Citizen Monitoring May Help Forest Conservation Globally
A UCLA-led study is part of special collection of reports released today by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) focused on at-risk global natural resources. The combined studies, “Sustaining the Commons,” represent the work of teams who focused their research on six regions of the world, including Africa, Amazonia and China. Each team analyzed the role that community monitoring of common-pool resources, such as forests and water, can play to support sustainable management of those natural resources. Darin Christensen, assistant professor of public policy and political science at UCLA Luskin, and his team focused on a yearlong program of community monitoring efforts in Liberia. The African nation is experiencing a relatively rapid deforestation due to timber sales and the conversion of land for small-scale and commercial agriculture, according to Christensen. “The benefits from this economic activity are not broadly distributed: Those in power amass benefits, while many Liberians see forests cleared and little compensation,” said Christensen, who worked with political scientists Alexandra C. Hartman of University College London and Cyrus Samii of New York University. “The status quo is untenable,” Christensen said. “Environmentally, it’s permanently degrading forests; socially, it’s entrenching inequality and poverty.” Christensen and colleagues found that the program helped rural communities in Liberia monitor communal forests by increasing knowledge about land management. However, the program did not decrease deforestation, suggesting that communities may need compensation to forgo forest use. “Collectively, we hope the studies demonstrate that empowering communities can help to improve the management of natural resources,” Christensen said.
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