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Forest management devolution: Gap between technicians' design and villagers' practices in Madagascar

Rives F., Carrière S.M., Montagne P., Aubert S., Sibelet N.. 2013. Environmental Management, 52 (4) : p. 877-893.

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-013-0138-1

In the 1980s, tropical forest-management principles underwent a shift toward approaches giving greater responsibilities to rural people. One argument for such a shift were the long-term relations established between rural people and their natural resources. In Madagascar, a new law was drawn up in 1996 (Gelose law), which sought to integrate rural people into forest management. A gap was observed between the changes foreseen by the projects implementing the Gelose law and the actual changes. In this article, we use the concept of the social-ecological system (SES) to analyze that gap. The differences existing between the planned changes set by the Gelose contract in the village of Ambatoloaka (northwest of Madagascar) and the practices observed in 2010 were conceptualized as a gap between two SESs. The first SES is the targeted one (i.e., a virtual one); it corresponds to the designed Gelose contract. The second SES is the observed one. It is characterized by the heterogeneity of forest users and uses, which have several impacts on forest management, and by very dynamic social and ecological systems. The observed SES has been reshaped contingent on the constraints and opportunities offered by the Gelose contract as well as on other ecological and social components. The consequences and opportunities that such an SES reshaping would offer to improve the implementation of the Gelose law are discussed. The main reasons explaining the gap between the two SESs are as follows: (1) the clash between static and homogeneous perceptions in the targeted SES and the dynamics and heterogeneity that characterize the observed SES; and (2) the focus on one specific use of forest ecosystems (i.e., charcoal-making) in the targeted SES. Forest management in the observed SES depends on several uses of forest ecosystems.

Mots-clés : aménagement forestier; politique forestière; Écosystème forestier; connaissance indigène; participation communautaire; communauté rurale; Évaluation de l'impact; législation; charbon de bois; production forestière; utilisation des terres; gestion des ressources naturelles; madagascar

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