From woodlots to village land management in the Sahel
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This paper presents experience from francophone West Africa with approaches to involve local people in the management of natural resources, mainly taken from community forestry programmes carried out by Forestry Services with support from bilateral and multilateral agencies. Development of community forestry approaches started roughly at then end of the 1970's and in the last ten years has evolved from a focus on communal woodlots to a wide variety of tree-related activities ranging from mixed tree/vegetable/nursery gardens and other agro-forestry systems to management of natural vegetation. During the last five years, increasing attention has been given to the need to integrate woodland management in the overall land use system. This has resulted in the formulation of a concept now known as 'Gestion de Terroir Villageois', which can be translated as integrated Village Land Management (VLM). We discuss here the achievements and weaknesses of each approach, as well as their strong points and constraints. It is concluded that the participatory community forestry approach brings an essential contribution to the integrated management of land and other natural resources (VLM). More attention must now be given to the strengthening of well-functioning village groups, the transfer to the local level of formal responsibility for natural resource management, and better knowledge of alternative technical interventions. Both community forestry and village land management are part of a long term process that should take inspiration from the Malian proverb that says: 'We are in a hurry, so we have to walk slowly.'