Local Decision-making

Participatory Planning Essential for Achieving Successful Outcomes in Governing Riparian Forest Restoration

Meli, P., and P. H. Brancalion. 2017. Contrasting regulatory frameworks to govern riparian forest restoration in Mexico and Brazil: Current status and needs for advances. World Development Perspectives 5:60-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wdp.2017.03.002


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Restoration should integrate ecological, social and legal aspects. This integration requires that multiple actors—organizations, institutions (both public and private),and landowners— interact at multiple levels (i.e. federal, regional and local). Regulatory frameworks such as laws, instruments and norms are central of any governance structure sustaining these interactions, so exploring the particularities of existing legal instruments is crucial for supporting the further development of regulatory frameworks for the practice of restoration.

We analyzed regulatory instruments governing forest riparian buffers in Mexico and Brazil. In Mexico, regulatory frameworks mainly focus on the mitigation of negative impacts of land use changes on soils and water bodies, or even forests. But there is no specific policy for restoring riparian buffers as an ecosystem type, and no specific instrument to operationalize restoration demands. Meanwhile, Brazil has objective and explicit norms supporting the restoration of riparian forests, which are explicitly recognized as important ecosystems for supplying ecosystem services and should be protected and legally classified as Areas of Permanent Protection (APP).

This analysis highlights the challenge of understanding and promoting restoration governance to solve the sometimes incongruent scales between policies and governance at multiple levels, such as regional or national versus the local scales at which ecological and social processes occur. Mexico and Brazil are good examples of this incongruence; successful forest restorations are usually local, but many policies, development actions and investments are planned, implemented and evaluated centrally by national governments and international agencies, and do not always coincide with local needs.

Restoration of riparian forests should include ecological, social and economic aspects, which are essential to achieve higher levels of stakeholder agreement as a foundation for successful land management and restoration. Riparian forest restoration should be addressed within a watershed management context, with criteria that (1) allow definition of areas where the benefit-cost ratio of restoration is maximized according to scientific standards and (2) incorporate perceptions and needs of the stakeholders involved. Both countries still have a long way to go to develop regulatory instruments that are effective on the ground. Shifting the paradigm of a centralized planning focused in command and control mechanisms to a participatory planning supported by incentives will be essential for achieving successful outcomes in governing riparian forest restoration.


The PARTNERS connection
This paper was a contribution to a special issue of World Development Perspectives on Governance Innovations for Forest Restoration. The special issue was organized by the governance working group of PARTNERS at the second workshop. Although the special issue was an activity sponsored by PARTNERS, the individual research papers were not funded or initiated by PARTNERS.