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Persha, Lauren M. & Blomley, Tom (2009). Management Decentralization and Montane Forest Conditions in Tanzania. Conservation Biology, 23(6), 1485-1496.


We examined how differences in local forest-management institutions relate to disparate anthropogenic forest disturbance and forest conditions among three neighboring montane forests in Tanzania under centralized, comanaged, or communal management. Institutional differences have been shaped by decentralization reforms. We conducted semistructured interviews with members of forest management committees, local government, and village households and measured anthropogenic disturbance, tree structure, and species composition in forest plots. We assessed differences in governance system components of local institutions, including land tenure, decision-making autonomy by forest users, and official and de facto processes of rule formation, monitoring, and enforcement among the three management strategies. We also assessed differences in frequencies of prohibited logging and subsistence pole cutting, and measures of forest condition. An adjacent research forest served as an ecological reference for comparison of forest conditions. Governance was similar for comanaged and centralized management, whereas communal managers had greater tenure security and decision-making autonomy over the use and management of their forest. There was significantly less illegal logging in the communal forest, but subsistence pole cutting was common across all management strategies. The comanaged forest was most disturbed by recent logging and pole cutting, as were peripheral areas of the larger centralized forest. This manifested in more degraded indicators of forest conditions (lower mean tree size, basal area, density of trees ≥ 90 cm dbh, and aboveground biomass and higher overall stem density). Greater tenure security and institutional autonomy of the communal strategy contributed to more effective management, less illegal logging, and maintenance of good forest conditions, but generating livelihood benefits was a challenge for both decentralized strategies. Our results underscore the importance of well-designed institutional arrangements in forest management and illustrate mechanisms for improved forest governance and conservation in the context of Tanzanian decentralization reforms.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Conservation Biology


Persha, Lauren M.
Blomley, Tom