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Can community monitoring save the commons? Evidence on forest use and displacement

Eisenbarth, Sabrina and Graham, Louis and Rigterink, Anouk S. (2021) 'Can community monitoring save the commons? Evidence on forest use and displacement.', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences., 118 (29). e2015172118.


Rapid deforestation is a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC, 2019). One proposed policy tool to halt deforestation is community forest management. Even though communities manage an increasing proportion of the world's forests, we lack good evidence of successful approaches to community forest management. Prior studies suggest successful approaches require a number of `design conditions' to be met. However, causal evidence on the eectiveness of individual design conditions is scarce. This study isolates one design condition, community-led monitoring of the forest, and provides causal evidence on its potential to reduce forest use. The study employs a randomized controlled trial to investigate the impact of community monitoring on forest use in 110 villages in Uganda. We explore the impact of community monitoring in both monitored and unmonitored areas of the forest using exceptionally detailed data from on-the-ground measurements and satellite imagery. Estimates indicate that community monitoring does not aect our main outcome of interest, a forest use index. However, treatment villages see a relative increase in forest loss outside of monitored forest areas compared to control villages. This increase is seen both in non-monitored areas adjacent to treatment villages, and in non-monitored areas adjacent to neighboring villages not included in the study. We tentatively conclude that at least part of the increase in forest loss in non-monitored areas is due to displacement of forest use by members of treatment villages due to fear of sanctions. Interventions to reduce deforestation should take this potentially substantial eect into consideration.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Date accepted:10 February 2021
Date deposited:26 February 2021
Date of first online publication:12 July 2021
Date first made open access:12 January 2022

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