Sustainability Science

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 73–86 | Cite as

The effectiveness of village bylaws in sustainable management of community-managed exclosures in Northern Ethiopia

  • Mastewal YamiEmail author
  • Wolde Mekuria
  • Michael Hauser
Original Article


Communities in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, have established exclosures on formerly degraded grazing lands and other land uses to promote natural regeneration of plants. Village bylaws devised by communities govern the management of exclosures. We analysed the effectiveness of village bylaws that are used to manage exclosures in addressing forest degradation, resolving conflicts among users over natural resource use, and meeting high expectations of users to realise economic benefits from exclosures through enhancing revenue from sale of grass and dry wood. We collected data using qualitative methods during July and November 2008 in two villages of Tigray. The village bylaws mitigated forest degradation by facilitating users to have common goals in the management of exclosures, and resolved conflicts among users by using monetary sanctions including penalties. The village bylaws were not effective in meeting the high expectations of users to realise economic benefits from exclosures. In some cases, the enforcement of village bylaws was constrained by high social capital, which resulted in the negligence among users in exposing free riders. This indicates that high social capital does not always enhance communal resource management. Moreover, recurrent drought, shortage of fuel wood, and the growing number of landless youths in both villages constrained the effectiveness of village bylaws and further expansion of exclosures. Village committees should focus on addressing the low level of rule enforcement and minimise negligence among users of exclosures through developing a sense of responsibility among users rather than focusing on penalties.


Closed areas Communal forest Institutions Land degradation Rules 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Lorenz Probst for his comments on earlier versions of this article. We would like to thank Yenenesh Abebe for mapping the study area. We are thankful to all the villagers and development agents of Haikhilet and Laelay Ayadim for their time, kindness, and cooperation throughout the field work. We also acknowledge North–South Scholarship Program of the Austrian Exchange Service for financial assistance and Mekelle University for the logistical support provided for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Water Management Institute (IWMI)Addis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.International Water Management Institute (IWMI)VientianeLao PDR
  3. 3.Centre for Development ResearchUniversity of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU)ViennaAustria

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