Principal Investigators: Sabrina Eisenbarth, Chaning Jang, Ariana Keyman, Anouk Rigterink
Country: Uganda

Dates of Intervention: September 2017 - July 2018

Background: Deforestation is an important contributor to world-wide greenhouse gas emissions: it is estimated that deforestation is responsible for 12% of anthropogenic carbon emissions (van der Werf et al., 2009). As such, reducing deforestation is considered one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing carbon emissions (Stern, 2006). Although the majority of the world’s forest area is administered by governments, a small but growing proportion of forest area is officially designated to be managed by Indigenous People and local communities. In the continent of Africa in particular, the share of forest area that is officially designated as such has increased from 3.9 per cent in 2002 to 5.8 per cent in 2013. These estimates do not include any formally government administered forest area that is de facto managed by local communities or Indigenous People because of weaknesses in enforcement of government legislation. The appeal of community forest management appears widespread, with “nearly every country in the world […] experimenting with some form of ‘Community Forestry’” (Edmonds, 2002). At the international level, the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) aims to avoid deforestation. Communities are envisioned to contribute to measurement of carbon stocks embodied in forests as required by REDD+ Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) (Government of Uganda, 2011; Kenya Forest Serivce, 2010). Deforestation is an important problem in Uganda, with some coining the deforestation rate in Uganda as the “highest in East Africa” (Banana, Bukenya, Arinaitwe, Birabwa, & Ssekindi, 2012). According to data from Global Forest Watch, 38 per cent of the land area in Uganda is covered by forest, and Ugandan forests are under a high risk of deforestation. The annual deforestation rate in Uganda amounted to 5.7% between 2001 and 2014. Deforestation and land use change contribute 37.6 percent to Uganda’s Greenhouse Gas emissions in 2011 (FAO data). Communities in Uganda play an important role both in forest management as well as in deforestation. Communities can (co)manage forests that are collectively privately owned, that are registered as community forests, or that are covered by a Collaborative Forest Management agreement (Government of Uganda, 2003). Correspondingly, one of Uganda’s National Forestry policy objectives linked to REDD+ is to “promote innovative approaches to community participation in forest management”. However, communities also engage in charcoal production, firewood harvesting, and livestock grazing, which are three out of the seven main drivers of deforestation as identified by Uganda’s REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (Government of Uganda, 2011). The Ugandan REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal furthermore envisions that communities could be involved in forest monitoring under REDD+ MRV. It recognizes that communities, with support from NGOs have contributed to high-quality monitoring systems in other countries, such as Nepal. At the same time, it acknowledges that “community monitoring capacity is still relatively weak” (Government of Uganda, 2011).

Research Design: This study proposes to investigate the effects of community monitoring – of forest stock and forest use – on forest conservation practices and household welfare. The proposed study is a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT), the study population being villages which have de jure management rights over some forested area. These villages will be randomly assigned to receive or not receive the community monitoring treatment.The community monitoring treatment consists of training of a number of village inhabitants to measure forest use and the amount of biomass incorporated in the community (co)managed forest. Monthly reports of forest use and a yearly report of forest biomass will be discussed in village meetings and displayed in a public place in the village. The study proposes to investigate the effect of this treatment on forest stock, forest use and household welfare. These outcomes will be measured through an on-the-ground assessment of forest biomass and forest use, a household survey and remote sensing data. Under the community monitoring treatment, several community members will undergo a training in which they learn to assess forest use and forest biomass in the Community Forest and/or forest area under a Collaborative Forest Management agreement. Monitors will be recruited based on a fixed set of selection criteria. The training protocol includes mapping the forest and any strata therein, setting out sampling plots (forest transects), and assessing forest biomass and several types of forest use along these transects. Forest biomass is assessed at the beginning of the treatment phase and prior to the endline. Forest use is monitored on a monthly basis. Information collected by the monitors will be disseminated through notices in a public place in the village and will be discussed during meetings of the responsible body for the Community Forest and/or meetings of the organisation signatory to a Collaborative Forest Management Agreement. The study sample consists of 150 villages in Western Uganda that manage forests through either Community Forest or Collaborative Forest Management arrangements, or both. The former includes villages that have taken some, but not all of the steps towards registering a Community Forest. Treatment assignment will take place after completion of the baseline, with 1/3rd communities assigned to the pure control and 2/3rd to the community monitoring only group. Randomization will incorporate stratification/ blocking by district, forest management arrangement, and other covariates. We expect these to include village size, past forest cover change rates, household forest use, household income, gender composition of the enforcement body and level of social capital. Data will be gathered in four ways: through a community level survey, a household level survey, an on-the-ground assessment of the forest and through satellite imagery. The community level survey captures community level covariates, including gender composition of the enforcement body at village level, social capital, prescriptive norms, existence of punishments and sanctions, degree of scrutiny by various actors and degree of information about the state of the forest. The community level survey will also serve to obtain an initial mapping of forest under different ownership arrangements that members of the community can harvest forest products from. The household survey includes self-reported measures of harvesting of a selection of forest products, forest-related household income and household welfare. On-the-ground assessment of the forest includes baseline and endline assessments of forest biomass and forest use. Lastly, satellite imagery can be used to construct baseline and endline measure of forest cover and forest cover loss.


Main hypotheses:

  • H1: Community monitoring increases the level of forest stock.
  • H2: Community monitoring decreases forest use.
  • H3: Community monitoring affects household welfare (two-sided).

Auxiliary hypotheses:

  • H4: Community monitoring increases awareness of changes in the forest.
  • H5: Community monitoring decreases uncertainty about the state of the forest and about forest use.
  • H6: Community monitoring increases participation in forest governing bodies.
  • H7: Community monitoring increases enforcement of forest use rules.
  • H8: Community monitoring increases satisfaction with prescriptive norms relating to forest use.