Citizen Monitoring Promotes Informed and Inclusive Governance of Community Forests in Liberia


Managing shared natural resources, such as community forests, is a global public goods problem with implications for biodiversity and climate change, as well as food security and livelihoods. We experimentally evaluate a low-cost program for monitoring communally managed forests designed to make forest governance more inclusive. Our study in Liberia is coordinated with five other randomized experiments related to the monitoring of common-pool resources in different contexts and draws on data collected through surveys, on-the-ground environmental assessments, and satellite-based forest observation in 120 communities. In a context where community members rarely engage in forest governance, over 70% of households in our monitoring communities report attending meetings related to the monitoring program and learning new information at the meetings. The program promotes more informed and inclusive governance of the community forest: households in program communities hold more accurate information about forest use; participate more in forest management and can better influence rules; express more willingness to enforce these rules; and report receiving more benefits from forest use. The chiefs who lead these communities report heightened scrutiny of forest management, attesting to strengthened accountability. Survey and satellite data reveals no significant change in forest activity during the period evaluated. This is unsurprising given households’ preferences to maintain or increase exploitation of their community forest. Our research highlights that international actors and forest-edge communities face different tradeoffs between conservation and consumption. Fostering more inclusive local institutions may allow for fairer consideration of these tradeoffs in trying to curb deforestation.

Revision Requested, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Darin Christensen
Darin Christensen
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science

Political economist interested in conflict and development.