A Success story of collective action changing public policy: Farmers' innovation in the face of repressive forestry policy in Zambrana Abajo, Dominican Republic
Collective action and capacity building locally are key elements in overcoming poverty through agroforestry and community silviculture. Starting from extreme poverty, degraded soils and a reluctance to plant trees, the communities of Zambrana Abajo in the Dominican Republic were able to confront and change repressive forestry policies, obtaining the first legal right amongst smallholders to harvest timber and establish new livelihoods related to forestry and agroforestry. This study was carried out in order to identify the success factors and the lessons learned in this process. Qualitative research methods were used, including participant observation, review of literature, in-depth interviews with key informants, and semi-structured interviews guided by the Community Capitals Framework. It was found that community participation, local knowledge and the authorities' recognition of it had an impact on forestry policy and overcoming poverty through livelihood diversification thanks to harvesting the species Acacia mangium Willd. The level of understanding about the benefits of trees influenced farmers' decisions to participate in agroforestry and community silviculture projects. The possibility of harvesting timber also influenced farmers' decision to participate and in the diffusion of this initiative to other parts of the country. These findings demonstrate that human capital and its recognition are relevant in improving quality of life for families and improving the natural environment.