The Asia Sustainable Forest Management Network supports the role of communities in protection and sustainable use of the region's natural forests. The Network comprises a small, select coalition of Asian planners, foresters, and scientists from government agencies, universities, and non-government organizations, many of whom have collaborated for years. The solidarity of the Network members is based on a common commitment to exploring alternative management strategies for Asia's disturbed natural forest lands. The emphasis of the Network's research includes the ecology of natural regeneration, the economics of non-timber forest product systems, and the community organizations and institutional arrangements which support participatory management. The lessons stemming from the research aim to inform field implementation procedures, reorient training, and guide policy reform.

For more information about the Network and its publications, please contact:

Asia Forest Network Secretariat
Mark Poffenberger, Director
Center for Southeast Asia Studies
University of California, Berkeley
2223 Fulton Street, Room 617
Berkeley, CA 94720
Tel: (510) 642-3609
Fax: (510) 643-7062

South Asia Regional Office
Arvind Khare, Coordinator
Worldwide Fund for Nature, India
137-A Lodi Estate
New Delhi
Tel: (91-11) 469-1764
Fax: (91-11) 462-6837

Southeast Asia Regional Office
Peter Walpole, Coordinator
Environmental Research, Div.
Manila Observatory
P.O.Box 2232
Manila 1062
Tel: (63-2) 924-1751
Fax: (63-2) 924-4414


The 5th Annual Meeting, Linking Government with Community Resource Management: What's Working and What's Not has been supported by the USDA Forest Service's International Forestry Program, the World Bank's Economic Development Institute, USAID's Global Bureau, the Ford Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund.


Front cover photograph: A courtship dance circle, the village, and natural environment are depicted in this Warli wall painting. The Warli are a tribal forest people inhabiting the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India (Poffenberger)



Linking Government

with Community Resource Management


What's Working and What's Not


A Report of the 5th Asia Forest Network Meeting

Surajkund, India, December 2-6, 1996



Mark Poffenberger
Peter Walpole
Emmanuel D'Silva
Karen Lawrence
Arvind Khare



Research Network Report

Number 9 -- May 1997






Part I: Country Forest Policy Trends


















Part II: Community Forest Management Issues




Reorientation of Forestry Agencies


Enhancing Development Support Agency Programs




Part III: Future Directions














Upland Mainland Southeast Asia


Part IV: Summary


Trends and Needs


Asia Forest Network Directions


Forthcoming Publications


Appendix 1: An Analysis of the Workshop


Appendix 2: Participant List







We would like to honor the memory of Molly Kux and J.R. Gupta. Molly committed her professional life to conserving the global environment in socially just ways. She was a much valued supporter of the Asia Forest Network from its origin. J.R. Gupta conducted pioneering community forest management work in the Shivalik Hills of Haryana for over 20 years, inspiring and informing us with his dedication and creative, sensitive work. Both will be distinctly missed, but their contributions remembered, providing a solid foundation for our future efforts.



We would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations who contributed to Asia Forest Network program activities over the past year. We are particularly grateful to the Wallace Global Fund, USAID's Global Bureau, the Ford Foundation, and the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank for supporting our regional meeting in Surajkund. We would specifically like to acknowledge the support of Alex Moad, George Taylor, Mike Benge, Bob Wallace, Catherine Cameron, Melissa Dan, Jeff Campbell, and Emmanuel D'Silva. We also appreciate the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the encouragement of Kuswata Kartawinata. We are grateful for the continued institutional support the Network receives from the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and from the East-West Center's Program on Environment. Special thanks are due to Richard Buxbaum, Bob Reed, Eric Crystal, and Jeri Foushee, and to Michael Dove, Jeff Fox, Meg White, and Karen Yamamoto. Rowena Soriaga, Angana Chattejee, Alison Schwarz, and Satyanaryana all made extraordinary efforts to ensure the success of our regional meeting. We are particularly grateful to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, India and to the Society for the Promotion of Wastelands Development for providing institutional support for the Asia Forest Network meeting. The encouragement of Samar Singh, S.K. Puri, Syeed Rizvi, Sushil Saigal, and Chetan Agarwal was greatly appreciated. We would. like to express our gratitude to M.F. Ahmad for his active support to the Asia Forest Network during his term as Inspector General of Forests, Government of India. We also appreciate the interest shown by Vinod Vaish, Additional Secretary, and Mr. S. K. Pande, Assistant Inspector General. Finally we wish to thank the foresters, donor agency staff, researchers, and NGO colleagues who took the time to come to Surajkund to share their experiences. Thanks to Jenny Sowerwine for her helpful suggestions in developing this manuscript. We also thank Magdalene Khoo for her layout of this report, Kevin Kolb for graphics, and Jack Brulle at Apollo Printing.

Mark Poffenberger, Peter Walpole, and Arvind Khare




The 5th Asia forest Network meeting was held at Surajkund, India from December 2nd through the 6th, 1996. The purpose of the meeting was to draw together Asia's collective experiences in devolving rights and responsibilities to communities over the management of the public forest domain. Planners, donors, forest agency staff, NGOs, and community leaders asked what is working and what is not at both the policy and operational level as new management partnerships are created. On the cusp of the 21st century how can this transition in management succeed in responding to the needs of Asia's expanding rural population while sustaining forest ecosystems and their functions?

There have been some remarkable changes in recent years in both formal policies and programs supporting the greater engagement of rural people in the custody of the public forest estate. Nepal and the Philippines began exploring community forest management polices nearly 20 years ago. By the late 1980's India began formulating joint forest management (JFM) policies. Now Indonesia, China, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam are exploring policy and strategic options that involve communities in public lands management. After over a century of forest land nationalization and growing government agency dominance, the momentum appears to be shifting toward a greater formal role for communities, often in partnership with the state. Yet, this historic regional and even global management transition is constrained by a diversity of factors. Inadequate experience in reformulating policy to support decentralization, resistance of large private sector interests, lack of political will and capacity to implement, and unsupportive procedures and attitudes slow progress. Further, an absence of strong communication linkages and working relationships between government and forest communities all restrain effective reforms in public forest lands management.

Participants at the AFN meeting, and the broader body of professionals and community members working on forest management in the region, possess an immense pool of experience to address the issues above.

The meeting organizers hoped to create an opportunity for exchange and synthesis to bring this vast, but scattered, knowledge together to identify common patterns, problems, needs, and solutions, to make them transparent, and to communicate them. The goal of the Asia Forest Network is to facilitate this process. The 80 AFN meeting participants included senior government forestry officers, forestry field staff, researchers, and NGO and community leaders.

During Session I each of the eight participating countries briefly summarized the current state of their national forests and forest communities, and described emerging national community forestry policy trends. Panelists Session II reported on India's experiences with community and joint forest management, highlighting social and institutional developments. Senior forest department professionals presented emerging experiences in reorienting staff and procedures, as well as changes in ecological restoration strategies that emphasize community protection and natural regeneration over costly plantation establishment.

Session III brought together two decades of experience from Nepal and the Philippines in designing and redesigning effective community forestry policy, as well as the challenges Vietnam faces as an economy in transition moving from socialist to private management, while seeking a role for communities. The session also raised important questions regarding the role of donors and development assistance agencies in long-term public forest management transitions.

The plenary sessions provided information for subgroup discussions held in Session IV. The subgroups dealt with six interrelated issues bearing community forest management to identify what is working and what is not. The topics included the components of enabling policies, agency implementation and transition benchmarks, the use of spatial tools for planning and monitoring, experiences with community management in protected areas, the role of micro planning, and ways to ensure equity and gender balance in forest management reallocation processes.

Session V provided country teams with opportunities to caucus and develop action programs for the coming years. Activities outlined by the India group focused on policy initiatives, community support strategies, and developing mechanisms to accelerate and utilize field learning. The Philippines and Indonesian teams worked to create new agendas for their national programs, while the participants from mainland Southeast Asia collaborated in examining common issues and needs of forest ecosystems and ethnic minorities who comprise their upland regions.

This report brings together the materials and ideas presented at Surajkund, drawing from the panels and discussion groups. In compiling this report, the editors also draw on their own field visits, trip reports, and discussions with Network members and other practitioners over the part two years. This report builds on discussions at Surajkund to provide a regional synthesis of community forest management experiences emerging in Asia, highlighting what's working and what's not.

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