ArticlePublisher preview available

Reductions in deforestation and poverty from decentralized forest management in Nepal

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract and Figures

Since the 1980’s, decentralized forest management has been promoted as a way to enhance sustainable forest use and reduce rural poverty. Rural communities manage increasing amounts of the world’s forests, yet rigorous evidence using large-N data on whether community-based forest management (CFM) can jointly reduce both deforestation and poverty remains scarce. We estimate the impacts of CFM using a large longitudinal dataset that integrates national census-based poverty measures with high-resolution forest cover change data, and near-complete information on Nepal’s >18,000 community forests. We compare changes in forest cover and poverty from 2000–2012 for subdistricts with or without CFM arrangements, but that are otherwise similar in terms of socioeconomic and biophysical baseline measures. Our results indicate that CFM has, on average, contributed to significant net reductions in both poverty and deforestation across Nepal, and that CFM increases the likelihood of win–win outcomes. We also find that the estimated reduced deforestation impacts of community forests are lower where baseline poverty levels are high, and greater where community forests are larger and have existed longer. These results indicate that greater benefits may result from longer-term investments and larger areas committed to CFM, but that community forests established in poorer areas may require additional support to minimize tradeoffs between socioeconomic and environmental outcomes. Rural communities manage much of the world’s forests, but the effects on both landscapes and people are still unclear. This study estimates the impacts of such community-based forest management in Nepal from 2000–2012 and finds significant net reductions in both deforestation and poverty.
This content is subject to copyright. Terms and conditions apply.
1Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. 2Forests and Livelihoods: Assessment, Research and Engagement Network,
School for Environment and Sustainability, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. 3Department of Economics, Amherst College, Amherst,
MA, USA. 4Department of Environmental Studies, Amherst College, Amherst, MA, USA. 5ForestAction Nepal, Lalitpur, Nepal. 6School of Natural and
Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK. 7School for Environment and Sustainability, The University of Michigan, Michigan, MI, USA.
8These authors contributed equally: K.R.E.S., M.J.W. and A.A. *e-mail:
Forests are critical to sustainable development1,2. They regulate
climate, sequester carbon, harbour biodiversity, and contribute
to national incomes and local livelihoods3. Over the past four
decades, governments and international organizations have pro-
moted decentralized community-based forest management (CFM)
to achieve sustainable forest use and reduce rural poverty4. In decen-
tralized decision-making arrangements, the primary responsibility
for day-to-day management rests with forest user communities.
Ideally, this allows communities to make better use of their time
and place-specific knowledge to promote more efficient, equitable
and sustainable multi-functional landscapes5.
Local communities now legally manage approximately 13% of
the world’s forests6. Nonetheless, debates about whether CFM truly
reduces forest loss and alleviates poverty continue7,8. Case studies
from Latin America, Africa and South Asia show that some CFM
initiatives have improved forest and livelihood outcomes9,10, but that
others have not achieved the intended objectives4,11. The vast major-
ity of existing studies have focused on limited sets of cases, and have
used qualitative assessments of poverty and livelihood outcomes that
are difficult to compare across space and over time7. These studies
have helped to identify how land tenure, local autonomy and collec-
tive action may contribute to effective and equitable CFM, but have
not tested whether CFM programmes lead to net environmental
and socioeconomic improvements at national scales7. Some studies
use more rigorous evaluations of CFM but they generally focus on
single outcomes, studying the relationship between CFM and either
forests1214 or poverty15,16—often at single points in time17,18.
We analyse forest cover change and poverty alleviation out-
comes of CFM for the case of Nepal using a high-spatial-resolution,
national-level, longitudinal dataset (see Methods). Our study makes
three key advances. First, we analyse the average effects of CFM at
a national scale using a near-complete census of Nepal’s 18,321 reg-
istered community forests. Second, we combine these data with
subdistrict-level, national census-based multidimensional poverty
measures (2001–2011) and high-resolution forest cover change
data (2000–2012). Finally, given the multiple drivers of deforesta-
tion19 and poverty alleviation20, our approach aims to separate CFM
impacts from other potential socioeconomic and biophysical fac-
tors affecting the establishment of CFM that could also impact for-
est and poverty outcomes (see Methods). Specifically, we combine
statistical matching and multiple regression analyses to control for
potential geographic, economic and political drivers of outcomes at
the subdistrict level. These include: slope, elevation, precipitation,
population density, agricultural effort, international migration,
travel time to market and population centres, distance to district
headquarters, presence of protected areas, and baseline measures of
poverty and forest cover, as well as administrative-level fixed effects
that control for factors common to each district, such as government
investments in education or health. These methods seek to ensure
that treated and control groups are similar to each other21, and fol-
low established quasi-experimental approaches to the evaluation of
conservation interventions2224. Our identification of impacts relies
on plausibly exogenous conditional variation in CFMs arising from
the history of multiple non-government organizations, government
agencies and international donors, operating in non-systematic
ways across time and space (see Methods). We test the robustness of
our results with respect to potential unmeasured confounding vari-
ables, such as other government programmes that may be correlated
Reductions in deforestation and poverty from
decentralized forest management in Nepal
Johan A. Oldekop 1,2*, Katharine R. E. Sims 3,4,8, Birendra K. Karna5, Mark J. Whittingham6,8 and
Arun Agrawal 2,7,8
Since the 1980’s, decentralized forest management has been promoted as a way to enhance sustainable forest use and reduce
rural poverty. Rural communities manage increasing amounts of the world’s forests, yet rigorous evidence using large-N data
on whether community-based forest management (CFM) can jointly reduce both deforestation and poverty remains scarce.
We estimate the impacts of CFM using a large longitudinal dataset that integrates national census-based poverty measures
with high-resolution forest cover change data, and near-complete information on Nepal’s >18,000 community forests. We
compare changes in forest cover and poverty from 2000–2012 for subdistricts with or without CFM arrangements, but that
are otherwise similar in terms of socioeconomic and biophysical baseline measures. Our results indicate that CFM has, on
average, contributed to significant net reductions in both poverty and deforestation across Nepal, and that CFM increases
the likelihood of win–win outcomes. We also find that the estimated reduced deforestation impacts of community forests are
lower where baseline poverty levels are high, and greater where community forests are larger and have existed longer. These
results indicate that greater benefits may result from longer-term investments and larger areas committed to CFM, but that
community forests established in poorer areas may require additional support to minimize tradeoffs between socioeconomic
and environmental outcomes.
NATURE SUSTAINABILITY | VOL 2 | MAY 2019 | 421–428 | 421
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved
... Gautam et al. (2003), Niraula et al. (2013) and Baral et al. (2019) measured forest cover change in individual CFs but did not directly link changes in forest cover with changes in forest management. Oldekop et al. (2019) and Chhetri et al. (2021) modeled the effect of CF management on forest cover across Nepal but did not measure forest cover change or characterize CF management in individual CFs. While these studies demonstrated that CF management is associated with forest conservation and regeneration, many of the CF-level processes that drive forest cover change remain unclear. ...
... It delegates control to individual households and creates individual tenure [20]. The importance of strengthening forest management and protection to ensure forest safety in communal forest areas and improve farmers' livelihoods is recognized globally by academia, government and international development organizations [21,22]. ...
Full-text available
Confirmation of rights and collective trust (interpersonal and institutional) can act as primary factors for facilitating effective forest management and conservation. Collective forests are lands held collectively by either rural or indigenous communities based on a shared history, language, culture, or lineage. It is an institutional arrangement in which communities are involved wholly or partly in decision-making and contribute knowledge and labour to achieve healthy forests and social well-being. Based on the existing literature, the nature of collective forest rights and trust can be derived from social, rather than economic, prospects. Therefore, based on the institutional theory, this study constructs a theoretical framework to verify the impact of the confirmation of rights and trust on farmers’ forestry management conservation behaviour. The empirical setup of the study was comprised of a data set of 682 collective forest farmers in Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces, China. We utilized the negative binomial regression model to quantify the proposed framework. The main conclusions were as follows. Confirmation of rights and collective trust had a significant positive role in promoting farmers’ forestry management and protection behaviour. Increasing the confirmation of rights and trusts by one unit increased the number of farmers’ forest management and protection by 1.846 and 2.631 times, respectively. The interaction between confirmation and trust did not substantially affect farmers’ behaviour. The diverse forest labour force, the total area of forest land, and the number of forest plots had a significant positive impact, while the head of the village and the number of migrant workers significantly and negatively impacted farmers’ behaviour. Therefore, it is necessary to further improve the forestry land rights system and strengthen the trust mechanism so that it can become an effective institutional incentive for farmers to manage and protect forests.
... Biomass-based renewable energy resources are directly linked to this major problem of deforestation at European and global level. Which means that only through regulation and support programs can this problem be limited and geared to these sustainable resources and contribute to reducing these increases in global greenhouse gas emissions, all the more so as through the forest resource, terrestrial carbon could reach significant levels by limiting these emissions (Oldekop et al., 2019) and (Lawrence and Vandecar, 2015). ...
Full-text available
In a context of multi-crises, as well as the challenges of both the medium and long term, associated with elements highlighted by the transformation of the EU energy system, we appreciate that not only is it a very difficult time to overcome efficiently and balanced EU Member States, but above all it is a time to activate research systems on identifying key solutions, as well as firm decisions at the level of decision-making institutions at the level of the European Institutions. Moreover, based on the latest European studies, systematic testing of ongoing initiatives can strategically prepare for an increase in the resilience of Member States’ economies to crisis shocks, as well as “the key to success Europe’s ecological transformation and climate neutrality of the EU economy in a broader sense.” The paper aims to highlight how to act at European level in the context of the latest energy decisions (regulations, strategies, pro-grams and directives) and how to stimulate “the EU economy with about 3.3% of EU GDP or EUR 464 billion in 2030 and up to EUR 5.6% or more than EUR 1 trillion in 2050.” At the same time, we appreciate that as a result of green energy, digitalization and technology, the environmental objective on the EU and UN net emissions in 2050 can be achieved, especially as a result of a fair and equitable transformation for the economic environment and for citizens, being an objective that directly contributes to achieving a sustainable, collaborative and prosperous society with an open and modern society, but more chosen efficiently in terms of resource optimization and a sustainable and competitive economy.
... Shortage of timber and firewood, increasing soil erosion, and rapidly depleting aquifers would lead to a feedback loop of insecurity, poverty, and environmental degradation (Tofu et al., 2022). In rural communities where people directly rely on natural resources for their livelihood, poverty is basically driven by environmental deterioration (Oldekop et al., 2019). People residing in the arid climate are typically poor; however, they could lead a prosperous life if the area is rich in natural resources (Specht et al., 2019). ...
The transition of the Earth's climate from one zone to another is one of the major causes behind biodiversity loss, rural-urban migration, and increasing food crises. The rising rate of arid-humid zone transition due to climate change has been substantially visible in the last few decades. However, the precise quantification of the climate change-induced rainfall variation on the climate zone transition still remained a challenge. To solve the issue, the Representative Grid Location-Multivariate Adaptive Regression Spline (RGL-MARS) downscaling algorithm was coupled with the Koppen climate classification scheme to project future changes in various climate zones for the study area. It was observed that the performance of the model was better for the humid clusters compared to the arid clusters. It was noticed that, by the end of the 21 st century, the arid region would increase marginally and the humid region would rise by 24.28-36.09% for the western province of India. In contrast, the area of the semi-arid and semi-humid regions would decline for the study area. It was observed that there would be an extensive conversion of semi-humid to humid zone in the peripheral region of the Arabian sea due to the strengthening of land-sea thermal contrast caused by climate change. Similarly, semi-arid to arid zone conversion would also increase due to the inflow of dry air from the Arabian region. The current research would be helpful for the researchers and policymakers to take appropriate measures to reduce the rate of climate zone transition, thereby developing the socioeconomic status of the rural and urban populations.
... Intensive thinning or thinning at a wrong timing may reduce tree density and deplete the carbon stocks of biomass, deadwood, and forest floor litter pools (Jimenez and Navarro 2016). On the other hand, optimal intensity of thinning done at an appropriate timing would increase the stand volume and carbon stock (Nyland 1996). Appropriate thinning could maximize the carbon sequestration potential by making the site resources available to the fewer tree individuals and reducing the vulnerability of the ecosystem to natural disturbances. ...
Full-text available
Rising global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations has been a major driver of global climate change. In response, several parties to the Paris Agreement have pledged to achieve “carbon neutrality” where CO2 emissions are balanced by various CO2 removal activities. Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 by trees and locking it in different pools (live biomass, detritus, wood products and soil) is widely seen as an easy, cost-effective strategy that would lead to carbon neutrality. Together with attractive carbon incentives, this strategy has led to the mushrooming of several tree plantation projects all over the world. The carbon sequestration potential of a plantation depends upon several factors like species planted, site history, climate, and management practices. While well-planned tree plantations would enable the harvesting of environmental and socioeconomic benefits, ill-conceived tree planting initiatives may turn into an environmental disaster. Prior risk assessments and adoption of an integrated approach in tree plantations would help in reducing the uncertainties and achieving the desired targets. Diversified climate action plans which also include tree plantation as an integral component are necessary to achieve carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation goals.
Full-text available
Opportunities and Challenges of addressing Climate change issues through community forestry in Nepal.
Full-text available
Climate change is one of the most critical threats to the human population and other living organisms on earth. REDD+ is developed as a mechanism to acquire a global fund for addressing climate change, deforestation, and protecting the forest ecosystem while maintaining the livelihood of local communities. As a response to the need for carbon stock measurement at the specific forest and land-use types, this research aimed to estimate above-ground carbon stock (AGC) at seven land-use types in KPHP (Forest management unit) Katingan Hulu Central Kalimantan Indonesia. This research was conducted from May to September 2019. Data collected in 91 observation plots included diameter at breast height, total height, and fresh weight of understory vegetation and litter. Using an allometric equation this research estimated above-ground carbon stock in the tree, understory vegetation, and litter. This research found that AGC varied across different land-use types: secondary peat forest 135.30 Mg C/Ha, secondary forest 212.19 Mg C/Ha, shrub 47.41 Mg C/Ha, oil palm plantation 73.76 Mg C/Ha, rubber plantation 65.56 Mg C/Ha, and forest with rattan 75.98 Mg C/Ha. We concluded that AGC in KPHP Katingan Hulu varied according to the type of land use system. Less human intervention forests such as secondary forests had higher AGC compared with highly disturbance forests such as shrubs. Finding from this research could help decision-makers to develop REDD programs to rehabilitate forests and contribute to community development.
In recent decades, countries across Asia, Latin America, and Africa have adopted environmental decentralization reforms to encourage the community-based management of water, forests, fisheries, and other natural resources. While such reforms are meant to empower rural people to participate in environmental governance, experiences from recent decades suggest that these reforms often suffer from gendered inequalities in participation and leadership. We use the case of a forestry-sector decentralization reform in Nepal to test the importance of domestic policy, foreign aid, and population change for promoting women’s leadership under environmental decentralization. Using data on local natural resource governance committees formed in villages across the country under the reform, we find that a non-binding government guideline encouraging committees to prioritize women’s leadership resulted in an estimated increase of 7.5% points in the number of leadership seats held by women on these committees. We also show that locally-targeted, sector-specific foreign aid projects appear to have a strong impact, with rates of women’s leadership that are estimated to be 24% points higher in committees formed in areas with projects, compared to rates in comparable committees formed in areas without such projects at the time of formation. Finally, we instrument for international male out-migration in rural Nepal, and find no apparent effect of international male out-migration on rates of women’s leadership in local natural resource governance committees. The results highlight the importance of domestic policy, even without stringent enforcement, and targeted foreign aid projects for promoting women’s leadership under environmental decentralization.
Full-text available
La presente conversación se divide en tres partes. Primero, discutimos por qué la conservación no es siempre una solución beneficiosa y por qué es necesario problematizar la Conservación convencional. En este sentido, Brockington argumenta que existe una historia clara y sólida dentro de las prácticas de conservación en muchos países, donde la conservación se asocia con la injusticia del desalojo y el despojo de la población local. Además, sostiene que tratar de separar los lugares para su conservación no puede ser una solución sostenible ya que el sistema capitalista, que es el principal causante de la destrucción, no se detiene. En la segunda parte, Brockington explica cómo las políticas neoliberales han cambiado, reforzado o transformado la forma en que entendemos la Conservación, de modo que la conservación neoliberal intenta encontrar formas de reducir el medio ambiente a simples mercancías. Finalmente, en la tercera parte, hablamos sobre qué ha mejorado y qué cambios son necesarios en la Conservación.
Full-text available
Abstract: Bioenergy is the form of clean energy with the greatest potential for growth in Spain, especially in those regions with a large forest area and a high potential for the utilization of forest resources for energy purposes. This is the case in Galicia (a region located in northwestern Spain), where the communal management of forest resources is widespread. Within this type of management, there is a pioneering case study in which biomass energy use activities have been initiated through an international project. The possible success of this project is of great importance since it could represent an alternative to the main energy activity in the common management of forests: the production of wind energy. In recent years, and with a special increase in 2022, Galician public opinion has expressed its opposition to the implementation of new wind farms in its forests. The aim of this article is to analyze whether or not it is profitable for forest management communities to participate in bioenergy initiatives, which is a novel analysis of the Galician geographical area. For this purpose, the main economic and financial variables of the Galician forest management communities participating in the bioenergy project, SilvaPlus Project, have been analyzed, before and during their participation in the project. In addition, a financial comparison is also made with a group of Galician forest management communities without the energy use of their resources. The evolution of the relevant variables, analyzed between 2011 and 2020, shows a generally positive trend in the values of the forest communities participating in the bioenergy generation project, resulting in a positive experience, both environmentally and financially, for the forest community. Keywords: bioenergy; community management; financial and economic performance; Galicia; Spain
Full-text available
Land cover change is a critical driver for enhancing the soil erosion risk in Nepal. Loss of the topsoil has a direct and indirect effect on human life and livelihoods. The present study provides an assessment of the decadal land use and land cover (LULC) change and consequent changes in the distribution of soil erosion risk for the years, 1990, 2000, and 2010, for the entire country of Nepal. The study attempted to understand how different land cover types change over the three decades and how it has changed the distribution of soil erosion risks in Nepal that would help in the development of soil conservation priority. The land cover maps were produced using geographic object-based image analysis (GEOBIA) using Landsat images. Soil erosion patterns were assessed using the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) with the land cover as the input. The study shows that the forest cover is the most dominant land cover in Nepal that comprises about 6,200,000 ha forest cover. The estimated annual erosion was 129.30 million tons in 1990 and 110.53 million tons in 2010. The assessment of soil erosion dynamics was presented at the national, provincial, and district level. District wise analysis revealed that Gulmi, Parbat, Syangja, and the Tanahu district require priority for soil conservation.
Full-text available
Significance Decentralization is one of the most important innovations in environmental policy during the past 30 years. Despite the pervasiveness and large amounts of resources invested to implement these reforms, little is known about their environmental effects. Given worldwide interest in forest conservation, this lack of knowledge hampers efforts to improve the effectiveness of current policy initiatives. Using quasi-experimental methods, we find that the environmental effects of decentralization reforms depend on how the reforms affect the conditions for user groups to govern their forests. Our findings show that decentralization to general-purpose governments may be most effective in places where forest users take advantage of opportunities to engage with local politicians about forestry issues.
Full-text available
Protected areas (PAs) and payments for ecosystem services (PES) are the top two mechanisms available for countries to achieve international REDD agreements, yet there are few empirical comparisons of their effects. We estimate the impacts of PAs and PES on forest conservation, poverty reduction, and population change at the locality level in Mexico in the 2000 s. Both policies conserved forest, generating an approximately 20–25% reduction in expected forest cover loss. PES created statistically significant but small poverty alleviation while PAs had overall neutral impacts on livelihoods. Estimates by individual policy type for the same level of deforestation risk indicate that biosphere reserves and PES balanced conservation and livelihood goals better than strict protected areas or mixed-use areas. This suggests that both direct and incentive-based instruments can be effective, and that policies combining sustainable financing, flexible zoning, and recognition of local economic goals are more likely to achieve conservation without harming livelihoods.
Full-text available
Conservation and development practitioners increasingly promote community forestry as a way to conserve ecosystem services, consolidate resource rights, and reduce poverty. However, outcomes of community forestry have been mixed; many initiatives failed to achieve intended objectives. There is a rich literature on institutional arrangements of community forestry, but there has been little effort to examine the role of socioeconomic, market, and biophysical factors in shaping both land-cover change dynamics and individual and collective livelihood outcomes. We systematically reviewed the peer-reviewed literature on community forestry to examine and quantify existing knowledge gaps in the community-forestry literature relative to these factors. In examining 697 cases of community forest management (CFM), extracted from 267 peer-reviewed publications, we found 3 key trends that limit understanding of community forestry. First, we found substantial data gaps linking population dynamics, market forces, and biophysical characteristics to both environmental and livelihood outcomes. Second, most studies focused on environmental outcomes, and the majority of studies that assessed socioeconomic outcomes relied on qualitative data, making comparisons across cases difficult. Finally, there was a heavy bias toward studies on South Asian forests, indicating that the literature on community forestry may not be representative of decentralization policies and CFM globally.
Full-text available
Community Forest Management (CFM) devolves forest management to local communities to achieve conservation and human well-being goals. Yet, the evidence for CFM's impacts is mixed and difficult to interpret because of inadequate attention to rival explanations for the observed empirical patterns. In a national-scale analysis in Madagascar that carefully considers these rival explanations, we estimate CFM impacts on household living standards, as measured by per capita consumption expenditures. The estimated impact is positive, but small and not statistically different from zero. However, we can statistically reject substantial negative impacts (which others have suggested may exist). The estimated impacts vary conditional on household education and proximity to forests: they are more positive and statistically significant for households closer to forest and with more education. To help improve CFM design, scholars and practitioners should anticipate heterogeneity in CFM impacts and work to better characterize them, theoretically and empirically.
Halting and reversing global forest loss is a key priority for sustainable development pathways. Multiple countries in the Global South have recently transitioned from net forest loss to net forest gain. Understanding and explaining reforestation patterns is necessary to better understand land cover dynamics and create more effective sustainability policies. We show that international migration – a key feature of globalization in the 21st century – spurs a transition to greater forest cover in Nepal. Although some aspects of globalization - agricultural commodity production and trade in particular - have been identified as contributing to deforestation, the effects of international migration are less well understood. Using data from Nepal’s national census (1.36 Million households) and from high-resolution forest cover change, we find that international outmigration is associated with substantial increases in local forest cover, even after controlling for multiple confounding factors. We find that areas with international outmigration levels above the median in 2001 were 44% more likely to experience net reforestation between 2000–2012. This effect of outmigration is mediated by changes in population density and in household agricultural activity. Effects of outmigration are higher in more agriculturally suitable areas, suggesting that migration-driven forest transitions are influenced by agricultural production systems. We provide new empirical evidence of forest transition driven by international migration and a generalizable analytical approach to the study of forest transitions using secondary global and national datasets. Our results suggest that actions to reach global sustainability, biodiversity targets, and reduced emissions can be better designed and targeted by taking into account the effects of international migration on natural resources and ecosystems.
Significance Developing countries are increasingly granting local communities legal title to forests. Almost a third of forests in the global south are now managed by local communities, more than twice the share currently found in protected areas. However, we know little about the effects of titling on forest clearing and disturbance, which remain urgent problems. We use community-level longitudinal data derived from high-resolution satellite images, along with statistical techniques that control for confounding factors, to measure the effect of titling indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon. Results indicate that titling significantly reduces both clearing and disturbance, at least in the short term. The implication is that awarding formal land titles to local communities can protect forests.
Studies that examine the long-run impact of remittances on economic growth in West Africa and the Caribbean show that remittances are not growth enhancing. Money has been used towards consumption rather than investment. Because migrants from these regions are mostly permanent immigrants who settle in the host countries, we ask if there is a difference for South Asia where migrant workers are flooding for short-term, temporary contracts in the Middle Eastern countries. We examine a panel data of five South Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri-Lanka – for a period from 1975 to 2011. Using panel cointegration and Pooled Mean Group (PMG) estimation of dynamic heterogeneous panels, we show that there is a long-run significant impact of workers’ remittances on income.
A well written book, astutely organized.' Development and Change Local Forest Management is built around careful and illuminating case studies of the effects of devolution policies on the management of forests in several Asian countries. The studies demonstrate that devolution policies - contrary to the claims of governments - actually increased governmental control over the management of local resources and did so at lower cost. The controversial findings show that if local forest users are to exercise genuine control over forest management, they must be better represented in the processes of forming, implementing and evaluating devolution policies. In addition, the guiding principle for policy discussions should be to create sustainable livelihoods for local resource users, especially the poorest among them, rather than reducing the cost of government forest administration. This book is essential reading for forest and other natural resource managers, policy makers, development economists and forestry professionals and researchers. © Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), 2003. All rights reserved.