Outcomes of State vs. Community-Based Mangrove Management in Southern Thailand
Year Published:
Study Number:



C. Sudtongkong & E. L. Webb


In Thailand, mangrove forests are claimed for state management, although it is widely recognized that coastal communities access and manage those forests. Skepticism persists within Thai government circles about whether coastal villages can sustainably manage and protect mangroves. This research presents evidence of successful mangrove conservation and management by two coastal villages in Trang province, southern Thailand. Using interdisciplinary methods including interviews, discussions, quantitative forest surveys, and institutional analysis, we describe the history of how these two communities gained rights to manage the mangrove forests, and the subsequent positive biological outcomes associated with their management. Local villages have crafted and maintained well-defined governance management institutions over the forest, and as a result, stand structure was superior in community-managed mangrove forests than in the open-access state forest. We argue that the basis for the communities’ success in managing these forests was that the resource was necessary to local livelihoods and was becoming scarce; the communities enjoyed autonomous decision making and had a high degree of social capital; the forest and user groups were well defined and monitored; effective leadership was present in the villages to apply sanctions and resolve conflicts; and there was substantial assistance from an external non-governmental organization, which served as a bridge between the villages and the government. For conservation, simply knowing whether communities can conserve mangroves is not sufficient. We must know why the communities are or are not successful. Conservation research must, therefore, consider not only the biological outcomes of community management, but also the underlying reasons for those outcomes. This paper can serve as a guideline for future studies on the community-mangrove interface (coastal development).

Main Results and Conclusions:
  • Four areas of mangrove forest were studied: two under the control of the state and two under the control of local communities (Fig. 1). Of these four forests, two were set in a seaward mangrove forest while the other two were located in a landward mangrove forest.
    • Seaward mangrove forest sites: Leam Makham (community-based management (CF)) and To Ban (State-based management (SF))
    • Landward mangrove forest sites: Tong Tasae (CF) Tab Jak (SF)
  • Leam Makham & Tong Tasae managed the surrounding mangrove forests by setting quotas on mangrove resources, switching to alternative fuel sources so charcoal and timber reliance would decrease, forest monitoring, fining those who carried out illegal cutting (deforestation), and setting up rehabilitating areas to improve the surrounding mangrove forest condition (see “Community Forest Governance and Management” section). **Table 2 provides more details as well as shows the state-based management tactics.
  • Forest composition and diversity as well as forest structure are discussed and compared among the four forests. The results are as follows:
    • “Diversity indices revealed that the CF and SF in the landward site were similar in species diversity and evenness.
    • “At the seaward site, species diversity at the SF was higher than at the CF, whereas evenness indices of tree species were not different.”
    • “Community forests were in a significantly better condition than state forests when considering forest height and basal area.” (Extinction).
    • “Stem densities in the SFs were significantly higher than in the CFs, and this is attributable to high rates of regeneration after disturbance.”
  • In conclusion: “…community management was the principle factor in protecting, managing, and conserving the mangrove ecosystem in a manner superior to the conventional state management outside of protected areas.”
  • The following is a list that has been established to be “important for facilitating the emergence and long-term sustainability of collective action over natural resources (Ostrom 1990, Agrawal 2003): necessity and scarcity, local autonomy, social capital, presence of well-defined boundaries, monitoring and sanctions, leadership and conflict resolution, and external support.” These are all discussed in more detail in the paper.
Works Cited:

Agrawal, A. 2003. Sustainable governance of common-pool resources: context, methods, politics. Annual Review of Anthropology 32:243–262.

Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the commons: the evaluation of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA.