Small-scale Forestry

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 33–50 | Cite as

Non-Governmental Organizations, Rural Communities and Forests: A Comparative Analysis of Community-NGO Interactions

  • Glenn WrightEmail author
  • Krister Andersson
Research Paper


Scholars, policy-makers and advocates have, in the last decade, recommended greater involvement by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in community forest management in developing countries. Behind these recommendations lies a notion that NGOs are a sound complement to formal governments and that NGOs can improve communities’ abilities to manage their own forests. There is limited empirical work, however, testing how NGO activity affects local forest governance and deforestation. This paper reports the results of quantitative statistical tests on the effects of local NGO importance—as measured by local forest users’ reports of NGO importance—on deforestation in a sample of 200 rural Bolivian communities. In addition, it examines the effect of NGO importance on community forestry institutions—specifically, the presence of institutions for rule-making, forest monitoring, sanctioning, and enforcement of rules. Contrary to earlier research, these results suggest that NGOs have no discernible effect on community forestry institutions, though other external actors—most notably, municipal governments—seem to have a positive effect. The paper also reports a negative correlation of NGO importance on deforestation. Although these quantitative results are in part supported by qualitative field observations in selected Bolivian communities, care is needed in drawing generalized causal inferences from this evidence.


Bolivia Common pool resources Local governance Political institutions Deforestation Community forestry 



Financial support from the National Science Foundation (Grants HSD-0527138; SEB-0648447) is gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Steve Harrison for useful suggestions on an earlier version of the text.


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Copyright information

© Steve Harrison, John Herbohn 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of Alaska SoutheastJuneauUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political Science, Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado, BoulderBoulderUSA

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