Why do so many forestry aid projects fails?

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Most replies list technical difficulties in implementation. However, a recent paper by CIFOR researcher Neil Byron argues that in many instances it is not unfortunate accidents or negligent design that cause project failures, but rather how and by whom the project was conceived.

Reviewing the successes and failures of some 30 years of industrial forestry and 20 years of social and community forestry, Byron concludes that most of what was done suited the needs of those in control of the process. Donors needed projects to disburse funds, national governments were anxious to accept large sums of hard currency, and government departments saw opportunities to consolidate and increase their control over lands, funds, and sometimes, people.

Many of the goals of donor agencies (low risk projects, with no delays, verifiable physical targets, and pre-determined cost/benefit ratios) are almost totally inconsistent with rural development. For social forestry projects to be successful, they need to be long-term, supportive, open-ended, flexible, and repsonsive to local needs as new lessons are learnt by the project, from its initial position of ignorance.

 

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Further reading

If you are interested in obtaining the complete version of Neil Byron’s paper, titled ’International Development Assistance in Forestry and Land Management: the Process and the Players’, or have comments regarding these conclusions, please write Neil Byron at the following e-mail address: mailto:n.byron@cgiar.org

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