIGURE 4. A pathway for reforestation.
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 909
example, robust stakeholder commitments will be forthcoming
only if the governance arrangements are made clear and explicit.
PHASE 1. COLLABORATE TO DEVISE A REFORESTATION STRATEGY
THROUGH DIALOGUE ABOUT DYNAMIC TRADE-OFFS.—In this phase,
the key outcome is determining a preferred reforestation strategy.
Stakeholders with direct or indirect involvement in a reforestation
initiative must be engaged as dynamic agents involved in interac-
tions and interdependencies (Grimble & Chan 1995, Armitage
et al. 2009, Swallow et al. 2009). Facilitators must bring stakehol-
ders together to identify and explicitly discuss relevant social-eco-
logical and biophysical constraints as well as common and
divergent values relating to potential reforestation interventions
(Chan et al. 2012, Cavender-Bares et al. 2015, King et al. 2015).
Collaborative efforts to identify viable reforestation pathways
should accommodate political and socio-economic conditions,
agricultural history, and cultural heritage. In evaluating trade-offs,
stakeholders will need to make clear the different objectives each
brings to the table, the resources each can contribute, and how
each potential reforestation intervention might draw on these
(Guariguata et al. 2008, Holl & Aide 2011). These discussions
must attend to not only how each stakeholder’s changing land
uses and management intensity may inﬂuence the durability of a
reforestation intervention, but also the biophysical conditions that
may affect its potential to succeed.
Reforestation options have different costs and beneﬁts in
terms of biological productivity, ecological restoration potential,
and economic returns. Facilitating natural regrowth tends to have
lower establishment costs and potentially higher biodiversity and
ecosystem service potential, but provides less control over forest
products than native or commercial tree plantings (Lamb et al.
2005, Chazdon 2008, Chazdon & Guariguata 2016) and lower
economic beneﬁts to landowners. Low-cost assisted natural rege-
neration or on-farm tree planting may, therefore, be preferred by
land managers themselves or by cash-strapped nonproﬁt organi-
zations supporting reforestation (Griscom & Ashton 2011, Mur-
gueito et al. 2011).Where ﬁnancial support for reforestation is
greater, more labor-intensive interventions (e.g., raising seedlings
in nurseries, site preparation, tree planting, weeding) may be feasi-
ble based on potential socio-economic beneﬁts they may generate
for land managers, small land-owners, and laborers in the form
of employment, income, and connection to the project. The deci-
sion to select one or a suite of reforestation interventions must
ﬂow out of inclusive dialogue.
PHASE 2. PLEDGE ROBUST STAKEHOLDER COMMITMENTS WITHIN
COLLECTIVELY DEVISED GOVERNANCE ARRANGEMENTS.—Once trade-
offs have been examined, progress toward successful and equita-
ble reforestation requires that all stakeholders make fair and cre-
dible commitments toward agreed objectives. Stakeholders must
construct a shared understanding of what members of each
stakeholder group need and what they are willing and able to
contribute in terms of ﬁnancing, labor, and resources, as well as
coordination and monitoring. Achieving credible commitments
requires an inclusive process that addresses the asymmetric stakes
and power structure of different stakeholders. Drawing on small
networks that engage individuals beyond local leadership can be
effective for garnering multiple perspectives and assuring that
outcomes secure broad conﬁdence. We have discussed how
unclear and unstable governance arrangements can disrupt forest
regeneration efforts. Establishing stable, trusting, and open gover-
nance arrangements will not only lessen these threats but also, by
stabilizing participants’expectations and making trust enforceable
(Williamson 1993), mitigate some of the risks that stakeholder
To advance the reforestation options emerging from Phase
1, stakeholders need clearly articulated objectives and agreement
on a staged implementation strategy. Such a strategy should
include the following: (1) plans for speciﬁc activities that delineate
how costs will be met, who will receive revenues and other bene-
ﬁts, and how the welfare of disadvantaged stakeholders will be
ensured if unexpected circumstances arise; (2) governance arran-
gements that maintain open communication and accommodate
negotiation and compromise among stakeholders through, for
example, advisory boards, stakeholder committees, indigenous
and peasant organizations, and government liaisons; and (3) pro-
visions for implementing monitoring metrics (i.e., biophysical,
ﬁnancial, socio-cultural, and other types of data) and stakeholder
commitments to operate or contribute to credible, accessible
In a context of dynamic trade-offs and stakeholder asymme-
tries, governance arrangements must allow stakeholders to air
and negotiate divergent perceptions, values, interests, and power
relations across and within different groups. This may require
explicitly addressing how agenda-setting power and other privile-
ges held by some stakeholders can limit the options considered
and marginalize or alienate some stakeholders (Hirsch & Brosius
2013). Stakeholders can use tools like multi-criterion analysis,
mediated modeling, and participatory decision-making approaches
to help clarify trade-offs across multiple values and scales and so
work toward inclusive deliberation. By establishing strong, trans-
parent governance structures, reforestation stakeholders can deve-
lop norms of reciprocity and increase investment in collective
efforts (Ostrom 1987, Berkes 2007, Poteete et al. 2012). In the
workshop, participants stated the importance of generating dialo-
gue, experimenting with new modes of communication, and buil-
ding empathetic understanding by stepping back to stand in other
stakeholders’shoes. This is a modest starting point, but an
important one that can provoke new ways of working out collec-
tive environmental problems.
PHASE 3. IMPLEMENT REFORESTATION INTERVENTIONS.—In this
phase, the key outcome is clariﬁcation and implementation of spe-
ciﬁc actions to be taken by designated stakeholders. This includes
both on-site (e.g., changes in land management practice, tree plant-
ing) and off-site activities (e.g., provision of capital funds, informa-
tion management). Stakeholders likely to be involved in this phase
include land managers, technical advisors, and ﬁnancing entities.
Key actions include: (1) initiation and ongoing implementa-
tion of reforestation activities and ﬁnancial arrangements as
910 Lazos-Chavero et al.
speciﬁed within Phase 2 commitments; (2) operation of informa-
tion systems that gather data (e.g., biophysical and socio-economic
conditions, ﬁnancial ﬂows, commodity markets) to support imple-
mentation and document performance (i.e., monitoring, reporting
and veriﬁcation, MRV), and manage access and reporting; and
(3) continuation of governance arrangements agreed upon in
Phase 2, including appropriate compensation to individuals or
entities delivering coordination and information services and
sanctions for stakeholders who do not deliver on commitments.
In the medium and long-term, implementation activities rely
on reasonable sharing of costs and beneﬁts and maintaining res-
ponsive governance mechanisms in light of the asymmetric risks
different stakeholders face. Long-term planning and contingency
strategies can help address disparities by, for example, specifying
responsibility for unfavorable outcomes. Stakeholders that imple-
ment and maintain forest regeneration are often the least advan-
taged: smallholder farmers and ranchers asked to perform labor
and change land uses that have previously provided their liveli-
hoods. If reforestation fails, these stakeholders can face immense
costs. Larger landholders and residents with off-farm income
sources have proportionately less at stake. Government person-
nel must meet mandates and avoid conﬂict, but in many cases
will not face catastrophic personal loss if a local project fails.
International organizations and funders manage large project
portfolios and can redirect their efforts to other locales if one
project proves unrewarding. Over recent decades, in our expe-
rience, there are many examples of NGOs and agencies
disappearing at the end of a project cycle, leaving local residents
to live with negative or unforeseen impacts on local livelihoods
and landscapes. To ensure that the people tending trees can con-
tinue to perform their roles, other stakeholders need to provide
credible assurances of goodwill and reciprocity (Reij & Garrity
Such assurances will depend in part on steady ﬁnancing. In
many cases, the magnitude and character of ‘public good’ﬁnan-
cing in programs of payments for ecosystem services are inade-
quate to sustain reforestation (McAfee & Shapiro 2010, Zinda
et al. 2016). Inadequate amounts of funding, delays, or inaccessi-
bility to key implementers (including diversion or loss due to
corruption) can inhibit effective ﬁnancing of reforestation initiati-
ves, resulting in slow progress toward implementation, beneﬁt
ﬂow, and solidiﬁed or expanded participation (Le et al. 2012).
Projects that commence with short-term ﬁnancing (e.g., grants)
should have realistic plans for income generation and re-invest-
ment (Le et al. 2012, 2014).
PHASE 4. ADJUST STRATEGY THROUGH ADAPTIVE EVALUATION OF
OUTCOMES.—In this phase, the key outcomes are ensuring the
sustainability and equity of reforestation interventions and ensu-
ring continued stakeholder commitment. This phase is critical for
achieving long-term success of a speciﬁc reforestation initiative; if
information is made broadly accessible, it can also expand the
base of knowledge on which to build future successful reforesta-
tion initiatives. Recent reports based on project-level MRV have
been useful for understanding costs and beneﬁts to stakeholders
(Lemenih & Kassa 2014, Mansourian et al. 2014, Pinto et al.
2014). The following activities are central: (1) comparing refores-
tation performance against agreed reforestation targets using
monitoring data; (2) determining costs and beneﬁts accrued by
different stakeholders; (3) assessing changes in social, ecological,
and ﬁnancial contexts that may inﬂuence future costs and bene-
ﬁts; and (4) course corrections such as adjustments in targets,
stakeholders’commitments, and governance arrangements (van
Oosten et al. 2014).
Although local stakeholders may have strong collective insti-
tutions through which to organize agreements and commitments,
individuals and households decide whether to participate in rege-
neration programs based on consideration of potential rewards,
foregone opportunities, availability of land and labor, perceived
risks, family possibilities and cultural dynamics. Inherent diversity
among households often requires ﬂexible incentives and risk miti-
All reforestation interventions are entangled in social and political
structures. Stakeholders differ in the trade-offs they face. A stake-
holder’s trade-offs will vary across different reforestation strate-
gies and also over time as political, socioeconomic, cultural, and
environmental conditions change. At the same time, rather than
having intrinsic and stable identities, stakeholders change over
time in their interests and roles, bringing corresponding changes
to their preferences and perceptions of trade-offs. Stakeholder
engagement and reforestation governance structures need to
account for the dynamic character of trade-offs and syner-
gies.Trade-offs are not just dynamic but heterogeneous across
stakeholders. Stakeholders’diverse socio-economic and cultural
positions generate divergent interests, preferences, and perceived
risks, and these may change over time as stakeholders’individual
situations evolve and as their roles (as leaders, as government
public servants or as members of NGOs) change over the course
of their lives. Stakeholders who are part of indigenous communi-
ties, ejidos, or localities where private landowners dominate may
approach reforestation efforts differently. The effects of dyna-
mism on trade-offs and synergies for these and various other
stakeholders should be considered in planning phases and reeva-
luated throughout a reforestation effort.
Diverse stakeholders face dynamic and uncertain contexts as
they evaluate the hard choices that reforestation presents:
between economic and environmental values, between short- and
long-term needs and outcomes, between household beneﬁts and
the welfare of broader collectivities. Securing long-term commit-
ments from relevant stakeholders requires achieving legitimate
compromises that result in mutually acceptable reforestation
methods and distributions of costs and beneﬁts. It also necessita-
tes continuous ﬁnancial ﬂows as well as capacity-building proces-
ses. Financial unpredictability could undermine the intended
beneﬁts of reforestation efforts. To make decisions stick, partici-
pants must negotiate together how to monitor one another’s con-
duct, evaluate progress, and anticipate and respond to
Stakeholders and Tropical Reforestation 911
unexpected changes. Such inclusive dialogue is vital to enabling
stakeholders to pledge commitments within collectively devised
governance arrangements, making robust reforestation efforts
The workshop at Chamela-Cuixmala exempliﬁes what land
users, ofﬁcials, and organization personnel all over the world face
when they are part of a forest regeneration initiative. While the
speciﬁc issues at stake in trade-offs will be different in every case,
the work presented here illuminates the multiple dimensions of
trade-offs, including the tensions, conﬂicts, and governance con-
cerns. Transparent and participatory governance arrangements,
with regular evaluation of their effectiveness, are critical. Refores-
tation poses speciﬁc challenges in getting to credible and resilient
commitments, and adequate frameworks constructed through
direct consultation with stakeholders are often lacking. We believe
that resources dedicated to engagement, governance, and evalua-
tion will enhance the likelihood of success of reforestation efforts
from socioeconomic and biophysical perspectives.
We acknowledge the support of the U.S. National Science Founda-
tion and for PARTNERS for funding the two workshops within
which the ideas of this article were developed as well as the one
held in the Paciﬁc Coast of Mexico with diverse stakeholders. We
specially thank Robin Chazdon for the organization of the PART-
NERS’workshop where we started this big adventure and for her
interesting and thoughtful comments. We thank the participants in
the stakeholder workshop for the rich discussions and their contri-
butions to this manuscript. We thank Gabriel Torales Anaya for the
organization of the Chamela workshop, recording it, and all the
transcription work. Our reviewers brought us great ideas. Elena
Lazos thanks the support of PASPA- DGAPA, UNAM, Mexico.
Balvanera acknowledges support from PAPIIT IN211114.
Additional Supporting Information may be found online in the
supporting information tab for this article:
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