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Fifteen years of forest community management in Niger: From a technician's dream to social reality

Rives F., Peltier R., Montagne P.. 2013. Small-Scale Forestry, 12 (1) : p. 87-105.

DOI: 10.1007/s11842-012-9203-5

Forest management policies in tropical countries have undergone a paradigm shift in the 1980s. International environmental policies have recommended redirecting natural resource management from state control to approaches giving responsibilities to local people. In Niger, forest cooperatives and firewood rural markets characterized the transition in forest policies toward the integration of rural people in forest management. Forest management principles have been progressively adapted to the social and ecological context, since the establishment of the first cooperatives in 1986. Changes in forest policies concerned two fronts: forest management governance and forest management technical instruments. In this paper, the impact of governance and technical instruments on forest management is studied in two types of firewood rural markets found in Niger. Both rural markets have been designed to bring about a governance shift in favour of rural people. In one type of rural market, rigorous technical instruments were added, consisting in a rotational system among several plots to be harvested in the forest. This paper shows that in the implementation of rural markets, the shift is mainly on governance of forest management, and not so much on technical instruments. The general management principles remain based on scientific knowledge and are not enforced by rural people. These principles have been shown to be inappropriate with regard to Sahelian people's representation of space, but because they are scientific, they cannot be questioned. The study suggests that sustainable forest management will be better served by interesting rural people in the rural markets, and thereby promoting their appropriation of forest resources, than by defining rigorous technical rules.

Mots-clés : bois de chauffage; politique forestière; aménagement forestier; marché; niger; sahel

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