Socioeconomic Monitoring and Community Forests in West Africa
The U.S. Forest Service administered a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development called "Sustainable and Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development." The project integrated biodiversity conservation, natural resource management, and sustainable livelihoods. It was implemented in the Upper Guinean Forest region of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia (a biodiversity hotspot) with the goal of strengthening the resilience of biodiverse ecosystems and human communities. A scientist with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station led the 3-year socioeconomic monitoring and evaluation effort to assess the efficacy of institutions for community-based forest and fire management established by the project in improving forest management, controlling wildfire, and creating local community benefits. The scientists evaluated 34 community forests in three countries. In the short term, forest and fire management improved, community members increased their capacity to manage local forests and wildfire threats, and water and forest products were protected. It remains to be seen whether community forests will persist after project support ends. Different incentives for conserving community forests were used, and different rules regarding allowable uses were developed by communities. Longer term monitoring to see what arrangements foster sustainable community forestry would provide insight into how to sustain community-based conservation efforts after donor organizations and local nongovernmental organizations withdraw direct support.
Forest Service Partners