Can forest sector devolution improve rural livelihoods? An analysis of forest income and institutions in western Uganda


P. Jagger

Type of Document:
Thesis or Dissertation


Indiana University

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Bloomington, IN


Abstract: Forest sector devolution is widely promoted throughout the low income tropics as a policy that leads to poverty reduction. However, there is a dearth of empirical evidence to support this assertion. Drawing on the case of a major forest sector reform in Uganda, this dissertation addresses the question: has Uganda s forest sector reform led to improvements in rural livelihoods? Uganda provides an excellent case study of two parallel devolution processes: democratic decentralization of oversight of private forests to local government; and devolution of ownership and management of Central Forest Reserves to the for-profit parastatal National Forestry Authority. The first empirical chapter uses pre and post-reform household level data to estimate the direction and magnitude of the effect of the reform on the contribution of forest income to rural income portfolios. The findings show that decentralization to local government has had minimal impact on the contribution of forests to household income portfolios. However, for the case of devolution to the National Forestry Authority, relatively wealthy households have significantly increased forest income since the reform was implemented. Using the methods of institutional analysis, the second empirical chapter discusses the incentives facing actors involved in and affected by reform implementation. The analysis demonstrates that the motivations and information shaping incentives for forest officials and forest users are hindering the ability of poor and vulnerable households to increase the share of their income from forests. The third empirical chapter describes heterogeneity in perceptions of formal withdrawal rights for forest products. The findings demonstrate that there is considerable heterogeneity in knowledge of formal forest withdrawal rights among forest officials, village leaders and households. Perceptions of formal rights do not appear to have a significant effect on the harvesting behavior of rural households. The findings from this study challenge the assertion that forest sector devolution is an effective strategy for rural poverty reduction.

Additional Bibliographic Information

PhD diss. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University

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