Conflict management and participation in community forestry

Author(s): Skutsch MM


In this paper consideration is first given to how community forestry practitioners have commonly understood the term ‘participation’, and why the concept of ‘conflict’ does not seem to have overlapped with notions of ‘participation’. Failure to perceive conflict as inherent in participation is shown to have led to problems in implementation of community forestry programmes. The emerging awareness of conflict today is shown to be associated with the move away from community forestry in the form of village-based tree planting schemes towards community forest management, which involves devolution of state authority over natural forests. The paper presents a number of methods for managing conflict and discusses their strong and weak points. Using the experience of the introduction of ‘participation’ as a comparison, the paper considers the extent to which conflict management might be adopted as standard practice by forest agencies in community forestry. The paper concludes that because of the limited mandate of forest agencies, it is unlikely that they will be able to use conflict management tools to bring about social justice in forest conflict situations. However, the paper suggests that use of such tools could result in heightened awareness of the importance of conflict and in this way improve forest practice.

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