Actors, Powers and Accountability in Decentralisation: A Case Study of Participatory Forest Management in Ngare Ndare, Kenya

Start date: 23 November, 2012 End date: 10 January, 2013 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A20921 Countries: Kenya Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Amalie Miranda Zeeman and Maria Amrani Total grant: 35,000 DKK


he thesis “Actors, Powers and Accountability in Decentralisation: A Case Study of Participatory Forest Management in Ngare Ndare, Kenya” deals with decentralised forest management in Kenya and the introduction of participatory forest management (PFM).

Since the colonisation of Kenya, the forestry sector has been characterised by strong central governmental control. With the implementation of the Forest Act of 2005, the Kenyan government has created an opening for forest-adjacent communities to be recognised as stakeholders in the management of forests. This has given communities the opportunity to participate in forest management by forming community forest associations (CFAs), thus entering into management collaboration with the semi-autonomous state body, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). This thesis focuses on the consequences of PFM for local communities and on whether the various actors involved act as representatives and downwardly accountable units, as well as how responsibilities and powers are allocated between the actors. Furthermore, the thesis discusses the effects of PFM on local governance. Applying both qualitative and quantitative data, the study is based on fieldwork conducted in Ngare Ndare, Kenya.

Location of Ngare Ndare Forest (CETRAD 2012)
Qualitative methods applied comprise participatory rural appraisals and semi-structured interviews while the quantitative method involves a household survey. The theoretical framework of actors, powers and accountability suggested by Agrawal and Ribot (1999), guides the structure of the analyses, and the frame of reference for effective decentralisation that has been applied is democratic decentralisation. The case study reveals representation and accountability challenges related to implementation of PFM.

A democratic representation problem is identified within the board of the CFA, where forest-dependent villages, representing thousands of people, as well as large-scale landowners, solely representing themselves, are present. The representation problem is due to the fact that these stakeholders have divergent interests, and as their votes count equally, the power relations between the actors are distorted. Moreover, challenges related to downward accountability have been identified since the superior authority, i.e. the KFS at parastatal level, fails to devolve sufficient discretionary decision-making powers to lower level authorities. This results in a community based organisation and a CFA that faces challenges in being downwardly accountable to forest related user groups at the village level. In spite of these challenges, it has been found that the villagers of Ngare Ndare generally perceive the introduction of PFM as having led to positive outcomes in terms of improved access to decision-making and forest products, increased participation in the PFM-activities tree planting and fire fighting, and a decrease in the occurrence of illegal activities in the forest. This suggests that decentralisation of forest management has enhanced local governance.