Participatory forest management (PFM) initiatives have emerged worldwide for a range of aims including to improve forest governance, enhance resource conservation and to increase rural people’s access to and benefits from forest resources. Some of these initiatives have also received climate finance support to enhance their impact on mitigation. However, their effects on forest governance and livelihoods are complex and remain poorly studied. In this article, we address this gap by analysing governance and livelihood changes in a PFM initiative in Tanzania that has received funding as a REDD+ pilot site. Based on qualitative governance analysis and quantitative livelihood panel data (2011–2014) that compares villages and households within and outside the project, we find that improvements to forest governance are substantial in project villages compared to control villages, while changes in income have been important but statistically insignificant, and driven by a regional sesame cash crop boom unrelated to enhanced forestry revenues. Focusing on whether PFM had enhanced other wealth indicators including household conditions and durable assets, our analysis shows again no significant differences between participant and control villages, although the participant villages do have, on average, a greater level of durable assets. Overall, our findings are positive regarding forest governance improvements but inconclusive regarding livelihood effects, which at least in the short term seem to benefit more from agricultural intensification than forestry activities, whose benefits might become more apparent over a longer time period. In conclusion we emphasize the need for moving towards longer term monitoring efforts, improving understandings of local dynamics of change, particularly at a regional rather than community level, and defining the most appropriate outcome variables and cost-effective systems of data collection or optimization of existing datasets if we are to better capture the complex impacts of PFM initiatives worldwide.
- Participatory forest management