Donor-Driven Participatory Forest Management and ‘Local Social Realities’: Insights from Pakistan

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Babar Shahbaz Tanvir Ali


The process of institutional changes in the forestry sector of Pakistan was initiated by the Government of Pakistan with support from different donor agencies during the mid-1990s. This paper analyses a participatory forest management initiative in the milieu of local social realities (such as customary forest use, power relations and livelihood concerns) and the actors who are part of these realities. The paper shows that the donor-driven decentralisation of forest management did not consider traditional practices of forest use, nor did it attempt to engage customary institutions and local civil society in the process. Though new institutions (joint forest management and village development committees) have been established for implementation of participatory forest management and land use plans at the village level, the paper shows that responsibility delegated by the state to these institutions concerns protection of the forests rather than management. A mismatch between local livelihood concerns and the institutional change process is also revealed. The paper identifies historically rooted mistrust between local actors and state authorities as one of the key factors hindering the success of the participatory approach, and recommends that the village-level institutions should be accorded both empowerment and incentives to ensure sustainable participatory forest management.

Article Details

Refereed Articles (Humanities)
Author Biographies

Babar Shahbaz, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

Dr. Babar Shahbaz is visiting Fellow, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad and Assistant Professor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (Pakistan). His research fields include natural resource management (especially forests), participatory development, rural livelihoods and the poverty–environment nexus. He actively contributes to dialogues on these themes at various national and international fora

Tanvir Ali, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

Dr. Tanvir Ali is a Professor of Agricultural Extension, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. His research interests include rural development policies, decentralisation and gender issues.