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4. Potential constraints and conflicts

1. A major weakness of most forest management initiatives continues to be heavy reliance on external funding. More often than not, the funding comes with such conditions as employment of citizens from donor countries, who end up almost dictating the course of action instead of only facilitating in production of a home-grown solution. In the final analysis, the aid meant to improve the lives of poor rural people in the recipient country never really gets to achieve its objective because the poor countries continue to be poor, or they actually become poorer due to indebtedness. This is one of the most subtle and insidious forms in which the richer, more powerful, and mostly international, stakeholders exercise their power to dictate international development agendas.

2. Breakdown of communitarian management of the local resource base is one institutional failure that disenfranchises the poor from an economy even while, in aggregate, the society of which they are members enjoys economic growth (Dasgupta, 1997). Just how does this happen? Normal members of a community are rooted in social norms of behaviour and understand community obligations, in other words, they simply follow the norms. But this is sustainable so long as the background environment remains approximately constant. It will certainly not be sustainable if the social environment changes suddenly and trust is broken. In extreme cases, the person may even be destroyed. It is this heightened vulnerability, often more real than perceived, that is the cause of some of the greatest tragedies in contemporary society (Dasgupta, 1997).

3. Most forest policies and legislations (where they exist) are deficient (Government of the Republic of Botswana, 2000), outdated (Government of Nigeria, 2000; Government of Malawi, 1997) or simply not implemented. Due to the deficiencies in these policies and legislative instruments governments at times indulge in over-ambitious targets because they are not too sure of the magnitude of the tasks at hand. For example, the strategy for Nigeria to achieve a target of 25 per cent of land as forest lists the following seven elements (Government of Nigeria, 2000):

i) Ban the export of log wood until the 25 per cent reserve forest cover is achieved;

ii) Provide a policy and institutional framework favourable for private investment in tree and forest resource management;

iii) Increase community participation in forest management and utilisation;

iv) Encourage afforestation with species which provide other forest produce;

v) Undertake scientific management of 10 million hectares of existing forest;

vi) Promote agroforestry with multipurpose tree species; and

vii) Adopt protection forestry development strategies, including shelterbelt establishment, afforestation of eroded sites, stabilisation of sand dunes.

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