Tanzania’s community forests: Their impact on human well-being and persistence in spite of the lack of benefit

Nicole Gross-Camp

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In this paper I describe the influence of community-based forest management (CBFM) on the well-being of local stakeholders in eight Tanzanian villages. The justification for this focus is based on the broad, international support for CBFM, support for its expansion within Tanzania specifically, and foundational belief that CBFM has the potential to provide significant social benefits to the communities in which it is practiced. Using a participatory video process, I developed a questionnaire to help quantify and qualify changes in aspects of well-being over a 10-year period, 2005–2015. These changes were based on individual responses but reflected changes in larger household units. Individuals given the questionnaire were selected following a wealth ranking process in which households were assigned, by a subselection of their community, a wealth category. This process also helped to identify current leaders and female-headed households in each village, groups that have been demonstrated to disproportionately benefit or bear the cost of other interventions. Households’ wealth categories were found to be largely stable, with most remaining in the wealth category assigned in 2005 to 2015 with no significant difference between villages with or without CBFM. In contrast, current leaders were found to be more likely to increase in wealth and female-headed households, more likely to decrease. Two significant differences in CBFM and non-CBFM villages are reported: greater food insecurity and better water access in areas with CBFM. Focal group discussions of these results challenged the relevance of CBFM presence-absence in driving such findings, revealing a strong narrative of communitylevel support for CBFM by local stakeholders defined by greater control of their forest (and an ability to exclude outsiders), regular access to forest products, and pride in recognition for their conservation efforts (by other villages and the state).

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Community forestry
  • Participatory video
  • Tanzania
  • Wealth ranking
  • Well-being

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