Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Community Forestry in Germany, a Case Study Seen through the Lens of the International Model

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Community Forestry in Germany, a Case Study Seen through the Lens of the International Model

Article excerpt


Recent and on-going international research, especially on community forestry in developing countries, has begun to question the success of the international community forestry concept that was introduced more recently, by the end of the 1970s. Though it appears that community forestry does contribute to a positive ecological outcome, further analysis seems to reveal that other advantages promised by the model, i.e., devolution of power to the local resource users and improvement of their livelihoods, simply do not happen.

In comparison the German Community Forestry as a concept was first introduced during the 18th century. This article investigates the ways in which German community forestry works and, given that it's continued existence represents a measure of success, whether it can be a model for community forestry worldwide. To ascertain this, we analyse 11 community forests in Germany, applying power theory and methodology to identify the powerful actors and these actors' interests. In addition, we also analyse the outcomes of community forestry.

The results show that the researched community forests are sustainably managed, but that powerful actors control this management. The direct forest user is not very involved and benefits only slightly. Therefore, the article concludes that the German community forestry cannot be a worldwide model, but that it is nevertheless an interesting model in practice if the goal is to manage forest resources sustainably.

Keywords: power, power-theory, actor, interests, social, economic, ecological-outcome, network-analysis

1. Introduction

Community managed forests in Germany have a long and ancient history and date back to the time when the first settlers started to use forest resources, around 400B.C. (Lerner, 1993, 1994). A considerable amount of research has been carried out to determine how far back in history such use of common resources can be traced, including the use of forests and land by communities, and the legal status of such practices (von Löw, 1829; Stieglitz, 1832; Burckhardt, 1876; Wobst, 1971; Hassel, 1971; Köppe, 1978; Giesen, 1979; Hassel, 1985; Lerner, 1993, 1994). The results are still highly disputed and find no consensus. What is sure is that today's community forests emerged mostly from village cooperatives that chaired common property, including forests. Throughout history the structure and ownership of these cooperatives changed and developed in different ways. In the beginning of the 18th century the notion emerged that common land could be better managed if transferred into private ownership. According to Wobst (1971, p. 39) there are several community divesture orders (Gemeinheitsteilungsordnung Provinz Hannover 1802, Preußische Gemeinheitsteilungsordnung 1821, Bayrisches Gesetz über die Teilung von Gemeindegründen 1834, Ablösung-und Gemeinschaftsteilungsordnung 1834) that created the legal basis upon which to split up the old village cooperatives. Wobst argues that, soon after the divesture of common land, it became increasingly understood that this would not lead to improved output of the now privately managed land. Therefore, shortly thereafter most of the orders were replaced by laws regulating the management of common-use forests and community forests, which would not allow the divesture of forest land, e.g., the Bavarian law on commune and community forests of 1869, or the Prussian law on common-use forests of 1821 (Wobst, 1971). Up until then, most of the old village forests had been attached to political communes or were privatized and only few survived as community managed forests (Wobst, 1971). Since most of the surviving community managed forests exist today, the introduction of these laws is seen as the beginning of the German community forestry concept.

The term "community forest" is also used in translation to refer to German forests owned by political communes, i.e., cities or rural communes, as used by Hartebrodt et al. …

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