Revitalizing community forestry in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia: A property right perspective


  • Tadesse Amsalu Institute of Land Administration, Department of Land Administration and Surveying, Bahir Dar University, P.O Box 5001, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia



Community forestry, Community participation, Property rights, Tenure security


Severe deforestation, land degradation, and the lack of forest products in Ethiopia have necessitated the implementation of a community forestry program since the 1980s by mobilizing the local communities. However, there have been incidents indicating that many of the community forests are either degrading or remaining unproductive. While community forests are, in principle, the collective property of the local community, empirical evidence concerning how property rights impact their management and their role in enhancing rural livelihoods and environmental rehabilitation is lacking. This study aims to investigate the performance of community forestry through the lens of property rights and tenure security, in order to uncover the challenges impeding community forestry in Ethiopia, with a focus on community forests in the Amhara Region. The study gathered primary data on community forest management from two community forests located in East Gojam and North Wollo, using questionnaires, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and field observations. Additionally, secondary data on legal frameworks were collected from institutions involved in community forestry. The data analysis employed descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. The findings of the study revealed that a majority of respondents (91%) lacked clarity regarding the objectives of establishing community forests, and about 95% claimed that community forests belong to the state. These incidents have led to diminished interest in continuing the program. The study highlighted that the community forestry program suffers from inadequate policy and legal provisions, chronic institutional instability, overlapping mandates, and limited community engagement. These factors have weakened property rights, which are reflected in tenure insecurity and the absence of individual household benefit packages. Consequently, it can be concluded that community forest interventions have been promoted based on general belief in the importance of trees for rural livelihoods and ecosystem rehabilitation, rather than as part of a deliberate and directed policy and strategy. In summary, revitalizing community forestry in Ethiopia necessitates a thorough understanding of property rights and tenure security issues. In this regard, it is imperative for government agencies to enact a clear national strategy for community forestry development and adopt a supportive role to enable communities to establish robust community forestry institutions to safeguard their rights while fostering community forestry and environmental protection activities.