Criteria for assessing success or failure of forest co-management programmes may vary among different participating actors. Local people are important actors in co-management, thus understanding their perceived criteria is important in evaluating forest co-management programmes. We interviewed 134 ordinary community members and 21 committee members participating in a forest co-management programme in Zomba and Ntchisi, Malawi in order to understand how local actors understand and define criteria for assessing forest co-management programme. Respondents identified five criteria including forest conservation, access to forest resources, participation in decision making, infrastructure development and improved livelihoods. Ordinary community members highlighted access to forest resources and improved livelihoods as important success criteria, whilst committee members identified forest conservation as an important criterion, and the difference was significant in both Zomba (χ2 = 11.79. p = 0.036) and Ntchisi (χ2 = 8.97, p = 0.042). Furthermore, perceived criteria were influenced by household socio-economic characteristics including gender, wealth status and level of education. Thus, evaluation studies should be designed to capture perspectives and experiences across social strata within a community.
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Vol. 19 • No. 1