Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Peer-reviewed CIFOR and World Bank studies find that community-managed forests are better for conservation than strict protected areas

7 October, 2011

Two peer-reviewed studies published recently show that strict conservation is less effective in reducing deforestation than community forests that are managed and controlled by Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities within multiple use systems (e.g. IUCN categories V and VI)

One study, by Porter-Bolland et al. from CIFOR, is a statistical analysis of annual deforestation rates as reported in 73 case studies conducted in the tropics. They find that deforestation is significantly lower in community-managed forests than in strict protected forests.

The other study on forest loss undertaken by the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group (authored by Nelson and Chomitz) finds that some community-managed forests are located in areas with higher deforestation pressures than strict protected areas. Taking this into account, they find that community-managed forests are much more effective in reducing deforestation than strict protected areas (cf. summary table, p9). Where there is data, they find that forest areas managed and controlled by Indigenous Peoples are even more effective.

This is additional evidence that effective actions to conserve forests should be based on supporting secure land tenure for peoples and communities who live in and around forests, and the recognition of community forests and Indigenous Peoples’ territories. This approach is at once more effective and cheaper than conventional protected area options, provides opportunities to improve local livelihoods and ensures respect for human rights. So why are protected areas still multiplying rapidly and receiving the vast majority of conservation funding? And why is it that these areas are now in line to benefit from possible finance under global and national REDD policies and funding mechanisms?

These questions need to be examined in public and in policy debates at the national and international levels. There is an urgent need to rethink forest conservation policies and adopt approaches that redirect conservation and climate finance to actions that are more effective and just for forest peoples.

For further information: Andrew Nelson and Kenneth M. Chomitz, “Effectiveness of Strict vs. Multiple Use Protected Areas in Reducing Tropical Forest Fires: A Global Analysis Using Matching Methods,” PLoS ONE 6, no. 8 (2011): e22722.

Luciana Porter-Bolland et al., “Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics,” Forest Ecology and Management (June 2011),