Environmental Management

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 1312–1331 | Cite as

Reforms from the Ground Up: A Review of Community-Based Forest Management in Tropical Developing Countries

  • Lise ToleEmail author


After an initial burst of enthusiasm in the 1990s, community-based forest management (CBFM) is increasingly being viewed with a critical eye. Evidence suggests that many programs have failed to promote their stated objectives of sustainability, efficiency, equity, democratic participation and poverty reduction. A large volume of academic literature now exists on CBFM, examining both the success and failure of such initiatives in a wide variety of countries. Through analysis of key themes, concepts and issues in CBFM, this article provides a review of CBFM initiatives in tropical developing countries for policymakers, practitioners and planners wishing to gain an understanding of this wide-ranging, interdisciplinary academic literature. The article identifies key institutions and incentives that appear to significantly affect the success or failure of CBFM initiatives. In particular, it reports that consideration of institutional and socioeconomic factors along with personal characteristics of key stakeholders such as beliefs, attitudes, financial resources and skills are important determinants of CBFM outcomes. However, local incentive structures also appear to be important. There is increasing recognition in the literature of the need to consider the conditions under which local politicians entrusted with carrying out CBFM initiatives will deem it worthwhile to invest their scarce time and resources on environmental governance.


Decentralization Community-based forest management (CBFM) State-society synergies Participatory exclusions 



I would like to thank the editor and the referees for their many helpful comments on previous versions of the article. The author would also like to thank G. Koop and colleagues at the World Bank, Environment & Infrastructure Division, DECRG, for stimulating discussions on decentralization and forest management issues. The article was conceived while the author was on leave at the World Bank. She would like to thank colleagues at the World Bank for providing research facilities and for their thoughtful insights on many of the issues discussed in the article.


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© Her Majesty the Queen in Rights of United Kingdom 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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