The best books to bring people into forest management

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Author Of Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society
By Carol J. Pierce Colfer

Who am I?

This topic, adaptive collaborative management, has been dear to my heart for nearly a quarter of a century (indeed longer if one includes my involvement in farming systems research and development, a similar agricultural concept with less emphasis on the environment). I have long felt that deep involvement with local communities is crucial if we want to avoid ‘the sins of the past’ in conservation and development. My hope and that of my colleagues has been that by involving local people in a respectful, iterative, inclusive, learning, collaborative process, together we can steer policies and actions in a benign direction that may in fact endure (unlike most such projects). 


I wrote...

Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society

By Carol J. Pierce Colfer (editor), Ravi Prabhu (editor), Anne M. Larson (editor)

Book cover of Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society

What is my book about?

Here we build on two decades of experience using the adaptive collaborative management (ACM) approach in tropical forest landscapes. This book emphasizes lessons learned during and after such experiences that seek to empower forest communities to sustainably manage their environments. Global in scope, we begin with a chapter that makes a solid conceptual case for participatory and learning approaches like ACM. Subsequent chapters take us to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as authors address issues of transdisciplinary collaboration, gender equity, capacity building at all levels, dealing with power both conceptually and practically, and the variety of ways that ACM has been used globally. The concluding chapter focuses on expanding the approach upwards and outwards, while maintaining its community-level ‘center.’

The books I picked & why

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Negotiated Learning: Collaborative Monitoring for Forest Resource Management

By Irene Guijt (editor),

Book cover of Negotiated Learning: Collaborative Monitoring for Forest Resource Management

Why this book?

The collection focuses on communities in the tropics – specifically in Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, Philippines, and Zimbabwe where the Adaptive Collaborative Management approach discussed in my own book was first used, in the early 2000s. The examples in this book focus on the centrality of learning in the ACM process. When we developed our version of ACM (at the Center for International Forestry Research), we imagined the monitoring would build on the literature on criteria and indicators in sustainable forest management (C&I). It did that, and more. This book shows the many ways that the program itself ‘walked the talk,’ using its emphasis on learning to expand our own approach beyond its beginnings—just as our own new book does.


The Decentralization of Forest Governance: Politics, Economics and the Fight for Control of Forests in Indonesian Borneo

By Moira Moeliono (editor), Godwin Limberg (editor), Eva Wollenberg (editor)

Book cover of The Decentralization of Forest Governance: Politics, Economics and the Fight for Control of Forests in Indonesian Borneo

Why this book?

The articles in this book provide a thorough understanding of the diversity of the local communities in this area of Borneo, their characteristics, and their conflictual interactions with government, industry, and other outside actors. The location is just north of the area of Borneo with which I myself have been periodically involved, research-wise, since 1979. Although the adaptive collaborative management program discussed in my own book initially intended to use this site as one of their own, the researchers involved chose a different path. Still, the book addresses issues of collaboration and adaptation, from a variety of perspectives; and I found the similarities and differences with the nearby area I know well fascinating. The book also documents a fascinating period in Indonesia’s recent history.


Recent Approaches to Participatory Forest Resource Assessment: Rural Development Forestry Study Guide

By Jane Carter (editor),

Book cover of Recent Approaches to Participatory Forest Resource Assessment: Rural Development Forestry Study Guide

Why this book?

This book is as much a manual as a book, but I particularly liked it because it provided me with specific examples of ways that local communities had been involved in forest issues – a topic I was struggling with how to implement in the late 1990s (as we developed the ACM approach on which my own book focuses). Carter’s book also had chapters on collaboration, on learning, on local management – all within a forestry framework, in a variety of tropical countries. As I glance through it again, to consider this description, I realize much of its contents remain relevant in 2022.


A New Era for Collaborative Forest Management: Policy and Practice insights from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

By William H. Butler (editor), Courtney A. Schultz (editor),

Book cover of A New Era for Collaborative Forest Management: Policy and Practice insights from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

Why this book?

Butler and Shultz pull together authors who have worked on the American CFLRP, a broader scale attempt to implement a collaborative and adaptive approach in the US – with a different genesis, history, goal, and funding than my own work, entitled ACM. Yet, the similarities were fascinating, so much so that I wrote a paper comparing the two approaches. I was also fascinated to read this book, as I was in the process of gaining more understanding of the issue of forest restoration – especially as it relates to communities which this book addresses.


Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

By Laura Anne German (editor), Alain Karsenty (editor), Anne Marie Tiani (editor)

Book cover of Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

Why this book?

This book is the fourth in a series on forest decentralization globally, a series for which I edited the other three books. So I was gratified to see how this one turned out. I appreciate it because it provides some of the same contextual material on governance in Africa – an area I know less well that the book by Moeliono et al. provided for Borneo. Some of the authors and one editor had also been members of the original ACM teams in Africa (in the early 2000s), bringing some of their own related insights into the discussion. 


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