Participatory forest management

Project description

Titel: Participatory forest management (PFM)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture
Country: Ethiopia
Overall term: 2013 to 2018


Ethiopia’s remaining forest areas are acutely threatened by their ongoing conversion for farmland and worsening degradation. Forest losses have a direct impact on the livelihoods of rural village communities, above all through the declining supplies of firewood, timber and non-wood forest products. Severe adverse effects also occur indirectly with respect to the water availability and soil fertility, especially on steeper gradients. In a vicious circle, this accelerates deforestation. The rapid rate of deforestation poses a huge threat to biodiversity.

Important prerequisites for improving this situation have already been put in place, such as national guidelines on participatory forest management (PFM) and legal measures for transferring user rights to local communities. However, it is still necessary to build up the relevant capacities for implementing PFM, especially in terms of community development. The role of forests in sustainable land management is largely overlooked, and the part local communities play in managing forests has received little attention to date. This is why Ethiopia’s forests are not used sustainably.


In selected areas, participatory forest management is practised in and near watersheds, as part of the national Sustainable Land Management Program (SLMP). This is contributing to greater resilience on the part of smallholder farmers, in the face of climate change.


It is essential to include local people in the relevant processes for the sustainable, long-term management of forests. At the same time, local communities need to learn sustainable ways of using the forests. GIZ experts provide training to this end, and they work with the communities in and near the selected watersheds, showing them how to organise themselves for PFM.

The introduction of participatory forest management adheres to the national PFM guidelines. It draws on earlier experiences in the field in a process that includes the following steps.

  1. Suitable forest areas are identified, using appropriate land-use maps. Working with local people, the programme then gathers an inventory of socioeconomic and forest data.
  2. Preparatory to the PFM capacity building measures, the knowledge and skills available to the village communities and among local forest owners are analysed. Experts from the programme then provide advice, for instance, on forming and running community-based organisations, and on establishing structures for benefit-sharing between men and women, and between the state and communities.
  3. The programme carries out studies and provides training and advice to enhance the villagers’ skills for sustainable forest management, while adding to their existing knowledge. In this way, the communities learn to manage their forests sustainably and independently in the medium and long term. Meanwhile, employees of various government institutions also receive additional training in PFM. The programme provides advice to these institutions at all levels, to ensure a broad understanding of participatory measures and their systematic implementation.
  4. With the assistance of the programme, village communities share their experiences. The programme then supports the creation of organisational structures for PFM. It advises on the development of sustainable strategies and management plans that take into account forest types and status. To ensure their viability, these plans focus on using and marketing non-wood forest products, and on the long-term forest management. The communities receive advice on practical measures, such as setting up and managing nurseries, planting and tending trees, and harvesting timber.


Some 24 community-based organisations have been established in the regions of Oromia, Amhara and Tigray, amounting to a total membership of almost 4,500 people.

Communities in the three project regions have so far designated 52,000 hectares of forested land for the introduction of participatory management (12,000 hectares in Oromia, 22,000 in Amhara and 18,000 in Tigray). Resource assessments and inventories are currently ongoing.

The communities have received training in running tree nurseries, and have already planted approximately 4,000 seedlings.

The project has provided its partner organisations and participating communities at the local level with important field and office equipment, such as nursery hand tools, measuring equipment, computers and motorbikes.