Rethinking 'expert' knowledge in community forest management in Tanzania
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From the 1980s great hopes have been placed on community forest management to promote socio-economic development along with forest protection. Empirical research has shown, however, that while community forest management has often improved forest conditions, the goals of poverty alleviation and local empowerment have not been fully attained. The wide gap between theory and practice of community forest management has caused scholars to emphasise the role of power and politics in the design, practice and outcome of decentralisation. More recently, the roles of techno-bureaucratic values, practices and the authority given to 'expert' knowledge have been highlighted as important factors impeding its successful implementation. Building on these insights, this paper, conjoined with other contributions to this special issue, aims to examine the role of professionalisation and 'expert' knowledge in community-based forest management in Tanzania, particularly with regard to its economic development and local empowerment benefits. Drawing on long-term research in the Angai village land forest reserve in Liwale, Lindi Region, Tanzania, this paper illustrates how almost 20 years after the inception of community-based forest management, villagers are still waiting for the promised political and economic benefits to materialise. We argue that professionalisation and the privileged role of 'expert' knowledge hampered forest decentralisation. Based on our findings, we join other authors of this special issue in calling for less technically and bureaucratically demanding ways of forest management and planning to allow local communities to fully take over ownership and control of forest resources and to relieve state and non-state actors of cumbersome and overburdening development requirements.
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