A Comparison of CIFOR’s ACM and the USFS CFLRP

A Comparison of CIFOR’s Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) and the USFS Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP)

Carol J. Pierce Colfer

The latest Occasional Paper (239) in CIFOR’s OP series is “Forest Landscape Restoration: A Comparison of Two Participatory Approaches,” by Carol J. Pierce Colfer and Ravi Prabhu. Contributing to the assessments of the adaptive collaborative management (ACM) approach recently highlighted in two books (https://www.routledge.com/Responding-to-Environmental-Issues-through-Adaptive-Collaborative/Colfer-Prabhu/p/book/9781032352282#sup) and the earlier https://www.routledge.com/Adaptive-Collaborative-Management-in-Forest-Landscapes-Villagers-Bureaucrats/Colfer-Prabhu-Larson/p/book/9781032053677, both open access), this OP, also open access,  examines ACM’s qualities and performance as they compare with those of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Research Program (CFLRP) of the US Forest Service. https://www.cifor-icraf.org/knowledge/publication/8805. Conducted in very different contexts – the developing world for ACM and the highly ‘developed’ US for CFLRP – the approaches share many explicit features (inclusive collaboration, a learning approach, facilitation, development of trust and more) and a number of clear differences (time span, funding, landscape size, decision-making locus, and more). 

Two particularly cogent differences ‘make a difference’:  The CFLRP’s certainty of significant long term funding (with the emphasis on the ‘long term’ rather than on the funding levels per se) and related institutionalization of the approach provide important lessons for ACM practitioners and researchers. These features guarantee continuation in ways that ACM projects have not been able to provide, due to project-based funding that could not be maintained for long periods of time.

The second major ‘difference that makes a difference’ is serious inclusivity at the local level achieved by ACM practitioners and researchers. These projects were able to fully involve women, marginalized ethnic and caste groups and youth in attempts to improve forest management and other related and locally determined goals. These efforts variably allowed the development of community agreements on goals; strengthened widespread involvement in decisionmaking about project direction and conduct; empowered various subgroupings via skill development in analysis, conflict management, networking, etc.; and ensured more equitable distribution of benefits from shared plans and actions.

A significant conclusion of this comparison is that both approaches need to broaden their sphere of influence. CFLRP would do well to enhance its attention to local voices in all their variety; and ACM would benefit from stronger vertical links upwards, to involve broader scale actors more fully than has been the case in the past.

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