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Social-ecological Functions and Vulnerability Framework to Analyze Forest Policy Reforms

Fanny Rives, CIRAD, UPR GREEN, F-34398 Montpellier, France
Martine Antona, CIRAD, UPR GREEN, F-34398 Montpellier, France
Sigrid Aubert, CIRAD, UPR GREEN, 99 Antananarivo, Madagascar CIRAD, UPR GREEN, F-34398 Montpellier, France


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We explore the impact of forest policy reforms implemented in the early 1990s in Niger in the wake of the severe droughts that affected the Sahel in the 1970s and 1980s. We focus on Sahelian multiple-use forest ecosystems and set out to analyze policy-induced changes in the patterns of interactions between various uses, users, and dry-forest ecosystems, interactions that influence the effective management of rural forests. We put forward the hypothesis that the new forest policy reforms were designed according to a vulnerability diagnosis, highlighting two stressors: droughts and increased demand for firewood. This led to a single-issue policy focused on firewood provision and was implemented through the Household Energy Strategy (HES). The HES established new local management schemes for “rural forests” through “rural firewood markets” (RMs) to regulate firewood harvesting and trade. We studied one of the first rural forests to become an RM in Niger in 1993. We used the concept of social-ecological functions as processes emerging from the interactions between social and ecological systems (SES). We identified sixteen SES functions and specifically analyzed the changes in three of them, whether they were targeted by the policy reform (firewood provision) or not (gum provision and livestock production). The changes generated by the creation of the RM have had different impacts on SES functions, as well as on the social and ecological components that contribute to these functions, because of their interaction with firewood provision. Mutual benefits and competitions between SES functions have been identified. The analysis of mutual benefits and competitions reflects the ambiguous role of the policy reform on rural forest ecosystems in Niger. Our results show that the patterns of interactions between key SES functions have played a more important role in the SES trajectory than any single resource such as timber or firewood. This provides insight into strengthening potential feedback between rural forest functions for improved resilience and livelihoods.

Key words

ecosystem services; fuelwood; rural forest; Sahel; social-ecological changes; socio-ecological changes

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087