Reports from eight Asian countries underscored important policy shifts that have taken place over the past decade. A growing number of Asia's policy makers perceive the need for policies that can stabilize natural forest resources and prevent further forest loss. In most of the region's countries, greater priority is being ascribed to the environmental service functions of forests versus timber production. Increasingly, both planners and development agencies see strategic opportunities to stabilize natural re- sources through greater involvement of con-annuities and local government in forest protection. Practitioners are encountering a number of constraints in making these policy and operational shifts. These include vested interests of powerful individuals who benefit from maintaining traditional timber exploitation industries, corruption within government and forestry agencies, the conservatism of colleagues who are uncomfortable with change and prefer traditional approaches to public lands management, and finally a lack of experience in formulating and implementing new policies that are supportive of decentralized, participatory management systems. As a consequence, policy changes supportive of community appear to be taking place unevenly. In some nations greater restrictions and bans are being placed on commercial felling, while greater authority is being extended to communities and local governments for public forest lands management. Historic trends in forest management policies in Asian countries reveal some common parallels, including initial periods of forest nationalization, followed by commercial use, with conservation and community involvement policies emerging in the last decade (see Figure 2). Asian countries are stressing conservation as timber and forest product imports grow and communities demand a role in management. Socialist countries like China and Vietnam, with economies in transition, have emphasized public lands privatization in recent policies, but are examining the role of communities. Even large forest product exporting countries like Indonesia are now giving the role of communities greater consideration. While each Asian nation is approaching the question of community involvement in public lands management differently, throughout the region the trend is clearly toward devolving authority, reflecting transitions in process.
Figure 2: Public Forest Land Policy Trends in Asia - 1800-2000
With over one billion people, demands on China's forest resources are immense. Officially, 263 million hectares are designated forest lands; however, only 134 million hectares possess relatively good forest cover, representing 14 percent of the nation's land area. Natural forests are gradually being replaced by plantations, which now represent approximately one-third of all forest lands. China is struggling to meet growing timber and fuelwood demands, stabilize watershed functioning and promote soil conservation, and to conserve its biodiversity and wildlife. Over the past 30 years 518 sites have been designated as nature reserves which currently total 51 million hectares or over 5 percent of total land area. Three immense reforestation programs are underway including the Three North Shelterbelt, the Yangtse Shelterbelt, and the Coastal Shelterbelt. Plantation approaches to reforestation have dominated forestry strategy in China for several decades. Despite massive planting efforts China's forest resources, especially natural ecosystems, continue to erode. Poor policies are often blamed and criticized for China's failure to extend distinct property rights and clearly delineate management responsibility and benefit sharing arrangements. Frequent policy shifts have also created an environment of uncertainty among forest stakeholders, encouraging short-term exploitation over sustainable production.
Forest management systems in China have gone through some remarkable changes over the past years. Prior to World War II, forests in mountainous regions were owned by landlords, but often under the direct management of poor and lower middle class peasants who exercised almost complete control over the resources. After land reform programs were initiated in the 1950's, farmers were given full ownership, but cooperatives took over management. In the 1960's and 70's, household ownership of forest was assumed by communes and collectives. Finally in 1983, a new forest policy, known as liangshanyidi (freehold land, contracted land, and swidden land), was passed to shift management from the state to individuals, with the collective maintaining ownership. Xu Guozhen of the Central South Forest University of China contends that the policy has failed because the relationships between ownership, management rights and responsibilities, and benefit sharing are unclear (FN 2)
Economic liberalization policies have also shifted the emphasis on implementation from the state to private enterprise. Deregulation of timber markets followed in 1985. Economic liberalization has also resulted in much greater decentralization in forest policy making toward the provincial level. Provincial policies are attempting to institute better access controls over forest resources, but are competing with a rapidly expanding market-oriented economy that drives exploitation.
The diverse shifts in policies governing forest ownership, use rights, and management authority over the past three decades appear to have created an environment of insecurity among rural people, forestry staff, government administrators, and industry. In some areas, this has undermined willingness to make long-term investments in forestry and has encouraged short-term exploitation and unsustainable use. For example, after a forest management policy shift was made in central Yunnan in the early 1990's, neighboring villages began felling old growth pine forests at night. The entire upper watershed was virtually denuded over a three-year period. Deforestation now threatens the hydrological function of the upper watershed and has eliminated income from pine nuts that had supplemented local community income for generations.
Some of China's largest remaining natural forest areas lie in the mountainous regions of the Southwest. In Yunnan Province, for example, 24 percent of the land is still forested. Along the border with Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, forested mountains are inhabited by ethnic minority groups including Tibetans, Yi, Lisu, Miao, Bai, Yao and other indigenous peoples. Many communities have retained traditional systems of forest management similar to those shared by related ethnic groups across the border. Due to their isolation, political sensitivity, and proximity to border areas, social reorganization policies were not pursued as vigorously as in other parts of China, allowing some traditional organizations to continue to manage local forest resources. The Rural Development Research Center of Yunnan Province is currently documenting the great diversity of indigenous forest user groups that exist within the province and educating foresters and planners in the importance of supporting them through policy and programs. The Center's research also indicates that in agricultural areas farm forestry and plantations managed by individual households have been reasonably successful, while "forest managed by the collectives and townships experienced greatest disturbance and lower productivity" (FN 3). Given the social and ecological complexity and diversity present in China, no mono-lithic policy will likely respond well to all local forest management needs. Rather, a systematic, long-term, decentralized process of policy formulation that builds on local traditions, needs, and opportunities may offer the best chance for sustaining the nation's forests under growing demographic and industrial pressure.
Nepal's fragile mountain forest ecosystems have been shaped by human interactions for centuries. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, forest lands were controlled either by local hamlets or by the feudal government of the Rana prime ministers. Nepal was one of the last nations in Asia to nationalize its forests in 1957. At that time the population of the country was around 8.5 million people; today it is nearing 21 million. While the forests of the lowland Terai have long been a target for commercial timber industries, the forests of the middle hills have largely been used to meet the needs of local user communities for agricultural land, housing materials, green manure, fodder, and fuelwood. Nationalization of forest land eroded the legitimacy of indigenous systems of forest protection and management, though local use continued and mounted as populations expanded. The new government that replaced the Rana Regime was often unable to implement effective forest access controls. This resulted in many forests becoming open access lands with subsequent patterns of unsustainable use and degradation. By the late 1970's, Nepali planners and foresters increasingly recognized that the Forest Department alone could not protect the nation's remote forest areas without community co- operation. In 1978, based on the Forest Act of 1961, the Panchayati Forest and Panchayat Protected Forest Rules were passed empowering local village administrators to oversee degraded forest lands. Communities were given rights to all non-forest products and to 50 percent of timber revenues, which was later increased to 75 percent.
The Panchayat forest policies were also supported by the 1982 Decentralization Act. However, by the late 1980's it was clear that community management was not effectively supported through these policy initiatives. An analysis of the program led planners, foresters, NGO leaders and donors to conclude that vesting local government with management rights and responsibilities was a mistake. Local government leaders were often village elites who did not effectively represent the interests of forest users. In 1987, the Community Forestry rules were amended to recognize traditional groups of forest users. Forest User Groups (FUGs) reflected the types of Nepali community organizations that had handled resource management issues in rural society in the past. The new Community Forestry program allows any public forest to be managed by a FUG, with 100 percent of any forest produce accruing to that group. Typically, a Panchayat might have 10 to 15 FUGS. The new FUG policy was incorporated into the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector in 1988, and subsequently strengthened through new Forest Laws and By-Laws passed in the 1993 and 1995.
Currently over 350,000 hectares of public forest are managed by 600,000 households organized into 5,000 FUGs, representing approximately 7 percent of the nation's forest area. Currently, the Forest Department has targeted approximately 61 percent of all public forests for community-based management. While the process of FUG registration progressed slowly during the first few years after the FUG By-Laws were passed in 1987, since 1991 the number of user groups registered has increased dramatically, expanding from 29 in 1990 to 354 in 1992, and finally to 1390 in 1995. Lands designated community forests prior to 1987 have also been brought into conformity with the new legislation.
Formal registration does not fully reflect the broader impact of the program on forest management since tens of thousands of communities are already informally engaged in forest protection and management or have requests for registration pending. Given the current rate of growth in registration and community demand for acknowledgment, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of Nepal's public forest domain will come officially under community control by the year 2010 if current trends prevail.
The empowerment of Forest User Groups has been supported and accelerated by policy measures including: (1) devolving authority to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) to authorize the transfer process, (2) giving priority to FUGs over other leasehold request for any public forest lands, (3) allowing FUGs 100 percent of all revenues and freedom to allocate surplus revenues for any community development activity, (4) allowing FUGs freedom to set their own prices on forest products, (5) vesting rights to punish forest offenders, and (6) bestowing the authority to transport forest products and develop forest industries.
Aside from officially recognizing community resource users as formal managers, the Forest Department is also undergoing fundamental changes in its orientation. The Master Plan for Forests mandates a conversion of the entire forestry staff to work as extensionists to be carried out through intensive district and regional training programs. The support of development agencies for the reorientation of the Forest Department has been helpful in the case of Nepal.
Until recently, Cambodia has possessed dense forest cover. Prior to 1970, 73 percent of the nation was forested. With a population that reached 10 million in 1995, which continues to grow at a rate of 2.8 percent annually, pressures on natural resources are mounting. The political instability of the past 25 years has allowed politically powerful individuals to sell logging rights to local and foreign timber companies. Communities and professional foresters have stood by while powerful political and military figures have sold vast tracts of forests. Accurate figures concerning deforestation are difficult to acquire. While the Mekong Secretariat estimated that 62 percent of the country still retained forest cover in 1993, a 1995 report noted that felling had reduced the coverage to 35 percent of the land area (FN 6). Estimates of Cambodia's forest area vary widely depending on the inclusion or exclusion of different forest vegetation categories, however all forest inventories show rapidly declining forest cover. The government has at- tempted to pass policies and establish programs to help control deforestation. In April 1995, a timber export ban was passed followed by a ban on felling in early 1996 (FN 7). Yet a later investigation revealed that 750,000 cubic meters of sawn timber were still arriving at Kalapandha harbor in Thailand each year valued at $110 to $220 million 'in a blatantly illegal trade that both the Thai authorities and the Royal Cambodian Government continue to ignore" (FN 8). Despite Thailand's 1995 agreement to close the Cambodian border to the timber trade, corruption within the Thai military and police is alleged to have facilitated the continuing and large flows of wood across the border. The problem is further complicated by the active involvement of two Khmer Rouge factions that are also selling timber in areas under their control that border Thailand (FN 9).
Deforestation is creating immense problems for the resource-dependent rural population. Still heavily subsistence-oriented, Cambodian villagers rely on forests for housing materials, agricultural tools, fodder, food, medicinal plants, and other needs. Monoculture, fast growing tree plantations that have been the primary strategy for community forestry initiatives have been unsuccessful due to their inability to supply village families with the diverse forest products they require. Communities are showing growing interest in protecting the remaining natural forests.
Cambodia's Forest Department (FD) is now attempting to develop new strategies to stabilize remaining natural forests in two provinces through collaborative agreements with local communities, and with the support of donor agencies. Creating new alliances between the FD and communities is being facilitated by newly emerging NGOs. This process, however, is limited by a continuing reliance on plantation forestry models. Over the next 10 years, however, the FD intends to expand the community forestry program from 2 to 14 districts. Degraded forest estates and secondary forest will be given to local communities under agreement with the FD. Under such agreements the Forest Department would provide technical support and marketing assistance for a wide range of products, while the community would take responsibility for planting, protection, and harvesting. It is currently proposed that under these agreements revenue rights to 80 percent of the produce would be allocated to communities, with the remaining 20 percent for the FD. This approach is currently being tested in 2 districts.
The challenge for Cambodia is to find ways to stabilize its forest resources at a time when powerful figures in both that nation, Thailand, and other countries are profiting heavily from rapid, unsustainable logging. Illegal revenues from timber are considered to be the country's largest source of foreign exchange. Yet, some senior planners recognize their greater value. According to former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, forests are "the center of the ecosystems. They are like a sponge, soaking up the water in the rainy season and releasing it in the dry season. Already we are seeing an acceleration of erosion, flooding and the siltation of rivers and lakes. We are beginning to starve in the drought and drown in the floods." King Sihanouk has spoken in despair regarding the problem: 'If this deforestation does not stop, Cambodia will be, alas, a desert country in the 21st century." (FN 9)
Donor agencies are frightened too. According to a New York Times article, "The international financial institutions that support half the Government's annual budget, about $650 million, are warning that illegal logging could jeopardize continued financing" (FN 10). In May 1996, the International Monetary Fund suspended a $20 million payment over concern about the government's inability to check illegal logging. Even if senior government officers actively move to halt timber smuggling, stopping it on the ground is another matter since illegal loggers are protected by armed guards. Demand for illegal timber from Cambodia is apparently so strong that even rubber plantations are being felled in some areas.
While it is unlikely that communities vested with rights to public forest management will be able to stop armed gangs supported by the military or Khmer Rouge elements, they may be able to stabilize forest areas where felling is not occurring, or reestablish access controls once illegal logging operators have departed. To build such alliances the Forest Department faces the challenge of creating policies and operational capacities to establish meaningful partnerships with rural communities. Donor agencies appear eager to support this process. The Forest Department has outlined a number of components comprising this strategy including: (1) designating and mapping community forest areas, (2) defining community forest use rights and protection covenants, (3) establishing village committees to administer forest areas (4) determining management rules, regulations, fines, and fees, and (5) allocating income from forest revenues and levying taxes.
Vietnam possesses a population of 74 million concentrated in the lowland Red and Mekong River deltas and coastal plains. The remaining two-thirds of the country is hilly and mountainous land, the home of most of the 54 ethnic minority groups who comprise 16 percent of the population. Most of the remaining natural forest is located in these upland areas. Population increases of 1.4 million people per annum (2 percent) and industrial growth averaging 7 to 8 percent annually put immense pressure on the nation's natural resources.
Prior to 1945, most of the upland regions of Vietnam were sparsely inhabited by ethnic minorities practicing traditional systems of land use. Some communities, like the Thai of the Da River watershed in the north-western part of the country, lived along mountain rivers and engaged in dryland farming, irrigated padi cultivation, and aqua-culture. These groups tended to be more sedentary, often inhabiting the same upland valleys for centuries. Other ethnic minorities like the Hmong lived on higher slopes, relying on long rotation agriculture, periodically moving their settlements. As populations have grown, ethnic minorities and the lowland Kinh majority have come into closer contact. In the past, tribal governance structures and customary laws predominated as methods for managing resources and arbitrating conflicts. The lowland Kinh courts maintained agreements with some upland minority groups, as did the French colonial government, to facilitate trade in certain products and to recruit tribal men for military service. While trade and military contacts between upland communities and lowland governments existed over the centuries, until the end of World War II resource management in the remote upland watersheds of Vietnam was largely the domain of local communities.
In 1943, out of a total land area of 33 million hectares, Vietnam had 14.3 million hectares of natural forest covering 43 percent of the land area. By 1993, natural forest cover had fallen to 8.6 million hectares representing 26 percent of the national territory. The remaining land included 12.5 million hectares of denuded hills and open wasteland covering 38 percent of the country, 0.5 million hectares of plantation forest, or 2 percent of the nation, and 11.4 million hectares of farmland covering 34 percent of the country (FN 12). Vietnam's forests were degraded through two long wars extending from the 1950's through the mid-1970's. During this period bombing and chemical spraying had considerable impact on reducing forest vegetation. Extensive logging also resulted in substantial forest loss in certain upland regions, and was used to generate timber revenues supporting the war effort. Commercial timber production continued to dominate forest policy through the 1980's to assist the country in resurrecting its economy in the post-war era. Between 1986 and 1989, the forestry sector contributed 2 percent of national income and up to 10 percent of all export earnings accordinging to a Tropical Forestry Action Plan report.
In the late 1950's all land with a slope greater than 25 degrees was subject to transfer to state forest enterprises. The Department of Fixed Cultivation and Sedentarization was established in 1968 to stop swidden cultivation and resettle shifting agriculturalists, though this program had limited impact. More successful was the massive National Afforestation Program that resulted in the establishment of 1.4 million hectares of concentrated plantation forest and the scattered planting of 3.6 billion trees between 1961 and 1985. Following the unification of the country in 1975, ambitious government programs resettled between 2 to 4 million lowland ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) into the upland "new economic zone" areas, many of whom worked in state forest enterprises. Forest policies began to shift in 1982, with forest lands increasingly allocated to farmer households, villages, and communes for management. This process was boosted by the official adoption of the national "renovation" (doi moi) program in 1986, oriented toward economic liberalization. Government decisions to accelerate the transfer of public forest lands to individuals, farmer households, and communes gained further momentum after 1993. According to a Ministry of Forestry report, by 1990 4.4 million hectares of land had been allocated to 473,500 households, 2638 communes, and 7442 cooperatives.
While privatization has been successful in encouraging lowland and midland farmers, well-connected to markets and capital, to plant fast-growing trees and establish plantations, these new policies have been less successful in mobilizing community and household tree planting in the nation's remote mountainous regions. Policies remain largely insensitive to indigenous resource use systems of upland minorities and to their prior claims and rights to the land. Much of Vietnam's deforestation, estimated at 300,000 hectares annually between 1973 and 1985, occurs in the uplands. Continuing in-migration by lowland populations, small-scale logging, fires, and un-sustainable land use systems drive deforestation. Deforestation has also led to increasing erosion and sediment loads in major river systems. In the Da River, which flows through northwest Vietnam, increasing silt levels may reduce the life of the Hoa Binh dam from 100 to 50 years. The dam supplies 70 percent of the nation's hydroelectric power.
Since indigenous systems of forest protection and management practiced by ethnic minority groups receive little recognition under the law, they have not been effectively integrated into broader national strategies to stabilize upland resources. Current policies emphasize privatization or contractual management of upper forests, but an individual household's decision making may not reflect the interests of the larger community. Vietnamese planners and professional foresters, encouraged by development agencies and experiences elsewhere in Asia, are considering ways to engage communities in the management of upper watershed forests. Many forests in upper catchments have been held under communal management in the past because they provide water to the irrigated rice fields and fish ponds that are located on the lower water course and stream sides. While defacto indigenous systems are present to varying degrees, there is no clear national village forest management policy or instruments to complement emerging household forest management programs.
Forest allocation to households is a slow process as it requires cadastral maps be made through ground surveys to demarcate areas for contractual agreements. There is a need to develop strategies that maintain and enhance local tenure stability, supporting existing, informal forest protection and management systems, until such groups are formally registered, whether they be household or community administered. International and bilateral development and research agencies need to coordinate efforts to assist Vietnamese forestry institutions to gain the skills and develop the capacities to cooperate effectively with communities engaged in forest management activities. Evolving strategies need to build on and be responsive to a diversity of upland physical and cultural contexts, supporting and strengthening ethnic minority institutions and forest production systems, rather than importing lowland or foreign models. Recent discussions and meetings among Vietnamese planners, foresters, and donor-supported upland project staff are valuable and need to be sustained to accelerate learning and facilitate the evolution of effective community forest management policies and programs.
India was one of the first nations in the world to establish a professional forest service and nationalize its forest domain under the Forest Act of 1865. During the next 100 years much of the country's uncultivated land was demarcated and placed under the management of the Indian Forest Service and state forest departments. Throughout this period forests were viewed as the primary supplier of timber which was used to lay the foundation for India's vast railroads, build towns and cities, truck frames, and deliver fuel for industrial and domestic needs. Tribal communities and other forest dwellers' resource rights eroded as state agencies and the private sector established greater control. Protests and rebellions by resident peoples were generally quickly suppressed by the military or police, though conflicts persisted through the years. After independence, much of the British colonial forest policy and administrative system was retained. The need for the newly independent nation to develop its economy led to accelerated commercial exploitation after World War II.
By 1980, however, concerns over rapidly disappearing forest cover and wildlife led to the passing of the Forest Conservation Act placing tight restrictions on timber felling. Yet, while wildlife conservation needs were becoming a national priority, it was not until the National Forest Policy Act of 1988 was passed that community forest use rights were given greater recognition. By the early 1990's, while 23 percent of India's land area was designated public forest, only 9 to 11 percent possessed good forest vegetative cover. State forest lands were under immense pressure from tens of millions of livestock and an estimated 50 to 200 million rural forest users. Planners and forest officers recognized the need to intensify forest protection through involving communities. At the same time, NGO staff, university researchers and field-level foresters were identifying a growing number of Indian communities that were protecting natural forests in response to increasing scarcities of forest products. Concentrated in the eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, but also found in the Himalayas, southern Rajasthan, and the Western and Eastern Ghats, thousands of villages had taken control of designated, often degraded public forest lands allowing them to begin regenerating naturally. In 1990 the national Ministry of Environment and Forests passed a resolution extending specific rights and responsibilities to villages over the public forest domain. Over the past nine years, seventeen Indian states issued government orders with guidelines for the implementation of Joint Forest Management (JFM) schemes. By the mid-1990's, $150 million (30 percent of all donor support to the forestry sector) had been earmarked to support JFM. It is currently estimated that 20,000 villages have formed forest protection groups, many of which effectively control access to 3 to 5 percent of India's total forest area representing approximately 2 million hectares (FN 14).
The challenge for India now is to continue the transition process. Nearly 50 percent of India's land area, 67 million hectares, is considered ecologically degraded. Much of the country's forest degradation results from expanding human and livestock populations unsustainably collecting biomass in the form of timber, leaves, shrubs, and grasses. The removal of vegetative cover allows rain and wind to carry valuable top soil away. Tighter controls over resource access and exploitation are critical to sustaining and restoring India's natural forest ecosystems. Local users' recognition of this need is growing, reflecting the accelerating rate of grassroots organizing and forest protection group formation; however, it remains concentrated in certain regions. That community forest protection is often a locally initiated action presents challenges to government. It requires a departure from conventional top-down project delivery schemes. Government agencies are confronted by social processes that they must respond to, facilitate, and support. Roles required of field staff are shifting from that of custodial guards and private sector logging regulators, to community organizers, mappers, mediators, participatory researchers, and extension educators. Technically-oriented timber working plans are now being replaced by community generated, multi-product micro-plans. These are the challenges facing the creation of new partnerships between rural communities and government agencies to oversee the public forest domain.
Can India's forest departments shift to collaborative forms of management after over a century of unilateral custodial control? With over 100,000 staff, the reorientation required is certainly dramatic. Ajit Banejee noted that if you read the professional books of 1950's and 60's you will find virtually no mention of community roles in forest management, while today it is in the mainstream of Indian forestry. Nonetheless, in-service staff training capacities and action oriented field research abilities are inadequate and require urgent attention. Already, it is India's massive rural population that determines the conditions of much of the country's natural forests. While the Government initially approved JFM only in degraded forest areas, there is greater recognition that community involvement is necessary in all forested areas, including protected areas and those with valuable timber.
Community-based forest management is a fundamental element in many of Indonesia's human ecosystems. From Irian Jaya to northern Sumatra, indigenous communities utilize and protect neighboring forests, relying on them for a sustainable supply of land, timber, non-timber forest products, and as watersheds. Many groups manipulate these forests intensively to optimize certain product flows, such as the mixed, talun forestry systems of West Java, the damar forests of South Sumarta, the coastal sago groves of eastern Indonesia, and the rattan gardens of Kalimantan.
During Dutch colonial rule, forest land began to be placed under government control. Initially, the teak forests of Java were brought under the authority of state corporations in the mid-19th century. In the 1920's, agrarian laws recognized private ownership only over permanently cultivated land, while communal forms of forest tenure received little attention. After Indonesia achieved independence following World War II, new land and forest laws were passed, but many drew heavily on earlier Dutch laws. Traditional community forest rights were acknowledged under the Basic Forestry Law (1967) and the Basic Agrarian Law (1960 ), but only as long as they did not conflict with broader "national development interests."
By the early 1970's, Indonesia began embarking on a period of rapid industrial growth driven by the utilization of its rich natural resource base. Vast areas in the outer islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya were leased to foreign and domestic corporations for logging, mining, and plantation use. Development agencies began pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the transmigration of Javanese to remote areas to establish new agricultural zones. The land and forest rights of resident peoples were generally not recognized throughout this period. Unmapped ancestral land claims had little credence in government circles and there were few channels to communicate conflicts to judicial or administrative authorities. Government policies gave priority to private sector and development program initiatives.
By the late 1980's, however, conflicts with forest communities on Java led government agencies to begin designing more collaborative, social forestry initiatives. New co-management agreements were crafted to provide forest farmers with some long-term rights to grow fruit and timber tree species on public lands. On the larger outer islands, new community forest management policies and supportive programs have only recently begun to emerge. The Ministry of Forestry has required timber concessionaires to implement community development projects under the HPH Bina Desa program, though these programs generally have modest results and do not deal directly with forest tenure rights and conflicts of resident peoples. The government has encouraged migrants to plant fast-growing timber species on public lands under the HTI-Trans program. Other community development strategies have also emerged for forest dwellers, now estimated between 12 and 60 million people. These include the Forest Village Community Development Program (PMDH) and the Forest Community project (Hutan Kemasyarakatan). Specialists monitoring community forestry policy shifts in Indonesia feel that such efforts have been flawed due to a lack of attention to fundamental forest rights and tenure conflicts. The Ministry of Forestry has yet to develop a clear mechanism to re-empower communities with legal rights over neighboring forest lands. Without long-term tenure security, there is concern that outside interests will continue to exploit local forest resources without regard for community needs for forest materials and a healthy environment.
While Indonesian NGOs and bilateral donor agencies are supporting a range of pilot project initiatives to explore options for transferring legal management authority to forest resident groups, much of the work is at a pilot project level. Further learning tends to be scattered and there has been limited attempt to synthesize the work of the past decade to develop long-term strategies to engage rural communities in public forest management partnerships. The Minister of Forestry has, however, indicated a willingness to accelerate work in the development of community forest management systems. Under the proposed village production forest block program (persil hutan produksi desa) communities would be granted management rights to public production forest lands without ties to a timber corporation or other intermediary body. The Ministry of Forests is especially interested in implementing this program to stabilize forest lands that fall outside existing lease or program areas. Many logged-over patches of forest, ranging in size from 10,000 to 15,000 hectares, currently have few or no access controls due to the limited availability of forest guards and patrols. As a consequence they often experience illegal logging by local entrepreneurs. Communities, in conjunction with NGOs, are now being viewed by Ministry planners as well-positioned to oversee such small- to medium-sized forest tracts. The challenge is to design and establish a process that brings together forest communities, local government, provincial planning agencies and national Ministries to initiate this management transition and devolution of authority.
Thailand has experienced extensive deforestation over the past century, accelerating in the post World War II era. As recently as 1953, 60 percent of the nation was forested. However, forest cover had declined to 27 percent by 1991. In the mid-1960's, 40 percent of the north fell under timber concessions. Migration and land clearing for cassava and kenaf cultivation in the Northeast during the 1970's resulted in rapid deforestation. Between the 1960's and the present time Thailand went from a net timber exporter to a major regional importer, now drawing heavily on wood from Burma, Laos, and Cambodia.
Prior to the establishment of the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) of Thailand in 1896, the nation's forest lands were broadly under the control of autonomous local nobility and rural communities. Thailand has a long history of communal forest and water resource management. In the northern part of the country, indigenous water management organizations (Moung Fai) operated irrigation systems and guarded the watersheds that supplied them. In other parts of Thailand, local community organizations protected forested sacred watersheds, groves, and shelterbelts. In 1899, the national government formally claimed ownership of all forest lands, ultimately representing approximately 60 percent of the national land area. After nationalization, the RFD adopted a modem, technical concept of forestry, emphasizing commercial silvaculture under bureaucratic and private sector control. Community systems of management continued to operate, but without formal sanction, often coming into conflict with government policies. Over the past 20 years the RFD has gradually opened to allow greater community collaboration. For example, when the RFD established a water- shed management program in 1953, the orientation was solely toward soil and water conservation trials on research stations. Beginning in 1977, however, watershed projects began addressing local economic needs. Experience gained from early efforts led RFD in 1992 to formulate watershed management strategies that explicitly engage forest-dependent communities. While meaningful partnerships are now beginning to emerge, the RFD continues to face problems due to contradictions between old and ongoing policies and innovative, participatory strategies. For example, community forest resources are often located in steep upland watershed zoned for strict conservation making the negotiation of community use rights difficult. Complex conflicts over water access also create devisive issues, generating barriers to compromise agreements. Communities that protect upland forest watersheds to ensure water security for downstream users are not adequately compensated for their management work, reflecting a broader inequity of resource flows between upstream people and downstream consumers.
Government policies need to be formulated to support both hamlet and community (tambon) management of forest and water resources. In 1991 a new community forestry law was drafted, but was not ratified by the government. Successive changes of government and political factionalism have slowed efforts to adopt a formal resolution or establish a national strategy. At more local levels, however, changes are occurring. In the North, some communities in upland watersheds are developing collaborative resource management systems. Ethnic minority groups are concerned about land insecurity, deforestation and erosion, and declining water quality. In northern districts, villages sharing the same sub-watershed have begun framing rules and organizing management systems, sometimes with the sup- port of local RFD staff, NGO, or university researchers. As population and economic development pressures generate pollution problems and increased consumption, water is becoming a critical issue in both rural and urban areas. Rural and urban-based environmental movements may join forces to place greater pressure on the political system to extend management rights and responsibilities to local communities.
Over 90 percent of the Philippines is thought to have possessed forest cover prior to the colonial period in the 16th century. By 1900, forested area had declined to 70 percent, falling to 55 percent in 1950, with an accelerated slide to 20 percent by 1990. After independence, colonial policies persisted that had nationalized nearly two-thirds of the country and designated it state forest land. At that time, the Philippine government viewed forest inhabitants, whether migrant or indigenous, as squatters with few or no rights to the land. Technical justifications were given to support policies prohibiting human habitation in watersheds with slopes greater than 18 percent, representing much of the uplands. Powerful economic interests received political and administrative support to exploit natural resources in the uplands, with large mining and logging leases granted to urban elites. At the height of the logging era in the early 1970's, nearly 400 Timber License Agreements (TLAS) were active. Logging companies also established roads opening the uplands to a flood of lowland migrants. The lack of any land reform, the recession and the collapse of the sugar and coconut industries, only exacerbated the problems in the years that followed, while unsustainable logging practices continued to reduce old growth areas. Ongoing armed resistance to some of the remaining TLAs reflect the still desperate need for alternatives.
While populist "land for the landless" programs emerged in the 1960's, they conflicted with rigid policies and punitive actions against up- land communities practicing long rotational agriculture (Kaingin). By the 1970's forest occupants involved in management, started to be acknowledged both by government and the private sector. The Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines, Inc. (PICOP) sought to facilitate forest rehabilitation by encouraging neighboring farmers to plant trees. The government also began to recognize community claims and their de facto role in management, initiating a range of supportive pilot projects using donor support throughout the 1980's. While pilot projects had little impact on mainstream public forest management, policies and practices, they initiated a learning process that began identifying a very different approach to upland management. Pilot projects identified the limitations of "technical fixes" including the slope agriculture land technology (SALT) being extended in the northern part of the country. Action research also indicated that farmers were rejecting second tree farm rotations under the PICOP program. An Upland Development Working Group was established with donor support. Drawing on pilot project experience it provided a new process-oriented mechanism for the design of community-based forestry programs. The new Constitution of 1987 clearly acknowledges the inalienable rights of the cultural communities of the uplands and has strengthened the political will to make meaningful policy changes and extend to resident people operational management rights for public forests. Senior administrators in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have taken bold steps in canceling TLAS, with the strong support of the environmental NGO lobby. Yet, progress in devolving management to community groups has been slow due to the fragmented nature of earlier CFM programs emerging from a diversity of donor and government projects over the preceding two decades. In 1994 a national conference was held on community-based forest management (CBFM) seeking a consensus on a broad national strategy to reform forest management. In November 1996 CBFM replaced commercial forestry as the primary approach to upland management by the DENR under the national Social Reform Agenda. Commercial management practices still continue with the conversion of some logging concessions to Industrial Forest Management Agreements, but on a guarded scale.
CBFM is now confronted by operational issues as it seeks to implement its national mandate. These include defining the new role of the private sector, the role of communities in protected areas, securing funding for social preparation, government training and reorientation requirements, establishing strong partnerships between local government and the DENR, and creating functional monitoring and evaluation systems. The DENR now seeks methods to draw local government and NGOs into a process of dialogue with communities that will allow millions of hectares of upland forests to be systematically brought under community management in the coming decade.
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