Forest Landscape Restoration, Community Based Forest Management, and the role of social learning in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from Malawi

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Leo Zulu

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As the forest landscape restoration (FLR) paradigm gathers momentum and countries commit to restoring 350 million of hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge alone, community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) will play a major role in achieving long-term restoration success. Yet CBNRM still faces major challenges to delivering sustainable ecological and social benefits. Some failures have resulted in a CBNRM backlash and recentralization of forest management. Common-pool resources theory and case studies show that successful CBNRM institutions take longer (decades) to build than common project lifespans, highlighting the need for learning and adaptive management. But what happens after CBNRM-based restoration projects/initiatives fail? Do key stakeholders learn from failures to resuscitate restoration? Under what conditions? What are the potential triggers for formal and social (self-) learning? How can such social learning be fostered? What are the implications for CBNRM-based policies for achieving the ambitious FLR goals? We used insights from theory on social learning and adaptive resource management experiences and data collected from quantitative social surveys and qualitative key informant interviews, focus groups, and observation, along with some forest-condition data from the early 2000s to mid-2010. Local/traditional leadership quality, the extent of scarcity-based adversity, economic incentives, existing social capital dynamics, and ecological resilience of common tree species were some of the factors that promote such restorative social learning. Findings highlight the need to consider and foster social learning for sustainable CBNRM-based FLR, describe the implications for policy and future research, and broader implications for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration