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Equity, Social Justice, and Conflict

Forest governance and management in Africa is challenged in many regards by inequity, corruption, and conflict. Large timber concessions have provided limited opportunities for local communities to generate wealth, provide employment, and improve livelihoods. At the same time, conflicts have direct impacts on forests in a variety of ways, including:

  • forests provide combatants with refuge, food, and funds (by selling, for instance, valuable tropical hardwoods);
  • armed conflict affects forests and forest dwelling people through the use of defoliants and the overharvesting of bushmeat;
  • loggers and farmers access forested areas by taking advantage of roads built for military purposes; and
  • refugees and displaced people use forests for hunting, collecting fuelwood, and cutting trees to build new/temporary houses.

Conflicts are often linked to poverty and the insecurity of access to forest resources, and will persist in forested areas without major policy reforms related to tenure rights and governance. Ownership and the control of forest land is a key part of the problem and is, therefore, a key part of the solution; tenure reform must revolve around the restitution of property rights and customary and traditional rights (decriminalizing the poor). We conduct research that focuses on devolution, decentralization, and community ownership of forest resources.