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Impact of State policy on parkland management

Traditional tenure regimes are an important driving force of individual and community decisions about land use and trees in the Sahel and Sudan zones of West Africa. Since colonial times, a system of national policies and rules has also been superimposed on the local organization of forest resource use and management. The concentration of decision-making power in the state contrasts markedly with indigenous tenure systems which usually offer individuals and groups extensive control over tree and forest management. Traditionally, permanent landholders own and can harvest trees on their own land. In contrast, the state considers these resources to be public goods and requires permission and often payment for their use. While traditional institutions may restrict the harvesting and cutting of some valued trees, even when located in farmers' fields, the tree owners nevertheless retain considerable control and there is no barrier to the use of dead trees, or the lopping and pruning of live trees. The converse is true of state regulations which have tended to be much more restrictive even on farmer's own land, and have therefore been opposed by most farmers. The large body of literature on Sahelian land and tree tenure suggests that the claims of the State over forest resources are a much greater constraint to the improved management of agroforestry parklands and forests in general than are indigenous tenure regimes.

Based on available studies of the management of on-farm trees and agroforestry parklands, the remainder of this chapter highlights some of the characteristics, ambiguities and weaknesses of Sahelian forest codes, focusing primarily on Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Wherever possible, information on recent forestry legislation is provided, but as little is yet known about how this new generation of forest laws will be implemented, observations based on the application of earlier laws are also included.

Forestry legislation in the Sahel

A great deal in the forest codes of independent French-speaking Sahelian countries is derived from colonial land and tree legislation, which emphasized state control over land resources and took little account of traditional individual and community rights to land, trees and forests. Colonial administrative texts applied to the whole of French West Africa, which included present-day Benin, Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso, Côte d'lvoire, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Mali. Among major texts, the decree of 15 November 1935 declared as state property any ‘vacant land without master’, including all land unoccupied or unexploited for more than ten years. By offering the possibility of registering land through the establishment of land titles (livrets administratifs), the decree of 20 May 1955 officially acknowledged collective or individual customary rights. However, because land registration in the Sahel is generally a costly and lengthy process, registration of rural land has been limited. The state has thus maintained a monopoly on the majority of rural lands. As a result of the decree of 4 July 1935, the state was also given the authority to manage and regulate use of all forest resources in French West Africa. Concerned about apparent environmental degradation throughout the region, forest management policy emphasized regulation and enforcement and consisted largely of lists of restrictions on forest use applied through a system of permits and fines (CILSS/LTC, 1993a, 1993b).

Sahelian forest codes have generally distinguished between a forest domain (including the classified and the protected forest domains) and the non-forest domain (including cultivated and short-fallow land, registered land and urban land). Classified forests belong exclusively to the state domain while protected forests do not. The purpose of classified forests is to set up permanent forests with designated uses (forest production, protection, botanical or wildlife sanctuaries, etc.). Their access is more restricted than in protected forests where customary use rights may be authorized (in a regulated manner) unless they are excessively destructive. Furthermore, whether it is explicit as in Senegal or implicit as in Mali, state jurisdiction extends beyond the forest domain and regulates the use and harvesting of trees on cultivated and fallow areas, which constitute the typical zone of agroforestry parklands (Elbow and Rochegude, 1990).

Use rights in the forest domain vary slightly in each country, but have the same basic characteristics. Commercial tree harvesting is generally taxed, while this is usually not the case for the collection of fruit, honey, medicines and other non-wood items. Cutting wood for domestic purposes requires a permit (often free of charge) from the forest service. The forest service can also issue woodcutting permits for areas traditionally controlled by local communities without consulting them, which reduces their ability to exclude outsiders from exploiting what they consider to be their traditional forest. Separate permits are required for the transportation and storage of forest products. All national forest laws also prohibit the unauthorized felling, lopping, pruning, mutilation or use of a list of economically significant species. In fact, most of these species are already protected under traditional management systems. Debranching for animal forage is allowed in restricted conditions. A permit is sometimes needed for clearing of land for agricultural production.

Sahelian codes give forest agents broad police powers to pursue suspected violators. They are allowed to bear arms and seek the help of public forces for enforcement. They may confiscate illegally gained forest products as well as vehicles and tools used for their collection and transportation. Further penalties are specified in detail in the legislative texts.

However, starting in the late 1980s, Sahelian countries have moved towards the inclusion of rural populations in the management and protection of forest resources. Policy dialogue has been actively encouraged by the CILSS (Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel) and the Club du Sahel which were created soon after the intense droughts of the early 1970s. By sponsoring research studies, circulating information, and organizing regional, sub-regional and national workshops, among the most significant of which were the Nouakchott (1984), Ségou (1989) and Praia (1994) international conferences, the CILSS and Club du Sahel have increasingly emphasized the need for local control over natural resources. Forest services and donor agencies have designed new forestry laws which devolve various degrees of rights and responsibilities to local communities. New forest laws were decreed in 1997 in Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso, 1997), in 1995 in Mali (République du Mali, 1995) and in 1993 (legislative section) and 1995 (regulatory section) in Senegal (République du Sénégal, 1993, 1995). In Niger, legislation relating to the Rural Code (République du Niger, 1993) is currently being revised. The implications of these legislative changes for local participation in parkland and forest management are analysed in later sections.

Ambiguities in forest codes

A key constraint to the management of agroforestry parklands is the fact that, before the recent revisions, Sahelian forest codes often failed to define the rights of individuals and communities to forest resources in the non-forest domain. The Malian forest code, for example, did not specify clearly whether (commercial or non-commercial) use and transportation permits were required for trees outside the state forest domain. Nor did it specify whether harvesting products from protected species for domestic purposes needed authorization (and at what cost), or whether restrictions on the cutting, pruning and use of protected species applied to the non-forest domain. The absence of provisions, such as the criteria for granting or refusing free permits, left many decisions to the discretion of the agents whose tendency was to restrict rather than increase access.

The extent to which the status of lands and trees in agroforestry parklands has been make clearer in recent forest legislation varies by country.

Farmland technically falls outside the forest domain, yet the fact that rural landholdings, being mostly unregistered, fall under the state's claim aggravates these ambiguities. While codes may have intended to apply different rules on farmland than in the forest, foresters have tended to extend regulations for the protected forests to all unregistered land including forest resources on cultivated land.

The extent to which the status of lands and trees in agroforestry parklands has been made clearer in recent forest legislation varies by country. Burkina Faso's new code stipulates that ‘areas covered with tree or shrub communities resulting from agricultural activities’ are excluded in the definition of forest to which the forest code applies (Burkina Faso, 1997). This implies that the Burkinabe state claims no control over forest resources in agroforestry parklands. Furthermore, the provision stating that all forest land, except private and state classified forests, constitutes the forest domain of local collectives, excludes direct state control of agroforestry parkland zones.

In contrast, forests are rather loosely defined in Senegal, Mali and Niger as lands whose exclusive or main products include any timber and non-timber forest/tree products. More specifically, the 1995 Senegalese law includes ‘cleared lands previously covered with trees where tree regeneration or planting will be allowed’, and ‘cultivated lands assigned by owners to forestry activities’ in its definition of forest. This would apparently mean that parklands as tree communities in fields and fallows are subject to forest regulations. Similarly, les terres à vocation forestière, boisées ou non (lands with a forestry potential whether wooded or not) are considered part of the national forest domain in Mali.

Inappropriate rules

In addition to the inherent ambiguities outlined above, Sahelian forest codes are the source of many inappropriate rules and regulations. These are often hard to enforce and do not reflect local realities, resulting in outcomes which run counter to the original intentions of achieving sound management of the country's forest resources.

Based on McLain's study (1992) in Mali, this section focuses on specific regulations which may lead to ineffective parkland management and outlines relevant changes in recent forest laws.

Insisting on free permits for cutting and pruning parkland trees or for transporting tree products is fruitless in a situation in which forest services do not have the capacity to deliver free permits on the necessary scale (McLain, 1992). The experience of the CARE project in Koro and Djenne, Mali, shows that even with substantial external assistance, the forest service cannot adequately administer a system of free permits for field trees. Furthermore, the insistence on permits, free or otherwise, is a disincentive to local participation in parkland management as it prevents farmers from practising the tree pruning and thinning necessary to optimize both tree and crop production.

As mentioned earlier, the new Burkina Faso forest code appears to have alleviated such constraints. Besides the exclusion of farmland from the forest domain, forest use rights for subsistence purposes are allowed free of charge and without prior authorization (Burkina Faso, 1997). Uses include the collection of dead wood, fruit and medicinal plants in classified forests, and cropping, grazing, and forest product collection in protected forests. Felling trees in the forest for commercial purposes is subject to a permit and tax, but it is allowed on continuously cultivated fields. A list of protected species is determined by ministerial decree.

In Mali, use rights in forests protected by the state or decentralized territorial collectives include grazing, cutting of forage, collection of dead wood and forest products. But in both forest types, cutting of live wood first needs to be authorized by the forest service (République du Mali, 1995). A permit is also required to fell or uproot any of 11 protected trees, most of which are common parkland species. In addition, local collectives are themselves allowed to protect all species in need of conservation. Because farmland is not clearly excluded from the forest domain, these provisions suggest that pruning and felling of field trees still require a permit and that prohibitions relating to a range of parkland species continue to hold. Little seems to have changed, therefore, in terms of farmer access to parkland trees. The transfer of fallow lands into the state domain after five years has now been extended to ten years, which may reduce the lack of farmer incentive to protect tree regeneration and manage lands on the long-term scale necessary for the restoration of soil fertility.

In Niger, the Rural Code recognizes customary authority as a way of obtaining effective land tenure (République du Niger, 1993). The texts stipulate that any natural or artificial component of agricultural lands, such as trees, belong to the landowner. All customary use rights are maintained in the protected forest domain, while in classified forests, cropping is prohibited and only deadwood and other non-wood forest products can be freely harvested, even for commercial purposes. However, unauthorized felling or uprooting of a number of protected species are forbidden outside urban areas, vegetable gardens and orchards. Debranching is prohibited in classified forests, and pruning of ‘small’ branches is allowed in protected forests only when practised ‘correctly’. Parkland management practices are thus largely restricted by these provisions. Fallowing is another important practice which may be adversely affected by the possibility that agricultural lands can be transferred to a third party after three years of absence or ‘insufficient development’.

The new forest code in Senegal seeks both to encourage local participation and to ensure forest resource protection and restoration. It claims to be innovative in increasing rights to private, physical or moral entities who invest in land improvements, and in introducing the need for prior declarations to the forest service as a way of preventing populations from suffering penalties attributable to the administration's inefficiencies. The 4 February 1993 law states that any collection, cutting, transport and processing of forest products (fruit, gums, resins, honey, etc.) by people holding ownership, usufruct or contractual rights to forests must be authorized by the forest service (République du Sénégal, 1993). Neighbouring communities are allowed to enter national domain forests to collect dead wood, straw and forest products, practise limited grazing, prune and debranch fodder species, and harvest wood for construction and repair of houses. Commercial harvesting is taxed and requires a harvesting permit.

Various additional clauses appear to centralize control over virtually all parkland trees in Senegal through the obligation to declare or obtain authorization for exploitation activities. The code states that plantations are the private property of the planter, but the land on which they stand remains part of the national domain. Furthermore, although harvesting of forest products from private plantations is free, it must first be declared to the forest service, which should then issue a free permit within eight days stating any conditions (République du Sénégal, 1995). The code also presents a list of 11 completely protected species which cannot be felled, uprooted, mutilated or debranched except with prior permission from the forest service for scientific and medicinal purposes. Another set of 14 partly protected species cannot be felled or mutilated without authorization, and the same applies to any isolated woody plants in agricultural lands, playing a role in fertility and sustainability. In addition, tapping of Elaeis guineensis and Borassus aethiopum is strictly prohibited in the national domain. Felling, debarking and debranching of trees outside residential compounds (concessions) requires authorization. Taxes are applied when these operations have a commercial purpose. Forest products cannot be transported without a permit, which is delivered free of charge upon presentation of the harvesting permit. Finally, land clearing is subject to a heavy authorization process, which takes up to five months and requires the payment of a tree cutting tax prior to approval. While these control or declaration procedures may be seen as a way of alleviating negative consequences for populations (République du Sénégal, 1993), they also have hidden costs for rural residents (see below), and maintain state control over access to and management of parkland resources.

Institutional structure

The emphasis on repression rather than extension as well as the misapplication of forest laws, appears to be accentuated by the financial structure of fines. As a result, forest agents are feared and mistrusted, and often viewed as the most corrupt and repressive of state agents by farmers. In Mali, revenues from collected fines are distributed as follows:

Kerkhof (1990) indicates that fines are essential to agents' livelihoods, given their low wages which are also often paid three to six months late, and the lack of support for operational expenses. The natural consequence of this incentive structure is that enforcement work is favoured over activities which do not supplement a forest officer's income, such as extension education. Farmers report being arbitrarily refused free authorizations, while agents deliver permits to those willing to pay for them with no regard to environmental consequences. Farmers also suspect that forest agents do not report the fines and keep the revenues collected. Less than 20 percent of offenders in Mali received a receipt for the fine they paid (McLain, 1991a). Departure from forest laws by agents themselves further reinforces the feeling that these permits and fines are taxes and penalties rather than incentives to adopt more sustainable practices (Sanogo, 1990). No incentive exists in the structure for field agents to monitor one another. Finally, farmers feel that they cannot protect themselves against misapplication of the regulations. The high cost and complexity of procedures for contesting fines have prevented the development of effective mechanisms to check abusive fining.

The traditional emphasis in foresters' work on law enforcement has contributed to a negative attitude of forest agents towards the capacity of local communities to regulate the use of forest resources. In the Fifth Region of Mali, agents generally believed that neither farmers nor herders could be trusted to manage and protect trees in parklands and forests, and that a withdrawal of the forest service would lead to forest destruction (McLain, 1992). In contrast, farmers believed that they have a vested interest in protecting village tree resources, and there are many indications that they would manage their tree stock more actively in the absence of regulations as currently enforced. In places farmers feel that they can enforce resource protection at the village level while others recognize that seasonal migration and labour demands for agriculture make it more difficult. Their capacity to control forest resources has however been undermined by the state which issues cutting permits without consulting villages on appropriate species and locations, and most are clearly aware that in order to control their forest resources they need the state to devolve the authority to enforce local rules. A new emphasis on advice and extension in Sahelian forest services, including training in the improvement of indigenous forest management practices, would contribute to a gradual change in foresters' evaluation of local decision-making capabilities.

Farmers' perceptions of their rights

The literature suggests that farmers perceive their rights to access and manage trees in their agricultural holdings to be strictly limited by the state. In Mali, for instance, over 90 percent of villagers interviewed in the Fifth Region thought that they risked a fine for pruning trees in their compounds and fields (McLain, 1991a). Most people tend to presume all cutting activities are illegal regardless of tree species, regeneration method and location (McLain, 1990).

The poor understanding of forest laws by rural residents is the result of low literacy rates, the lack of translations of forest codes into local languages, and the ineffective and often biased extension efforts of forest agents. Because forest agents themselves often do not know the code well, regulations may be applied inappropriately or simplified, usually in favour of the agent or the state. Thus the majority of forest agents in Mali required farmers to get a permit to prune or cut any parkland tree and a large percentage of them required farmers to pay a tax for felling trees, even in their own fields. Similarly, lopping restrictions were turned into prohibitions by several agents.

Box 5.2
At what cost a permit?
Observers in Mali, Cameroon and elsewhere note that the cost of permits for commercial (wood and gum) harvesting in addition to the expenses required to secure them are excessive and do not make the enterprise worthwhile to individual farmers (Bagnoud et al., 1995a; Bernard, 1996). Permit rates are not in line with the prices of the products they yield, including fuelwood, which is usually not limited locally, and furniture making, for which boles of parkland trees are generally too short. Thus instead of raising the value of trees, permits represent a constraint to the economic optimization of the agricultural system to which farmers respond by adopting a passive or even negative approach to tree management.
Most individuals take the risk of being fined rather than purchasing a felling permit because they say permits are too expensive and not enough wood is collected to justify it, or because it is often not worth the time and travel to understaffed forest service offices. Only people whose activities are visible to forest agents tend to buy felling licences. Such people are often organized in group associations through which they acquire collective permits (McLain, 1990b). Fines do not vary according to amounts of wood harvested so there is little incentive to limit illegal cutting.

Their perceived lack of rights has had a negative impact on farmers' ability to manage their trees in an optimal manner and has even led to counterproductive practices. In a study on tree pruning in Burkina Faso, Timmer et al. (1996) found that the fear of forestry agents, who fine farmers for any intervention other than fruit harvesting and collection of dead wood, is the primary reason why farmers do not prune parkland trees to a greater extent. Farmers' inability to cut off branches of Vitellaria paradoxa infected with Tapinanthus parasites, because of the tree's protection by the Malian Forest Code, was held partly responsible for the high percentage of infected trees (Yossi and Traore, 1987). While regulations allow woody shoots to be cut during land clearing, they prohibit the felling of a tree. This is detrimental to the practice of coppicing, traditionally applied by farmers to species such as Detarium microcarpum (Wiersum and Slingerland, 1997). It also prevents farmers from disposing of unproductive trees on their farms. Even old and dead V. paradoxa and Parkia biglobosa trees cannot be felled without a permit (Bagnoud et al., 1995a). In Senegal, farmers complained that they needed a permit from the Département des eaux et forêts to harvest the relatively high number of Faidherbia albida trees in their fields which had died as a result of a drought (Seyler, 1993).

Furthermore, because of the way regulations are applied, farmers have little interest in planting or protecting too many trees, as restrictions forbid farmers to thin or prune them. As a result, seedlings which have naturally regenerated are deliberately ploughed under or browsed by animals before they become too visible to the forest agent (McLain, 1992). Other consequences include the inaction of farmers in response to heavy infestation of plant parasites on V. paradoxa and several other parkland species, and the foregoing of significant benefits related to improved parkland management, such as higher crop productivity due to reduced tree competition with crops, tree rejuvenation, longer life expectancy and increased fruit production, reduced bird depredation, reduced weed growth, etc. In brief, perceiving a lack of rights to carry out most tree management practices, even ecologically sound ones, farmers have managed their agroforestry parklands in less than optimal ways.

The neglect of pastoral practices in land policies

Despite the major importance of forests for pastoralism in the Sahel, the management of grazing and browsing resources constitutes only a minor part of national legal provisions. Herders' access to forest resources is somewhat less restricted in the new regulations of some countries, but legislative reforms are still timid in view of the specific resource management needs of pastoralists. Before 1995, grazing in Mali was prohibited in classified forests, tree felling was strictly forbidden in the Sahelian zone, and although branches above 1.5 m could be cut (Elbow and Rochegude, 1990), this was often interpreted as a total ban on debranching (McLain, 1992). Cutting of fodder is now allowed in the state protected forest domain, as well as in the forest domain of local collectives which have to put forward ‘appropriate protection and conservation measures’ (République du Mali, 1995). Because they are given the right to approve the forest management plan established by the forest service, local communities may have a greater opportunity to include measures for the management of pastoral resources.

Few specific provisions on grazing rights in forests exist in Niger (République du Niger, 1993). Customary access is allowed in protected forests as is lopping of small branches. In classified forests, the introduction of livestock can be forbidden if deemed detrimental, and lopping of branches is illegal. In Burkina Faso, grazing rights are permitted in forests held by local communities (i.e. all forests except classified state forests and private forests). Other use rights may be allowed if specified in the management plan (Burkina Faso, 1997). Forest exploitation by communities is expected to contribute to the sustainable management of all agricultural, pastoral and forest production.

Authors such as Traoré(1996) and Freudenberger (1993a) argue that Senegal has not had an integral pastoral policy since independence. As illustrated in the series of land laws referred to below, policy dealing with pastoral land use tends to be subordinate to agricultural policy and fails to take into account or support traditional pastoral institutions and practices revolving around the mobility of localized or transhumant herding. The notion of ‘productive’ use of land remains undefined in these statutes, even though it is a fundamental criterion of land allocation or withdrawal.

For instance, the law of 17 June 1964 (Loi relative au domaine national) replaced traditional forms of land tenure with state holding and control of the land and gave rural councils the power to make land management decisions. Arrangements generally favoured agricultural development to the exclusion of pastoral use, disrupted the traditional rangeland zonations and increased competition between local and transhumant herders for local resources. Later, the law of 19 April 1972 (Loi relative aux communautés rurales) gave rural councils the authority to allocate land for ‘productive’ use or to reallocate it. It referred to pastoral activities but mostly with the aim of limiting livestock encroachment on agricultural fields and increasing farmers' claims to their cultivation areas. The decree of 10 March 1980 was a step forward in that it allowed the official designation of rangelands and protected them and livestock tracks from clearance and cultivation. Nevertheless, even in lands zoned for animal husbandry, pastoral management patterns are not recognized. Furthermore, the ‘pasture conservation commissions’, which are required to file requests for grazing reserves, are heavily dominated by state personnel and the filing process is complicated and lengthy. Recent rangeland management experiences in the northern Ferlo region have consisted of controlled grazing contracts which have allocated large land tracts to influential herder families. However, these fenced-in and fiercely guarded areas exclude access by other local and transhumant herders and create greater tenure insecurity and land-use imbalances between users.

Fig 5.8 Cattle herded through Faidherbia albida parklands.
R. Faidutti

Fig. 5.8

In Senegal and other Sahelian countries, bitter conflicts resulting from livestock straying into fields result from the fact that policies have not recognized the land management needs and practices of pastoralists and that legal texts are used to their detriment. Conflicts are particularly intense in the southern Ferlo region of Senegal, because this region borders the area of active groundnut production which is politically and economically controlled by the powerful Mouride brotherhood. Needs for additional cropping land are readily and officially satisfied by rural councils who interpret legal provisions in favour of agricultural use. Farmers also establish fields unofficially and later seek to legalize their access. As a result, fields are ‘straying’ and causing damage to herds. Land where pastoralists naturally enjoyed secure tenure, including areas recognized by the same rural communities as rangeland under the 1980 Law, is being taken away. A further threat is the increasingly widespread settlement of farmers around boreholes in order to set up horticultural operations. This inevitably leads to damage by herds which are pushed into areas they do not traditionally use as they are characterized by poor grazing resources, no water points and few silvipastoral reserves.

In addition, there is increasing pressure in the area from the Mouride marabouts to declassify gazetted forests, which pastoralists traditionally rely on to cope with dry-season shortages of grazing resources, for use as land reserves for groundnut cultivation. Land allocation and degazetting of forests for the benefit of the agricultural sector contribute to intensified conflicts, support the marginalization of herders and detract from traditions of concerted conflict management.

In spite of their importance in Sahelian economies, the needs of pastoralists are, for the most part, neglected in forest codes.

The allocation of resources away from pastoralism causes the natural landholding balance between crops and livestock to break down and this generates conflicts. A solution to this situation would require a full recognition of pastoralism as a valid form of land use and the incorporation of the diverse local pastoral knowledge, practices and authorities into the policy-making process. When appropriate, conflicts might be settled in favour of pastoralists, for instance by fining farmers for unauthorized spontaneous settlement, or use of reserved areas, or absolving herders for damage caused. Traditional conflict management institutions, such as the Ay Njambur (Wise Men) Commissions with equal representation of freely chosen parties, can be spontaneously convened to settle conflicts before the official administration becomes involved.

Implications for improved parkland management

Whether or not legislative changes result in more decentralized parkland management depends on how effectively they are communicated to, and applied by, the various levels of the forest administration. Based on a reading of the legal texts, it would seem that Sahelian forest codes have moved significantly towards allocating local individuals and communities a share of the national land and forest domains. However, important constraints remain to the empowerment of rural populations in managing local forest resources with less direct state regulation. Effective and decentralized forest management are unlikely to be achieved simply through the promulgation of new laws, but will be the result of a slow and iterative process. Most of the following recommendations for alleviating obstacles to the improved management of agroforestry parklands have been specifically identified in McLain (1992).

A basic requirement for effectiveness and local acceptance of forest legislation is that populations who rely on forest resources for their livelihoods need to be engaged in its formulation. Methods to facilitate local involvement in the further development and revision of natural resource regulations will therefore need to be tested. Taking into account the existence of local variations in ecological and socio-economic conditions, the design of legal provisions may need to include basic guidelines for application at the national level as well as specific regulations for implementation at province or district levels.

The state cannot effectively manage all forest resources it has claimed control over and may need to recognize that individuals and communities are in a better position to manage some types of forest resources. Land categories should be clearly defined according to existing land and forest rights. The forest domain protected in the name of local collectives, as it is currently specified in Burkina Faso, Mail and Niger, could distinguish between at least three forest land types over which individuals, communities, or groups of communities, have recognized rights. The non-forest domain needs to be treated separately, giving landholders the ability to exercise more control. Resource regulation, except in the case of large-scale exploitation or sensitive areas, could be mostly devolved to individuals and communities through management or use contracts with central or local government authorities. The role of the state needs to be adjusted according to the capacity of other institutions to manage forest resources effectively. It would focus on the provision of technical assistance and help to mediate resource allocation in community and supra-community forest domains.

Additional legislative modifications specific to parkland zones appear necessary. First, the distinction between the forest and the non-forest domains ought to be clearly stated to avoid arbitrary application of the law by forest agents and farmer uncertainty. Because tree resources in fields are generally crucial to farmers' livelihoods, landholders would benefit from having a greater amount of control over trees on their lands, including the right to fell or prune, and to collect tree products for household or commercial purposes, without the need to obtain a permit. Where their rights to land and tree resources are clear, landholders have a natural interest in ensuring their sustainable use. Tree management in the non-forest domain should therefore mostly be the responsibility of landholders.

Secondly, the reliance on permits, albeit free, for felling trees in the protected forest domain, takes away the rights to trees which populations have planted or protected and is thus a disincentive to local participation in agroforestry. Free authorizations should be eliminated, at least in agricultural lands. If established for classified forests, they should be accompanied by clear criteria stating when they can be granted or refused, together with an appeals process for refusals.

Thirdly, the clause in most codes prohibiting use of protected species is often a disincentive to farmers wanting to conserve and actively manage naturally regenerated trees in their fields. Indigenous management regulations already exist for economically important parkland species. It would be better, therefore, if restrictions on the use of trees outside classified forests, at least in parkland zones, were limited to endangered species. Any such restrictions should only concern the felling of live individuals, while allowing pruning without prior authorization to ensure optimal management.

A greater emphasis is needed on the importance of grazing resources. This includes the recognition of the rights of pastoralists to use lands for forage production and to exercise exclusionary rights to these lands. Because spatial and temporal patterns of use include a variety of grazing lands and watering points, legislation needs to permit the establishment of resource management areas encompassing a series of administrative and ecological zones. A possible solution would be to have the access to resources within theses areas regulated by pluralistic management committees representing all user groups.

The lowering of fine rates in harmony with income levels and the price of tree products could help to reconcile farmers to the forest management approach of the forestry administration. Fines could also be set according to the quantities harvested. Forest services might also consider how they could devolve the authority for administering specific categories of common fines to representative local bodies.

Rural residents' negative experience of the application of forest regulations is in part the result of foresters' incomplete knowledge of these rules. This could be counteracted by more effective communication of legal provisions and associated ministry guidelines throughout the forest administration. More efforts need to be dedicated to the training of forest agents and to public education on the rights and responsibilities of individuals, communities and the state regarding natural resources. Regular refresher courses could inform agents at all levels about the basic legislative texts as well as any revisions. Forestry schools would benefit from staff properly trained in forest legislation, the provision of updated textbooks, and the inclusion of topics such as resource use conflict and management in the curriculum.

Information on forest laws also needs to be made available to farming populations. Extension materials could include translations of the forest code into all major spoken languages, manuals summarizing tree-use rights, permit requirements and criteria for refusing them, information on recourse channels, as well as cassette versions of legal texts. Regulations could also be broadcast on the radio in local languages. Forest services may want to explore possibilities for designing a legal extension programme specifically geared to nomadic pastoralists who are often held responsible for forest law offences. Women are another important target group who are often left out of extension programmes and could be reached through women's groups or literacy programmes.

At the same time as legislative change, McLain (1992) emphasized the need for changes in forestry institutions in order to improve the effectiveness of forest enforcement and extension programmes. Timely and regular salary payments could alleviate the financial problems of forest agents and reduce incentives for corruption. A fiscal decision to set aside a higher percentage of fine receipts for local forest administration units would help to cover operational expenses, for which agents are currently often responsible. To avoid the arbitrary application of forest laws, the development of an accessible and inexpensive legal recourse system to appeal forest citations would be beneficial.

Interview data in Mali suggest that forest agents believe that rural populations are not interested or not capable of managing local natural resources effectively. Foresters are reluctant to cede decision-making and revenue-raising powers to local user groups and individuals. The transfer of authority and appropriate implementation of local management plans will require a positive change in the attitude of field agents towards the capacity of individual farmers and communities for successful forest management. Consistent with a shift in the mission of forest services from rule enforcement towards forest extension, forest agents should be provided with formal and informal training in participatory research, improved tree management techniques, and social sciences. Forest services could also consider establishing internal divisions in charge of natural resource policy.

Control of forest commons

Common property forest resources found between villages are often characterized by poorly articulated tenure regimes, where open access can lead to resource mining (Freudenberger, 1993a). Geographical boundaries between village territories may be unclear. These commons may be claimed by several local communities based on rights of first settlement or later allocation, and can represent a source of latent disputes. There is a lack of effective institutional mechanisms at the scale of groups of concerned villages to coordinate the use of resources and arbitrate conflicts. Governance problems in these commons are further exacerbated by external interventions which are supported by the state. Much to the dismay of villagers in eastern Senegal and elsewhere, forest lands are intensely encroached by outside organized groups of wood collectors for the charcoal and fuelwood supply of cities.

Ribot (1995a) argues that centralized forestry policies in Senegal have placed control over these forest commons into the hands of non-local groups, depriving rural communities of the decision-making power and benefits of managing their local resources. Legislation first assigned control of the entire forest domain and all commercial forest exploitation to the forest service. It recognized villagers' usufruct rights and provided rural councils with the responsibility for managing them, but not the ability to protect the forest they used from commercial exploitation. Separating use and commerce of forest products, the forest code limited villagers' access to commercial forestry activities through permits and licences which were ultimately allocated to powerful urban merchants. Policies controlling production, transport, and prices, as well as who and how many people could enter the market, progressively restricted and excluded rural populations from participation in the marketing of wood and charcoal. In addition, merchants generally use migrant labourers for cutting and charcoal-making, so that rural villagers rarely participate in either production or marketing.

Furthermore, restrictions on cutting and charcoal-burning are not uniformly implemented; this reinforces control of traders to the detriment of local residents. The non-enforcement or selective allocation of licences, permits, excess quotas and exemption from prosecution allow state officials and forest agents to cultivate alliances with powerful merchants. Cases when rural councils keep charcoal producers from entering local forests but are overruled by state representatives are not uncommon (Freudenberger, 1993a). In these alliances officials gain in economic, political and social terms through the control of allocation while merchants gain more exclusive control over the forest sector. In fact, half the Senegalese charcoal trade is controlled by some 20 out of 4000 registered merchants, some of whom make annual profits of hundreds of thousands of US dollars. As a result, farmers lose subsistence and income opportunities derived from local forests. A more detailed examination of local involvement in the fuelwood sector is provided in the next section.

Fig. 5.9 Canoe hollowed out from a Prosopis africana trunk, Bec de Canard, Cameroon.
C. Bernard.

Fig. 5.9

The depletion of natural resources including fuelwood, game, forest foods, fodder, and water resulting from charcoal production often results in social conflicts, especially with women. While some villagers wish to expel charcoal producers, men benefit from charcoal production through the hiring out of huts, carts, as well as provision of meals. Furthermore, merchants, to whom the legal system gives control over forest production and commercialization, often manage to gain the consent of village chiefs by drawing on their relations with significant religious and political figures. Village dynamics and their broader political and economic context tend to dilute potential conflicts and support the existing chain of access to charcoal production.

Some villages, however, have tried to protect their natural resources by strengthening or creating inter-village organizations and attempting to gain influence in rural councils. Communities in the Middle Senegal River Valley have jointly attempted to close access to outsiders while others, fearing that the state would not support them, have instead opted to sell their wood resources to charcoal makers (Fischer, 1994). In western Senegal, communities collectively attempt to protect their natural forests from uncontrolled tree cutting and grazing, sometimes requesting the authority to punish illicit activities from the forest service (Seyler, 1993). However, the efficiency of these organizations often remains dependent on rule-making powers which are centralized at higher political levels.

Devolution of access and use rights to local communities is recommended to promote a higher efficiency of local resource management due to greater local knowledge, lower transaction costs due to the proximity of forests, as well as better decision-making due to the internalization of social and ecological costs into commercial decisions (Ribot, 1995a). Allowing local participation also favours equity and rural development. Such devolution and further institutional support by the state is a prerequisite to enhance the villages' capacities to manage these common lands sustainably. The development and effectiveness of these village organizations is a positive basis for the devolution of rights, responsibilities and benefits at the local level.

Local participation in the fuelwood sector

A series of national in-depth reviews of forest policies affecting local control and management of fuelwood resources have been undertaken in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal (Ribot, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c, 1994d) and synthesized (Ribot, 1995b). Analysing how the new forest policies integrate rural populations into forest resource management, Ribot noted that their control over the decision to dispose of their forest resource and the benefits deriving from their participation in fuelwood management is still uncertain and likely to be limited. Several suggestions are offered for improvement.

Fig. 5.10 Blacksmiths using charcoal from Prosopis africana, Maroua, Cameroon
C. Bernard

Fig. 5.10

Participatory forest management relies on two central issues, the devolution of control over commercial decisions to local populations, and participation through locally accountable representation (Ribot, 1996). In a major innovation, Mali's new code gives communities the possibility to remove from commercial access (or classify) any forest or forest species for protection measures deemed appropriate (République du Mali, 1995). However, the smallest decentralized territorial collectives to which this right is devolved consist of a minimum of 15 to 20 villages. Because representation is through lists of candidates proposed by registered political parties, it may fail to mirror the diversity of interests in local populations. Burkina Faso's 1997 forest law gives local collectives the possibility of classifying their forests, thus giving them some control over commercial forest exploitation (Burkina Faso, 1997). Putting forest management into the hands of local collectives should ensure local participation in both the costs and benefits of forest production and management. However, production groupements (associations), as currently exist in the Nazinon forest project, for example, include people with an economic interest in commercial forest exploitation but do not represent the diversity of users present in the whole community. In Senegal, allocation of commercial management rights to local collectives is at the discretion of the state. There is no legal mechanism to allow rural communities to protect forest lands if they so wish. They even risk losing their forest concession to external parties if they decide not to harvest it. Nevertheless, in contrast to the old code, new Senegalese regulations allow communities to participate in wood production activities and the resulting revenues, and even to obtain a share of the National Forestry Fund.

The law in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal states that local forest management should be carried out in accordance with management plans (Burkina Faso, 1997; République du Mali, 1995; République du Sénégal, 1993). These are elaborated by forest services and approved by local collectives. Rural communities can sell wood-harvesting rights in forest plots in their locality provided that they reforest and protect regeneration through these forest management contracts. But questions remain concerning the contents, the degree of local say and influence on the plans, the responsiveness of the forest service, and the existence of checks and balances to avoid plans being imposed on villages. The Senegalese law goes further in defining forest maintenance and replanting obligations (but no recourse) for local collectives, as well as giving the forest administration the authority to monitor management and revoke rights. It therefore gives the forest service a high level of control over fuelwood-related rural labour.

Being responsible for forest regeneration and protection, communities, particularly in Senegal, run the risk of selling forest plots for harvesting for less than it will cost in labour and funds to manage them (Ribot, 1995a). Several factors may make them more likely to enter into inappropriate production agreements, such as their inexperience in estimating costs and impacts of production, the threat of losing their forests to outside woodcutters and merchants, short-term economic needs, competition from other villages, persuasion by powerful figures, pressure by forest agents, etc. Rural councils, which are chosen to represent communities, are elected from lists drawn up by urban-based political parties, and take part, like village chiefs, in wider relations with merchants, foresters and religious and political leaders. Therefore, they are not accountable to local populations and are not bound to internalize the social and ecological costs and benefits of forest production. Moreover, the unequal distribution of tasks and decision-making powers within villages is likely to affect who shares in the risks and benefits of forest production. Women are particularly likely to bear the costs of forest destruction. It is thus crucial that they are represented in decision-making bodies. Finally, given their inexperience, there is also a risk that communities may overexploit local forests when given the choice to participate in their large-scale commercial use.

In maintaining control over forest management plans and quotas, forest services have amalgamated technical and economic decisions in the name of the protection of national forest resources. Ribot (1995b) cites evidence that Sahelian forest vegetation regenerates vigorously after woodcutting and can sustain rotations of 4 to 12 years. Agricultural expansion and possibly wild fires are more serious threats. He therefore questions the need for detailed management plans or production quotas and instead proposes minimum forest management standards which rural populations would meet with the technical assistance of the forest service. He also argues that the need to increase the rural price of fuelwood in order to promote forest conservation over agricultural expansion is more pressing than management planning. Laws should further separate the various roles of the forest service, assigning tax collection to elected local representatives, control of tax receipts and policing to the police services, and forest extension to foresters.

Communities have faced unfair competition from alternative legally-supported production by parastatals, the army or through concessions and permits to access wood outside of locally managed forests. Local groups will not be able to obtain higher income from their products if these parallel forms of production continue. A solution is to extend local control over all forest lands except classified forests, thus eliminating non-locally controlled access to forests. Provided that rights are devolved to the smallest level of local collectives, this would place all production under the same management requirements and would ensure that costs of production are internalized. The control of local populations over the commercial use of forests and the obligation to have usufruct rights in the forests in order to participate in harvesting would also contribute to greater scarcity and higher revenue from the resource.

In order to increase farmer participation in benefits of forest production, Ribot (1995b) proposes a series of measures including fixing producer prices, as done in Burkina Faso, and channeling taxes back to communities. Market access for forest communities needs to be facilitated. He recommends the removal of state support of market regulation (permits, licences, quotas and the support for or requirement of merchant cooperatives) which help concentrate market benefits with an oligopoly of transporters/merchants. Participation in fuelwood management should be limited to active woodcutters. The flow of information on market participants and fuelwood prices, which is currently centralized by merchants and transporters, should also be extended to rural producers, possibly through the forest service.


In general, the extended family is the socio-economic unit in rural West Africa and farms include collective family fields and individual fields allocated by the household head. One acquires land through membership in a lineage by first occupancy, inheritance, gift, customary authority and borrowing. Borrowed land is a major land category, making up 25–50 percent of the cultivated area in Burkina Faso. It permits equitability of land use, flexibility to adjust to demographic changes, and efficiency, as the initiation and termination of loans reduce overcultivation. It also reinforces social stability and cohesion, and evidence shows that it does not preclude adoption of common land intensification practices. When outside legal interventions are superimposed on traditional land tenure arrangements, farmers actively seek to limit their influence on local natural resource management systems.

Sahelian rural communities have created an intricate set of rules and conventions, including rights, obligations and sanctions regulating access and sustainable use of parkland and forest resources, particularly for those of great use and exchange value. Arrangements for the harvest of fruit and other tree products as well as tree felling ensure equal access for all community members, reduce protection costs and minimize intra-community conflicts. They also ensure that resources are collected in quantities which allow sustainable use, at times which are biologically appropriate, and sometimes even conducive to best commercial opportunities. Forest management regulations can be applied on a wide geographical scale through intervillage coordination or the broad political authority of rulers. They are effectively enforced through sanctions of a social, economic and religious nature. Prohibitions or taboos can sometimes reveal traditional management institutions which are threatened by new socio-economic influences. These institutions may have receded, yet some also display resilience and flexibility and are perpetuated from generation to generation, or are created anew to adjust to current conditions.

More individual tree tenure practices also exist within these common property management regimes. All rights pertaining to trees in fields are generally held by holders of inherited or lineage land. Private rights apply on intensively managed lands, yet farmers may allow communal access to some tree products. In turn, collective regimes prevail in fallows and uncultivated lands. Permanent landholders usually reserve for themselves exclusive tree planting and felling rights, but may encourage tree pruning and gathering of tree products by other community members. Restrictions occur depending on the value of the species and quantities harvested. In some places, village leaders preempt lineage heads in the appropriation of tree crops. The increasing value of resources, often linked to a high population pressure, contributes to stronger individual claims. In the Sudano-Guinea zone rights to high-value perennial crops are generally clearly articulated and regulated. Authorized to prune and gather tree products, land borrowers have no disincentive to regenerate parkland trees. However, projects should be aware of how promoting tree regeneration may influence tree tenure and assist all rightholders in defining mutually satisfactory and secure rights to improve participation.

Because planting confers ownership, permanent landholders generally do not authorize tree planting on loaned land. This is reflected in the lower densities of planted trees on borrowed than inherited land, and the lower probability that certain social groups, who primarily rely on land loans, participate in planting. Failure of tree planters to obtain permission from landowners can result in serious conflicts. Planting of exotic and commercially valuable species is often prohibited while indigenous species encounter less resistance. The economic value of plantations is a powerful driving force in the commoditization of land. Traditional tenure regimes nevertheless give landowners and borrowers the opportunity to design informal agreements in which tree planting is of clear benefit to both parties.

Women have usufruct rights to land loaned by their husbands or kin group heads. However, the year-to-year mobility of these plots, which was found to vary widely geographically, can be a serious constraint to long-term investments. The right to plant trees is usually denied. Consequently, they are less likely to participate in tree-planting activities. However, because they are entitled to prune trees on their land and also have relatively secure gathering rights, they participate actively in the protection of natural tree regeneration. Because of their distinct roles in the household economy, men and women often differ in their management strategies regarding trees, and conflicts arise. A number of cases suggest that women's land and tree rights and living conditions are more vulnerable to land use changes, including breakdown of fallow cycles and the development of horticultural operations, than those of male landholders.

Superimposed on traditional land and tree tenure regimes are forest codes, originally written for the whole of French West Africa. The general trend for colonial and postcolonial administrations was to reduce the influence of customary village authorities over land rights in order to achieve resource management based on centralized state control. More recently, most Sahelian countries have revised their forestry legislation but many basic similarities remain. In principle, the new forest codes go some way towards recognizing customary rights and, in some cases, devolving management of certain forest resources to local populations. In practice, implementation is complicated by ambiguous definitions of different types of forest resources. Farmland technically falls outside the forest domain, but because rural landholdings are often unregistered, they continue to fall under the state's control. Thus many restrictions originally intended to protect forest trees are also applied to trees on farms and in fallows, with the result that farmers are prevented from carrying out basic management activities such as pruning, thinning or coppicing, which are crucial in optimizing their land use systems.

Forest codes are often poorly understood by rural people and forest agents alike. Faced with a lack of human and financial resources, most forest services are unable to enforce regulations properly, and individual agents often take the option of interpreting obscure permit requirements to their own benefit in order to supplement their meagre salaries. This serves to further disenchant farmers, for whom forest agents are among the most disliked of government officials. Moves to encourage and officially recognize local management of resources will need to be accompanied by institutional change within forest administrations with far greater emphasis given to training of staff in participatory approaches and acknowledgement of the often sustainable nature of traditional management practices.

In spite of their importance in Sahelian economies, pastoralists are a group whose special needs are, for the most part, neglected in both the old and revised forest codes. In some cases, attempts are now being made to designate rangelands and protect them from clearing and cultivation. As with community-based forest management, however, systems to ensure local control of grazing resources are often difficult to establish and easily taken over by elites. Another area of potential conflict are the forest commons between villages, the rights to which may be disputed under both traditional and modern law. These are increasingly encroached (sometimes with government approval) by woodcutters and charcoal burners from outside the area, leaving communities frustrated in their attempts to manage and benefit from their local resources. Devolution of access and use rights will not happen overnight, but will require a lengthy process of learning - both by forest administrations and local communities - to achieve the long-term aim of more sustainable management of forest resources.

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