A popular hypothesis is that community forestry produces more and diverse benefits compared to other forms of forestry. Empirical evidence from our case study research as well as a review of all available published and grey literature tests this, and revealed the following.
Community forests and woodlands have been established through:
- Policy-led approaches which address regeneration of socially and environmentally deprived areas
- Community-led approaches which can be economically, aesthetically or ideologically motivated
- Conservation-led approaches through which environmental NGOs seek to achieve their objectives by interaction with local communities.
Five different kinds of community woodlands emerge which we characterise as:
- Urban regeneration: Often public land with community involvement in management
- Community resource: Woodland owned and managed by community
- Economic partnership: Land owned by others community manage for economic benefits
- Community place: Land owned by others community volunteer often for conservation
- Lifestyle alternative: Group work and live in woodland
The benefits generated by these different kinds of community woodlands are likely to vary. However, few initiatives invest in thorough evidence gathering so comparative assessment is difficult. The evidence base is incomplete and largely project driven. Much of the evidence records outputs not outcomes. Economic evaluation is associated with urban regeneration and community place, probably mirroring the requirements of funders. Qualitative evidence for empowerment and enhanced community cohesion and creativity suggests a wider range of intangible benefits.
The research to date is published as:
Lawrence, A. and B. Ambrose-Oji (2014). "Beauty, friends, power, money: navigating the impacts of community woodlands." Geographical Journal.
Lawrence, A. and B. Ambrose-Oji (2011). Understanding the effects of community woodlands and forests in Great Britain. Proceedings of 18th Commonwealth Forestry Conference. Edinburgh. 28 June - 2 July 2010.