Book By Colfer et al. Adaptive Collaborative Management of Forest Landscapes

Many forest management proposals are based on top-down strategies, such as the Million Tree Initiatives, Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) and REDD+, often neglecting local communities. In the context of the climate crisis, it is imperative that local peoples and communities are an integral part of all decisions relating to resource management. This volume examines the value of Adaptive Collaborative Management for facilitating learning and collaboration with local communities and beyond, utilising detailed studies of forest landscapes and communities.

On 30 November, an exciting new, open access collection is coming out: Adaptive Collaborative Management of Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society (London: Earthscan / Routledge, 2021). It brings together the experiences of 21 international scholars who have researched and facilitated AR processes — here called ACM, in forest contexts — around the world (mainly in the tropics). Twelve of these scholars are from developing countries themselves.

“This is a thought-provoking and engaging book about how a global initiative on adaptive collaborative management has helped transform the lives of both rural community members and researchers. It provides an inspiring account of the enormous power of shared learning experiences. What makes the book stand out to me are the personal reflections by the authors, especially when it comes to the many struggles involved in creating and sustaining this innovative initiative.” – Krister Andersson, Professor of Political Science and Director, The Center for the Governance of Natural Resources, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

The book begins with a reflexive chapter that also outlines the theoretical and disciplinary foundations of the ACM approach. Chapter 2 (by Johnson and Pokorny) strives to capture the experience of villagers as partners in an ACM-like process in Latin America. Mutimukuru et al. (Chapter 3) reflexively examine their own experience of interdisciplinarity in ACM research in Zambia, emphasizing lessons learnt. There are chapters that revisit locations of previous ACM work, specifically looking at gender differentiation and communities with and without ACM. In Chapter 4, Bomuhangi et al. use large scale surveys to make such comparisons in Uganda; and in Chapter 5, Mukasa et al. discuss the ACM process and its effects at two time periods, in some of the same sites. In Chapter 6, Cronkleton, Evans and Larson examine the capacity building on all sides – in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ghana — that is needed to collaborate effectively in this processual approach; and Chapter 7, by Sarmiento Barletti, presents a simple but effective tool to level the playing field and deal with status differences within multi-stakeholder processes. Chapter 8, by McDougall and Ojha, considers the power implications of ACM, as it has been and should be conducted, from the perspectives of political ecology and feminist theory; In Chapter 9, Fisher and Jackson review the many ways that participatory action research, a crucial approach within ACM, has been used in different sectors. The book concludes with a more prospective assessment – by Prabhu, Larson and Colfer — of ways that ACM-like approaches are currently being tried at broader scales, using two African examples.

The collection was inspired in the spring of 2020, when Carol J. Pierce Colfer contacted the one-time team members – now scattered far and wide — who had participated in the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR’s) original ACM program in the early 2000s. She asked if any of them might like to contribute to a collection on their experience (positive and negative) that derived from their ACM work. She got 22 offers to contribute! Because of the broad interest in the subject and extensive experience represented in this group, a second volume, tentatively titled Adaptive Collaborative Management of Forests: Past, Present and Future (edited by Colfer and Prabhu) will be coming out next year.

The excitement this first book engenders derives from the recognition that many of these ideas – a holistic and multi-scale approach, the role of learning and adaptation, equity, transdisciplinarity, and more – have gained sufficient traction globally, that development and conservation practitioners and researchers are now more ‘ready’ for this approach than was the case when CIFOR (among many others) began developing it in the late 1990s. The editors of this collection led the CIFOR processes and the authors are among the world’s most experienced in implementing this approach in international natural resource contexts.

This book revisits places where ACM was conducted earlier on – to assess its holding power — and it discusses what users have experienced, what they have learned from the processes they encouraged. It provides a valuable, experiential base with guidance for those newly interested to implement an AR approach in development and conservation contexts. The book will be of great interest to people in a variety of arenas:  restoration, conservation, tenure clarification, indigenous and gender rights/equity, climate change, and more.

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