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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Explaining success on community forestry through a lens of environmental justice: Local justice norms and practices in China

He, Jun; Martin, Adrian; Lang, Rong; Gross-Camp, Nicole


It is of global interest to understand under what conditions community forestry can be successful and sustainable in terms of environmental conservation and local livelihood benefits. Existing theories have explained several influential factors, including small groups of people with shared norms, sound institu-tions, high levels of decentralization, downward accountability, and security of tenure. This paper explores how local conceptions of environmental justice become closely linked to sustainable community forestry. Based on an in-depth case study in a highly populated and culturally heterogeneous village in southwest China, we examine an enduring example of community forestry, using a combination of qual-itative and quantitative approaches. The results show that village forest cover has increased significantly over the last 30 years, contributing to improvements in local livelihoods. It is argued that one of the important factors in this success has been villagers & rsquo; ability to align forest management with local justice norms and practices. Distributive, procedural, and recognition aspects of justice are considered, and we find that, in combination, these become integral to building effective institutions for collective action. To broaden the focus on successful factors in existing theories, this paper argues that the consideration of justice as an important condition for establishing effective and durable local institutions that will be effective for community forestry. The insights from this study suggest a need to consider justice dimen-sions in community forestry research to enable improved understanding of its dynamics and outcomes worldwide.(c) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Collective action; Decentralization; Design principles; Environmental justice; Common-pool resources; Local institutions

Published in

World Development
2021, volume: 142, article number: 105450

Authors' information

He, Jun
Yunnan University
Martin, Adrian
University of East Anglia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
University of Hohenheim
Gross-Camp, Nicole
Allegheny College

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Publication Identifiers


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