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Making Forests Pay: Impacts

It takes years before changes in forest condition can be reliably measured. In Chilimo, where the first pilot was launched 20 years ago, satellite imagery confirms that not only has deforestation been halted, but forest condition has actually been restored (Table 1 and Figure 1).

Table 1. Forest area (ha) in Chilimo before and after PFM

Based on the satellite image analysis illustrated in Figure 1

Ground-based forest monitoring provides further evidence of improved forest condition. Regeneration in PFM forests has been found to be stronger than in adjacent non-PFM forests. Data from Adaba-Dodolla and Bonga, two of the early PFM sites, tells a similar story (Gobeze et al, 2009).

In Adaba-Dodolla, total stem density (a measure of forest growth) of four selected species was higher in forests under participatory management (Ameha, 2013) compared to forests that had not adopted this type of management. The study from Bonga also shows a healthy vegetation structure, with higher seedling, sapling and mature trees in PFM forests than in adjacent non-PFM forests (Gobeze et al, 2009). These findings offer early indications of PFM’s ability to stem deforestation and improve forest conditions.

PFM is not just about forest conservation - it is also and especially about embedding management arrangements that are mutually beneficial to the forests and the people that rely on them. Establishing profitable forest-based enterprises is now recognised as a major component of a successful PFM project. Forests under participatory management regimes today enable local communities to develop viable and profitable forest-based enterprises. Organisations like Farm Africa and
SOS-Sahel work directly with them to identify forest products and services with high economic return, before providing targeted capacity building.[1]

This involves training in improved technologies for quality improvement, developing value chains and establishing linkages to markets, and support for product certification in niche markets that can help generate premium prices - see Box 3 for the case of frankincense production in Benishangul Gumuz.

The analysis of early impact data from Farm Africa’s EU funded PFM Project[2] seems to indicate that it is possible to increase smallholder incomes through marketing non-timber forest products and that such activities can incentivise local communities to discontinue destructive activities such as illegal mining and forest conversion – see Appendix 1 for details.

PFM also offers social benefits beyond the economic and environmental benefits outlined above. The process not only considers revenue sharing between communities and government but also among community members themselves, with a special emphasis on women and marginalised groups. The local governance and democratisation processes involved can support stronger relationships between and among all social groups. In one Farm Africa PFM project, ostracised groups such as the Manja community in south-western Ethiopia were better able to integrate with other groups and express their voices following the introduction of PFM (Lemenih and Bekele 2008).

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[1] Farm Africa applies FAO’s Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) method to identify profitable forest based enterprises (Lecup, 2011) – see also: .