From top-down to bottom-up: The difficult case of the Blantyre City Fuelwood Project

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New York, NY: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group

This paper examines the experiences of the Blantyre City Fuelwood Project ' a peri-urban fuelwood project in southern Malawi ' in the light of emerging debates on the pros and cons of top-down versus bottom-up approaches to development. After some fifteen years of direct government involvement in the production, transportation and marketing of fuelwood from this project, which had as its main objective the supplying of affordable fuelwood to the urban poor, the Malawi Government decided to hand over the management of the project plantations to indigenous rural communities. The motivations for, and early outcomes of, this decision are analysed. Partly because the original project had been carried out in a manner that had generally alienated these communities, this transfer of management is beset with problems. Furthermore, the underlying economics of the project are problematical, which calls the supposed benefits to these rural communities into question. In conclusion, it is argued that the institutional framework being put in place, and the involvement of the rural communities in the management of the planted and indigenous woods at this late stage, while well intentioned and perhaps the best option available, still shows vestiges of the top-down approach. Currently the project is unsustainable and is unlikely to succeed without continued donor support.

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Rural development, Community rights, Income generation, Community management, Sustainable development, Livelihoods, Subtropics, Natural resource management, Poverty, Empowerment, Conservation, Community participation, Income diversification, Community development, Local governance, Collective action, Ecosystem
Journal of Southern African Studies 28(1): 117-136