Sarah Tolbert

Credentials: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

2022 SKJ Fellow

Sarah Tolbert is a PhD student in the Geography Department where her work focuses on the intersection of community well-being, forest conservation, and land tenure in Central Africa. After completing a joint bachelor’s degree in political science and environmental studies, Sarah joined the Peace Corps and served as an agricultural extension volunteer in Benin for three years. She then went on to earn a dual master’s degree in Environmental Management and Global Affairs from the Yale School of the Environment and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Her master’s research focused on the impact of gorilla protected areas on communities in Central Africa. She then returned to Central Africa where she worked with communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to manage forests for gorilla conservation and community development. It was during this time that the DRC passed the final piece of the Community Forest Law which made it possible for communities to legally own their forests for the first time. Sarah returned for her PhD at UW-Madison in order to better understand whether community forests were working for both people and wildlife. With the generous funding from the Scott Kloeck-Jenson Fellowship, Sarah’s pre-dissertation research will begin to untangle how devolving forest management authority effects power dynamics and well-being in communities in eastern DRC.