How, and under what conditions, can community forest governance lead to improvements in human well-being, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity from forest restoration?
Forest restoration is the focus of global environmental policy. The 2020s has been declared the "Decade of Restoration" by the United Nations and countries around the world have committed to restoring millions of hectares of degraded forests. Forest restoration can contribute to carbon sequestration, preserve biological diversity and improve the well-being of forest-dependent people. However, an estimated 300 million people, including indigenous peoples, live in priority forest landscapes in the global south. Efforts to restore forests can conflict with other land uses such as agriculture and pasture and thus undermine livelihood strategies, food security and other sustainability goals.
Empowering local communities to influence forest restoration planning, has been advocated to ensure that restoration projects are consistent with local needs and that local people are invested in long-term management.
Our project asks: How, and under what circumstances, can local community governance of forests promote human well-being, carbon sequestration and biodiversity in forest restoration?
Our project combines social science analysis with ecological assessments and analysis of satellite images. We focus our research on Nepal and India – countries with long-term political support for locally managed forestry.
We investigate how national and state forest policy affects local forest restoration in practice, and test how local conditions for social governance affect carbon sequestration, biological diversity and rural welfare over a long time horizon.
Our work will lead to new advances in environmental governance theory and innovative environmental planning policy. In a time of acute environmental crises, our work builds knowledge about policy interventions that can support local well-being alongside global environmental goals through forest restoration. Thereby, this research contributes to developing strategies for a fairer and more sustainable society.