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A global analysis of the social and environmental outcomes of community forests


Community forest management (CFM) has been promoted for decades as a way to merge environmental conservation with economic development and natural resource rights agendas. Yet many of these initiatives have also led to substantial socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs. We present a comprehensive global analysis of environmental, income and natural resource rights outcomes of CFM, using data from 643 cases in 51 countries. We find that while the majority of cases reported positive environmental and income-related outcomes, forest access and resource rights were often negatively affected by policies to formalize CFM, countering one of CFM’s principal goals. Positive outcomes across all three dimensions were rare. We show that biophysical conditions, de facto tenure rights, national context, user-group characteristics and intervention types are key predictors of joint positive outcomes. These findings highlight key conducive conditions for CFM interventions, which can inform CFM design to ensure positive outcomes across multiple sustainability dimensions.

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Fig. 1: Double and triple outcomes of social and environmental outcomes.
Fig. 2: Mean partial weighted pseudo R2 values for the five most frequently selected variables predicting positive social and environmental outcomes of community forestry across multiple dimensions.
Fig. 3: Mean regression coefficients of the five most frequently selected variables explaining social and environmental outcomes of community forestry in our models.

Data availability

The data used for this analysis is available at:

Code availability

All computer code used in this analysis is available from the authors upon reasonable request.


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We thank the Evidence Based Forestry Initiative at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID) for financing this research through its KNOWFOR programme grant. J.A.O. was supported through an EU FP7 Marie Curie Fellowship (FORCONEPAL). P.C. was supported through the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by CIFOR. We also thank M. Vikas, M. Burbidge, A. Langeland and K. Gregory for their help in screening papers and extracting data and G. Steward, M. Grainger, M. Whittingham, R. Preziosi and E. W. Harris for their help with the statistical analysis.

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R.H., J.A.O., P.N., A.J.M.R. and W.Z. conceived and designed the systematic review. R.H., J.A.O. and W.Z. conducted the review and data extraction. R.H. and J.A.O. conducted the analysis and drafted the manuscript. R.H., J.A.O., P.C., P.N., A.J.M.R. and W.Z. contributed to results interpretation and finalizing of the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Reem Hajjar or Johan A. Oldekop.

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Hajjar, R., Oldekop, J.A., Cronkleton, P. et al. A global analysis of the social and environmental outcomes of community forests. Nat Sustain 4, 216–224 (2021).

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