Role of local communities in forest landscape restoration: Key lessons from the Billion Trees Afforestation Project, Pakistan| Science of The Total Environment | 2021 | Peer Reviewed | Original research | https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145613
The Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP) was launched in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan to conserve existing forests and to increase the area under forest cover. It also aimed to restore environmental conditions, promote rural livelihoods and reduce poverty. To improve the effectiveness of afforestation projects, it is essential to know the role of various factors and their impacts on community participation in landscape restoration. However, these factors and their impacts remain unexplored for the BTAP. This study identifies the factors that influenced rural household participation in the BTAP in Pakistan. The data were collected from participants and nonparticipants in the BTAP as well as from various officials. We employed both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the data. The results of the focus group discussions and the professional evaluation of the BTAP revealed that participant farmers enjoyed all the benefits of the project at the individual and community levels. However, the project provided only partial benefits to nonparticipant farmers at both levels. The household-level results showed that age, income from forest resources, a friendly relationship with forest department staff, a risk-bearing attitude and membership or involvement in village development committee activities had positive and significant effects on farmer participation, while disputes over land and forest resources, household size and experience with/dependence on livestock farming had negative and significant impacts on farmer participation in the BTAP. Our results suggest that policymakers and project designers should pay more attention to the factors that hindered farmer participation in the BTAP. The participation of landless and disadvantaged groups in the 10-BTAP should be increased to ensure equal and widespread benefits for all users and to ensure a win-win situation of sustainable management of the forest, the environment and livelihood opportunities for all types of forest users.