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Property Rights Protect Trees

John Reader writes the following in his 1997 book Africa:

Trees are another important source of fodder for the cattle and it is remarkable that while firewood demands have stripped rural areas bare of trees throughout Africa, Ukara [an island in Lake Victoria] remains notably wooded.  Indeed, a visitor would be struck by the contrast.  Mature trees up to fifteen and twenty meters high line the trackways (there are no made roads on Ukara) and offer refuges of deep shade beside streams and in the folds of the uplands; saplings flank cultivated plots; each homestead is surrounded by trees — and all this living wood on a tiny, densely populated island where trees are a source of cattle fodder, building materials and firewood.  What is the explanation?

The fact that every tree is privately owned ensures that the use of this indispensable resource is sustainable.  Every tree is protected by vested interest.  Indeed, the ownership of some trees is shared among as many as three individuals.  Trees are rented for their leaf harvest.  Building poles, timber, and firewood are bartered and sold [pp. 250-251; original emphasis].

Hat tip to Karol.