Dynamics of conflict in participatory forest management in Benin : a framing perspective

L. Idrissou Aboubacary

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Benin’s protected areas were created during the colonial period between 1940 and 1960. The colonial administration established them by confiscating rural land and putting it under government control without the consent of the local communities, who considered that their land had been expropriated. From the time that they were created until the early 1990s, these protected areas were managed solely by government officials. Local communities were considered as undesirable in the management of these resources and were kept away from them by force and repression. Many conflicts set the forest rangers and local communities in opposition to each other in relation to access to, and use of, the resources in the protected areas. This management system also proved to be inefficient in terms of conservation of these protected areas, where degradation increased over time.Participatory management of protected areas was enacted in Beninin 1993. After a seemingly promising start of participatory management efforts, conflicts have re-emerged in many protected areas. This makes it relevant to gain a better understanding of why and how such conflicts emerge. Three cases of conflict in participatory management of protected areas were investigated. A framing perspective was used in order to develop a better understanding of conflict in such settings.

The various cases studied show that the idea that conflicts in natural resources management occur when there are disagreements and disputes regarding access to, and management of, the natural resources is only one side of the story. The thesis indicates that conflict about natural resources management are not only about bio-physical resources; symbolic resources, including social status, moral values, trust and other identity-related issues, play decisive roles as well. In this line of thought, the thesis shows that the co-construction and the dynamics of the social identities of the stakeholders involved in natural resources management tended to reinforce conflicts in the different cases. In addition, the thesis demonstrates that trust is an important variable in the participatory management of natural resources. It makes clear that trust is not a static state or a given characteristic of a relationship, but must be regarded as highly dynamic and constantly negotiated over time. The thesis also makes clear that formal institutions provide the initial framework for legitimate action and become intertwined with informal institutions that become decisive in the achievement of the objectives of the process. However, although formal and informal institutions are both important and can reinforce each other, the intertwining of formal and informal institutions may result in problems and conflict, especially when there is discontinuity and turn-over with regard to participants. A final cross-cutting conclusion is that conflicts are gradually co-constructed by stakeholders in discourse. In everyday conversation, people create realities that become a source of conflict.

An important practical implication of the study is that those involved in facilitating community-based forest management should develop better concepts and strategies to ‘manage’ and facilitate inter-human processes. Framing analysis helps to identify inter-human processes and dynamics that are easily overlooked but are critically important in shaping the course and outcomes of participatory processes.

Keywords: Participation, conflict, framing, interpretive approach, discourse, case-study, trust, institutions, social cohesion, social identity, protected areas, Benin.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Leeuwis, Cees, Promotor
  • Aarts, Noelle, Promotor
  • van Paassen, Annemarie, Co-promotor
  • Voudouhe`, S., Co-promotor, External person
Award date14 Mar 2012
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789461731890
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • communication
  • conflict
  • communication theory
  • forest management
  • resource management
  • participation
  • protection of forests
  • natural resources
  • interest groups
  • stereotypes
  • participative management
  • benin
  • west africa

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamics of conflict in participatory forest management in Benin : a framing perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this