Steps to PFM

There are a number of stages a village in Tanzania needs to go through to secure management rights over the forest resources on village lands. When these stages have been completed the village can keep most of the revenue from harvesting forest products on Village Lands. To start receiving these benefits the village should complete these stages quickly but thoroughly. There are various facilitators to help the village, including local District Council officers and staff from Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative. However, it is the village government who are the main implementers of Participatory Forest Management; it is essential they should take the lead in developing PFM.

Below outlines the various steps which MCDI follows to establish a community owned and managed forest, formally known as a Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR) in Tanzania. These steps are modified slightly from those recommended by Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources based on MCDI's experience in delivering PFM solutions that are properly focused on revenue generation from timber and other key resources. While the community itself is ultimately responsible for carrying out all of these steps, MCDI provides a lot of assistance throughout the process.

Getting started

A. Awareness raising

The first stage is to hold a Village Assembly, bringing together the different stakeholders in the village. It is an opportunity to discuss how the village uses and benefits from the forest now and to consider the potential benefits under PFM. Under PFM, villagers have lots of rights and responsibilities so it is important that they learn as much as possible about the new system early on.

B. Forming the VNRC

The village needs to elect a group of 12 or more people to the Village Natural Resources Committee (VNRC). They will take responsibility for managing the forest, and will report to the Village Council. VNRC members should know about the forest and how to use its resources. It is best if most of the VNRC are literate, and that most of them are active people. Also, it’s very important that different parts of the community are represented; a third of the VNRC members must be women.

C. Training the VNRC

At this early stage, the VNRC members should be given some basic training to deepen their awareness of PFM, and how it works. However the VNRC will need additional training at each subsequent step along the way, in particular when preparing for the Participatory Timber Inventory.

Identifying village land and its use

D. Agreeing village boundaries

The next stage is for the village to agree on village boundaries with its neighbours. It is important that the neighbouring villages have properly agreed to these boundaries as ometimes neighbouring villages may think the boundary is in different places and this can lead to conflict over time. Both sides need to come to an agreement that their communities will respect in the coming years. The leaders should sign minutes of the meetings to show everyone agrees on the boundary between their villages.

E. Obtaining legal authority

A copy of the minutes of the village leaders’ meetings with neighbouring villages needs to be submitted to the District Land Officer (DLO). Once this has been done the Village Council controls the land and all the trees on it. The village can defend those rights in court. No-one is allowed to fell trees on their land without the explicit written permission of the Village Government. The village leaders should demand a proper price for their trees. Without their consent and approval of the price paid any logging is illegal.

F. Demarcating village boundaries

To get the Certificate of Village Land the villagers will need to work with the DLO and Surveyor. Important points on the boundary, such as hills, rivers and turning points, need to be recorded using a GPS. The village will eventually get a copy of the resulting map, although it might take a long time to be produced.

G. Village Land Use Plan (VLUP)

Together with facilitators the VNRC should draw a map of village lands to show how they are used now, how they might be used in the future, and discuss which parts could be set aside (reserved) for the Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). It is often useful for the VNRC and District Facilitators to walk around different parts of the village, so everyone has seen the village lands, and the best long-term management options can be determined.

Understanding the Forest

H. Forest Area Demarcation

Just as the village lands needed to be formally demarcated, so do the boundaries of the Village Land Forest Reserve. However since this area falls wholly within the village land, it is not necessary to involve the District Land Surveyor, who is often very busy. Any forester with technical experience in using a GPS can direct this. Again, all important points on the boundary, such as hills, rivers and turning points, need to be recorded using a GPS. The village will be provided with a copy of the map.

However a map is not the only way, or even always the best way to communicate the VLFR boundaries. A variety of techniques can be used on the ground so that people are aware when they are entering the VLFR; these include boundary clearance, planting fast growing marker trees, or painting the trunks of trees on the boundary. Some of these methods take a long time and a lot of effort, and are best left until after the VLFR has been approved (see below), but it is a good idea to use mark the boundary in some way at this time, so everyone knows where the VLFR begins and ends.

I. Participatory Forest Timber Inventory

This involves teams of villagers and facilitators going to the prospective VLFR to assess its timber stocks. It is a lot more focused than the more generalised Participatory Forest Resources Assessment that is practised elsewhere. The inventory is, relatively speaking quite a technical undertaking as some complicated equipment is used. It is important to work slowly so that as many villagers understand the procedures as possible, although not everyone will be able to understand everything. This is also a critical stage for the VNRC and facilitators together to discuss management options for different parts of the forest and to think about what should be in the management plan (see below).

J. Analyzing the Inventory Data

The information collected during the inventory needs to be analyzed in the village after the fieldwork. Again this is a technical stage which the facilitators will guide in detail. By analyzing the data in the village, all VNRC members should understand how the reported numbers relate to what they saw in the forest during the inventory fieldwork. The facilitators will put the analysis into a short report which will be attached to the management plan. However every figure reported in there should have been first calculated by the VNRC with the assistance of facilitators.

Writing the Plan

K. Drafting the VLFR Management Plan

The information collected in the PRA and inventory is used to write a management plan. This management plan is an important document so should be carefully thought through, discussed and agreed upon by the whole VNRC. Rights and responsibilities of the stakeholders need particular discussion to ensure that they know and agree to what is in the management plan. The plan needs to be realistic, and not just a wish list of things that stand no real chance of happening. Instead, communities need to think about how the activities are to be funded and whether those involved can really spare the time to fulfil their responsibilities, e.g. during the farming season. The final management plan needs to be understood by as many villagers as possible to ensure that the use they traditionally make of the forest is protected where possible, and so that they know about the changes in access and outsiders’ use of the forest.

You can download the template that MCDI uses for the management plan in Swahili and English translation.

L. Writing the Byelaws

Byelaws are important to regulate VLFR use. They codify in law the most significant rules set out in the management plan, and allow the village authorities to prosecute anyone acting in contravention of the byelaws.

Approving the Plan & Byelaws

The management plan and byelaws need to be approved at several stages. At each step along the way detailed minutes of each meeting should be recorded, and signed by the appropriate people.

M. Village Council Approval

The VNRC should present the whole management plan, together with the byelaws to the Village Council. It is not necessary to read through each sentence, but the top village leaders should understand and approve the broad aims and content of the management plan, and have the chance to ask questions on any part of the plan.

N. Village Assembly Approval

The byelaws will affect everyone in the village. They need to be debated and approved by the full Village Assembly.

O. Ward Approval

Once approved by the village, the byelaws must be passed to the Ward Development Committee for their approval.

P. Approval by the District Forestry Officer

Once the management plan has been approved by the Village Council, it must be submitted to the District Forestry Officer (DFO) for approval. He should write the village a letter to communicate formally his approval, and this will be logged in the district registry of village forests.

Q. Approval by the District Council

Final approval of the byelaws can only be given at a meeting of the District Full Council. In order for this approval to be granted the minutes for each of the preceding approval meetings must be submitted to the Works and Environment Committee. There they will be presented and recommended by the DFO – the overall management plan will play an important role in setting the context. If approved by the committee it should normally be a straightforward matter for the byelaws to be passed at the next meeting of the full council.

R. Declaring the VLFR

Once the DFO approves the plan then the VLFR is legally registered. At this point the village should demand the licence fee for any logging taking place in the VLFR as set out under the management plan.


Everything is not over now the VLFR has been set up. Indeed, this is just the beginning. There needs to be awareness-raising within the village as to what has happened and what their new rights and responsibilities are; after all, they are the people who now manage the forest and can report and prevent illegal logging.

The VNRC needs to learn more about management so that they can keep records of the use people make of the forest, the income from this, and make good (and transparent) use of the revenue to help the village develop. Villages will be getting a lot of new income as they can keep most of the licence fee set in the management plan.

The VNRC needs to be supported so that it is a strong honest institution working for the benefit of the whole village.