Community-Based Forestry and the Modernization of Smallholder Farming: The case of Ethiopia

Last registered on September 04, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Community-Based Forestry and the Modernization of Smallholder Farming: The case of Ethiopia
Initial registration date
August 31, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
September 04, 2023, 6:52 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

Wageningen University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Copenhagen

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This proposal focuses on the nexus of two challenges for Ethiopian policy makers: the unproductive nature of smallholder farming and the rapid deterioration of natural forest stocks. We will evaluate the impacts of a community-based forestry intervention (devolving extraction rights to local communities) on (i) the modernization of farming, (ii) rural livelihoods and (iii) forest conservation. Community-based forestry is expected to have a transformative effect on smallholder farming by relaxing liquidity and risk constraints, providing key inputs for high-value agriculture, and facilitating collective action (enabling groups of farmers to benefit from economies of scale in trading, storage and transacting).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bulte, Erwin and Goytom Kahsay. 2023. "Community-Based Forestry and the Modernization of Smallholder Farming: The case of Ethiopia ." AEA RCT Registry. September 04.
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Experimental Details


The main intervention is the creation of so-called forest user groups (FUGs). The right to manage a specific forest block and extract forest resources there is delegated to this newly created communtity-based organization.

The RCT has 4 experimental arms: one control arm and 3 arms with FUGs but different governance modalities..

• Business-as-usual forest management: This is our control group villages in which forest user groups will not be established and forest resources are under government management.

The following three treatment arms consists of villages in which FUGs will be established based on alternative approaches to select FUG leadership.

• Status quo leadership: according to the OFWE sample bylaw, members of the executive committee (EC) are “elected” by group members during a public voting event. Kahsay and Bulte (2021) show that EC members are often representatives of the local elite—higher incomes, greater wealth, better educated and connected, and involved in positions of (formal) authority. Business-as-usual selection of leadership implies that village elites “volunteer” for positions and are subsequently “supported” by other members.

• Anonymized voting: a small recent literature suggests that “local knowledge within local communities” may be leveraged to improve allocative outcomes (e.g., Casey et al., 2022, Hussam et al., 2022). We will explore possibilities to create conditions under which the most suitable and capable local candidates are identified and selected (details to be decided after follow-up pilot sessions, jointly with OFWE).

• Gender quota: in a random sub-sample of FUGs, OFWE will introduce the requirement that the EC’s vice chairperson and at least one other member are female. Currently, FUG leadership is dominated by men. Correlational evidence based on observational data suggests that local governance improves, and that better livelihood and conservation outcomes emerge when a woman is represented on the EC (Kahsay et al., 2021).

Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Modernization of agriculture (adoption of modern inputs: fertilizer and modern seed)
Agricultural sales (revenues)
Household income
Forest conservation (forest cover density of primary crop trees, species diversity, evidence of transgressions such as charcoal burning sites)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Women empowerment
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We will use a short version of the WEIA and possibly play bargaining games with spouses to measure bargaining power.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Villages are assigned to treatment through phase-in randomization in target expansion zones. Conditional on assignment to treatment, villages are assigned to leadership sub-treatments through a lottery. The unit of randomization is the village, as the currently-favored approach for CBFM is based on creating one FUG per village. Our total sample consists of 250 villages, spread across the 4 experimental arms (50 villages per treatment arms and 100 villages in the control group). The main unit of analysis is households and individuals within households (men, women).
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
250 villages
Sample size: planned number of observations
5000 respondents: 2500 households (2500 males, 2500 females)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 villages per each of the three treatments arms and 100 villages in the control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
0.2 SD

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Social Sciences Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number