At the close of the AFN meeting national teams met to discuss future CFM transition goals and strategies and to identify specific actions that should be taken within their country. Countries with larger teams tended to develop more elaborate plans. Due to the limited number of participants from mainland Southeast Asian countries, this group met jointly to explore regional strategies. The ideas presented here represent possible strategies, as well as activities that are already evolving.
Four initiatives were identified as components of the India action research program. Many of these initiatives are already being carried out by World Wide Fund for Nature - India (WWF-India), the Society for the Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD), and by members of the National Support Group (NSG) on joint Forest Management. Each is presented with a brief description of the current plan for implementation.
A network of young forestry professionals has been evolving in India over the last five years. Comprised mostly of 30- to 40-year-old Divisional Forest Officers, the group has met informally at NSG meetings and related gatherings. Members of the nascent network have also collaborated in designing new spatial mapping tools for joint forest management program planning and monitoring purposes. This group is being expanded and provided with increased support to allow it to better develop JFM implementation practices. A support cell is being established at WWF-India which will create the capacity for routine exchanges between foresters, through both meetings, newsletters, and working papers. The Inspector General has asked all state forest department chiefs to suggest young officers who might participate in the network, to add to those already involved in exchanges.
During the last five years there has been a recognition among planners, NGOs, donors, and researchers that India is now committed to pursuing policies supporting the greater involvement of communities in the protection and management of public forest lands. This transitional period may take decades and could involve the devolution of rights and responsibilities to communities for at least 50 percent of the public forest domain, representing tens of millions of hectares. How this historic reallocation of resource rights and responsibilities will take place is a question of immense importance. Since there are no existing precedents, design of new policies and programs to allow these changes to occur must be drawn from emerging experiences. A learning mechanism is needed to help collect and synthesize field experiences, interpret it and feed it back to policy makers, planners, donors, forestry officials, NGOs, and community organizations.
The JFM national support group (NSG) provides a mechanism to synthesize field experience, but is limited to annual meetings. To complement the NSG, a smaller body should be formed to meet every 6 to 8 weeks to discuss emerging policy issues, and better articulate JFM program challenges and necessary support actions. While composition of the team is still under discussion, the group should be diverse, including senior officers from state forest departments, younger officers with territorial assignments, NGOs, researchers, and possibly donors. The group will be most effective if it does not exceed 10 persons. Participants should be committed to attending meetings, and taking periodic field trips. The Policy Support Group would interact with the Foresters Network and the NSG, and assist the MOEF.
Northeastern India possesses some of the nation's most extensive and intact, old growth forest. Eighty-two percent of the state is under forest cover. Unlike other parts of the country, where forest lands were nationalized, in the northeast indigenous community tenure systems are still respected. While approximately one-quarter of the state's land area is managed by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, the remaining three-quarters is largely under the management of the tribal communities. Traditional forest management systems have in the past sustained these rich, bio-diverse ecosystems, but they appear to be facing new threats. In recent years, commercial timber interests from Assam, Bangladesh, and other parts of eastern India have been moving into Arunachal, searching for logging opportunities. As Arunachal communities are drawn into the commercial economy, offers for cash can be attractive to low-income communities but have the potential to result in rapid deforestation. Some state officials are also eager to exploit commercial timber stocks and gain greater control over community forest resources.
The current forest management situation in Arunachal should be assessed to determine threats to existing management systems, and to explore with communities ways to generate income that do not result in the environmental degradation. Issues of particular interest include: (1) the nature of current illegal logging operations and their impact on communities and the forest environment; (2) the strength of existing forest tenure systems and the composition of community membership in management decision making; (3) community perceptions concerning forest use goals and production problems and opportunities; and (4) implications for forest department support programs. A research team would be developed by WWF-India, in collaboration with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, and would conduct a 2-week participatory field assessment, holding a series of discussions with forest communities. This would provide a basis for a workshop in Arunachal to further assess the findings and future actions.
Recently, a team of Divisional Forest Officer (DFOs) has been working with the Asia Forest Network, Society for the Promotion of Wasteland Development (SPWD), and WWF-India to design a new planning process for JFM program implementation. The tools are used to identify and inventory communities that protect forests as well as those that are forest users. Forest vegetation is also mapped and classified, showing areas that are protected and regenerating and those that are open-access and degrading. Finally, management issues are identified, covering a range of problems and opportunities. DFOs work in collaboration with their range and beat officers to gather the required information and analyze it jointly to develop a common action strategy. The tools also provide a framework for ongoing monitoring, allowing the staff to evaluate their progress in involving communities in forest management and stimulating forest regeneration periodically. The JFM Planning Tools are based on 1:50,000 Survey of India topographic maps (GT) sheets, using plastic overlays for data collection. The methods are now being used by the Forest Department to inventory community forest protection groups throughout Orissa.
During the Asia Forest Network meeting in Hawaii in 1994 a group of individuals from government agencies and NGOs working on community forest management in the Philippines decided to establish the Philippine Working Group (PWG) as an informal body. The joint goal of the working group is to share experiences to more fully reveal, policy failures and operational constraints and identify strategies to overcome them. The group has met regularly over the last two years, visiting 10 sites throughout the Philippines. During each visit the working group interviews community members and leaders, local Department of Environment and Natural Re- sources (DENR) staff, and local government officials to illuminate weak- nesses in existing national programs and to suggest alternatives to improve the management practices of cultural communities. The PWG is dynamic and evolving, and has played an influential role in shaping the new Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) policies now emerging in the Philippines. The PWG agreed to take the following actions over the coming year to support the new CBFM policies and initiatives taken by the DENR.
The PWG will seek formal recognition in order to act with greater legitimacy and authority as an advisory body to top DENR officials and as a resource body for CBFM strategy development. Community mapping will be an integral component of the PWG strategy in support of CBFM. Each DENR region will establish goals and programs for training local governments and DENR staff. The PWG will produce a manual to assist training in community forest mapping techniques. Monitoring of the new training and mapping program will be incorporated into subsequent site visits. A newly established CBFM office in DENR will coordinate activities with the PWG secretariat and manage a centralized information data source on CFM related activities. For the first half of 1997, the PWG will develop regional action plans that translate new and emerging policies into specific activities. The PWG will also be available to the DENR as an independent reviewer for CBFM policy. Later in the year, the PWG will conduct a series of visits to potential CBFM sites to establish monitoring indices for follow-on program implementation. The PWG also intends to facilitate greater donor communication and sharing of experiences from the field.
The PWG will work with other AFN member countries to facilitate visits to Nepal and Indonesia. The first visit will draw from the experiences of the Nepal's forest agency to understand how they have facilitated staff transitions and the development of new organizational capacities. Internal and NGO implemented training programs will also be evaluated, including changes in the curricula of forestry schools targeted towards long-term staff development. The second visit to Indonesia will focus on community forest production systems including visits to rattan gardens and post-harvest facilities. Future cross-visits by community leaders to facilitate technology transfer will also be planned. A visit by a group of senior JFM planners from India is being scheduled in 1997 to explore the establishment of a parallel working group mechanism in that country. The Indian visit would be scheduled to take place at the time of a PWG meeting.
Government sponsored community forest management is a relatively new concept in Cambodia. Over 20 years of government instability has resulted in the disruption of traditional management systems in many areas. Deforestation was exacerabated by the past Khmer Rouge policy of cutting down forests to plant rice and the current illegal logging along the Thai border. Two pilots in community forestry are being launched with the help of two NGOS, the Mennonite Central Committee and CONCERN. The projects are being conducted in Prey Ler (Takeo Province) and Komchaimeas (Prey Veng Province). After reviewing experiences from these pilots, a decision will be made to extend community forestry from 2 to 14 districts over 10 years.
International assistance is needed to help Cambodia design new forest policy and supporting laws on community forestry. Due to a lack of forestry staff, training inputs are critical to support community forestry in the kingdom. The Asia Forest Network is exploring ways to help Cambodia develop local policy and institutional capacity in community forestry.
The Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI) has just completed a two-year study of community-forest interactions patterns and management systems in northwestern Vietnam. During the next phase of FIPI's MacArthur Foundation-supported program, the team intends to extend its action research program to additional sites in the north and northwest. FIPI will attempt to draw communities and local government officials into dialogues to identify ways to improve coordination between indigenous management institutions and practices and emerging government and private sector policies and programs. Government planners, forestry professionals, development agency staff, and university researchers are beginning to meet regularly in Hanoi to discuss experience emerging from rural development and resource management programs in the upland regions of the north and northwest. The Asia Forest Network and FIPI hope to contribute to this exchange.
An action research team facilitated by the Indonesia Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI) has been developing a second phase for the AFN policy and field research program in East Kalimantan over the past year. The challenge faced by the team is designing a diagnostic field assessment program that involves communities in developing new collaborative management elements while linking this strategy to newly emerging community forestry policies being designed by the national Ministry of Forestry. The Indonesian meeting participants identified some program objectives:
The Nepal participants at the Asia Forest Network meeting identified several areas where strategic actions could be taken to promote community forest management at both the national, regional and international level. These included accelerating case study and analysis research in the following areas:
The Nepal group noted the need to annually organize national community forestry seminars to discuss emerging field experiences and to translate findings into policy and legislation development. Nepal could also become a base for international training programs in community forestry. Nepal's two decades of experience in developing field programs and policy instruments for forest transitions can provide a rich source of learning and training materials.
Participants from Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Cambodia met to discuss common policy and operational strategies for community forestry programs in upland, mainland Southeast Asia. The discussion momentarily ignored political boundaries to define the region in terms of its cultural and biophysical features (see Map 2). Participants identified common characteristics including its ecology, history, settlement patterns, and economy. Discussions revealed a distinctive regional identity, with many shared problems and opportunities. It was suggested that a bio-regional policy discussion group be established to identify parallels and share learning regarding the unique needs of the region. Some observation on the common history and characteristics of the region identified by the group are briefly discussed below.
For thousands of years the upland areas of Southeast Asia represented a remote bio-cultural region where diverse tribes practiced long rotation farming, shifting their settlements periodically. Successive migrations from southern China between 1000 and 1800 flowed through this region, with new groups establishing themselves in Southeast Asia. Political power centers in lowland river valleys and deltas had limited interactions with upland ethnic minority groups, though the extraction of natural re- sources grew through the 19th and early 20th centuries. World War II and the early independence period were times of struggle and the consolidation of nation states that left upland areas relatively unaffected. However, from the 1960's onward the governments of China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma have delineated their control over the uplands regions by closing borders and implementing national policies that often are oriented to the needs of lowland populations. This process has displaced traditional systems of resource tenure and land use among the diverse ethnic minority cultures. The imposition of new upland nationalization policies was also done in a way that did little to recognize the existence of prior claims or agreements. While local government implementors of emerging policies by necessity gave some recognition and response to historical and existing systems, indigenous tenure and management systems have lost much legitimacy in the process.
State building processes stressed social integration and promoted lowland social and resource use systems through sedentarization and resettlement programs. State and private enterprises have moved into some upland regions to control and utilize natural resources, often marginalizing local communities. Industrial logging disrupted local land use practices and upper watershed environments, often generating conflict. Lowland peoples have also been relocated into the uplands, placing new pressures on the resources of indigenous communities. Dams have innundated some of the most fertile upland valleys, dislocating some of the region's important communities to meet the hydroelectric and irrigation needs of lowlanders. Roads have introduced outside officials and entrepreneurs who bring the new terms, of life from the centers of lowland political control.
The group identified several actions that are needed throughout upland regions of mainland Southeast Asia:
The group suggested a multinational group of specialists from the affected countries should meet regularly to discuss common problems and strategies to resolve them. Findings from these discussions should be reviewed with government planners and donor agencies. Between annual meetings, regional working group members should be encouraged and supported to make cross-border visits to examine conditions in countries within the shared upland bio-region.
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