Panel 6: Forest Governance

Marien González Hidalgo, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, (chair)

Abstract: Forestry Extractivism in Europe: Who, how and what for? 

While critical analyses of forest extractivism are usual in the Global South, the operation of forest extractivism and the social and environmental impacts to local and rural communities associated to tree monocultures in Europe have been largely under-explored. I analyse publications about the establishment, expansion and social-environmental impacts of tree plantations in Europe, and analyse the main topics discussed and how/if they relate to the key critics to forestry extractivism in the Global South. I use my empirical research in Chile, Sweden and Spain in order to illustrate my reflections.

Lawrence Brobbey et al., University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: The dynamics of property and other mechanisms of access: The case of charcoal production and trade in Ghana.

An analysis of the dynamics of access to resources is important for a fuller understanding of rural livelihoods especially with changing times and technology. This paper uses benefits from charcoal production and trade in the forest savanna transition zone of Ghana as a case to explore the dynamics of access in time and space and the mechanisms various social actors apply in order to benefit. The study applies an analytical framework combining the revised property rights framework of Sikor et al. (2017) with “A Theory of Access”. Participatory rural appraisal methods, stakeholder meetings, document reviews and interviews were conducted with social actors along the charcoal commodity chain. The paper illustrates that the ability to benefit from charcoal is more dependent on property than other mechanisms of access, and both customary and statutory institutions are involved in mediating access to charcoal in Ghana. The realization of economic benefits of charcoal led to a contestation between chiefs and family heads over rights to trees in some communities and changes in the mode of payment for trees used in producing charcoal. Scarcity and concern over sustainability of trees have also driven the dynamic access mechanisms. Chiefs have strengthened their authority in charcoal-producing communities and the low presence of the Forestry Commission in those communities has implication on plans by the state to formalize and regularize charcoal production and trade in the country.

Elke Verhaeghe, The United Nations University,


The Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) form the external leg of the Forest Legality Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, an ambitious plan to bring an end to world-wide trade in illegally logged timber. Constituting political trade agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries, the VPAs combine legality verification and licensing of timber products with objectives of forest sector governance reform and participatory decision-making. An often-heard argument in favour of the VPAs is their potential to make forests fairer by institutionalizing rights and empowering marginalized actors. More critical scholars instead contest these arguments by pointing to the structural power imbalances underlying existing legal frameworks and participation structures. In the case of Vietnam, questions have been raised on the compatibility of the VPAs’ participatory approach with the domestic authoritarian context (Buhmann & Nathan, 2012). This paper contributes to the debate on the transformative potential of the VPA by researching empowerment of domestic justice advocates in the Vietnamese context. It does so from the perspective of transnational advocacy networks as introduced by Keck and Sikkink (1999). Concretely, it assesses if and how the VPA processes have fostered transnational linkages between domestic justice advocates on the one hand and NGOs and (EU) policy actors on the other. Moreover, it asks how these linkages have influenced justice advocacy in the VPA negotiation and implementation processes and in the Vietnamese forest sector at large. In doing so, it scrutinizes the role of European actors in shaping VPA processes and outcomes, while simultaneously addressing questions on the VPAs’ emancipatory potential in restricted political settings. The paper is part of larger comparative research on environmental justice advocacy in FLEGT.

Frank Agyei, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: ‘Forestry officials don’t have any land or rights here’: Authority of politico-legal institutions along Ghana’s charcoal commodity chain

Property theory suggests that in legal pluralist societies people secure rights to resources by seeking out institutions that can sanction and validate their claims. This validation legitimates their property claims. Simultaneously, the institutions build and solidify their authority as property-granting entities vis-à-vis competing authorities. In Ghana, the charcoal commodity chain involves rights recognized by both formal and customary institutions. We do a detailed study of property and authority in the context of Ghana’s charcoal chain by focusing on institutions that mediate people’s access to resources, how these institutions mediate access, and how the authority of institutions have changed over time. This article shows how chiefs, having no legal mandate in trees, are gaining authority over Ghana’s charcoal production. Chiefs’ authority is drawn from long-established customs and social structures in land/tree management, as well as validating of claims by establishing policing groups to enforce fees. Chiefs contest each other, and at the same time, contest and push the state out from village areas. Consequently, the Forestry Commission has very limited de factoauthority over trees despite their de juremandate in this arena. The legitimacy of institutions stems from the coercive and customary-social ability to control access to resources and opportunities.