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 Dr. Mark Poffenberger and Betsy McGean or Cynthia Josayma at the address below.

Center for Southeast Asia Studies
University of California, Berkeley
2223 Fulton Street #617
Berkeley, California 94720
Tel: 510-642-3609
Fax: 510-643-7062



Front cover photograph: Rattan drying on the banks of the Dupinga River in the Sierra Madre Mountains of eastern Luzon, Philippines







Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the
Asia Forest Network

Held 2-6 April 1995
Oriental Mindoro, The Philippines


Summary by

Mark Poffenberger
Cynthia Josayma
Peter Walpole
Karen Lawrence


Research Network Report

Number 6 -- August 1995




Figures, Tables and Boxes






Network Secretariat Activities, 1994-95





National Community Forestry Status Reports: Creating Flexibility in Forest Management Policy and Practice



Managing Regenerating Forest: Approaches to Research



Identifying and Supporting Community Environmental Movements


Emerging Methodologies for Assessing and Assisting the Transition to Community Forestry


Future Directions for Member Countries




Meeting Participants


Asia Forest Network Publications



Figures, Tables and Boxes



Knowledge tree of forest ecology and use practices



Linking cultural institutions and governance structures in resource management



Evolution of the Asia Forest Network



Transect of Ban Tat village lands, Chieng Hac Commune, Vietnam, with traditional land use classifications



Resource issues and social communication in Northern Thailand



Cultural institutions that encourage protection of the upland watersheds in the Upper Pulangi, Philippines



Manual geographic information system mapping tools



Community map of ancestral domain, Talipanan-Ainoan watershed




Characteristics of Project and Process Approaches to Forest Management



Network Secretariat Support Activities, 1994-95




The Evolving Asia Forest Network



Community-Network Exchange in Talipanan, Philippines





The Asia Forest Network thanks all of its supporters for both financial and substantive contributions made over this past year. Special thanks are due to the USAID's Asia Bureau, the NRMP-II Project, and the USDA Forest Service-International Forestry Office, which funded the fourth annual meeting of the Network in Mindoro Oriental, as well as many of our fieldwork and training activities. Alex Moad's and Mike Benge's concerted efforts to make these funds available to the Network are gratefully acknowledged, as is the encouragement from Molly Kux and George Taylor. The Network Secretariat also thanks Kuswata Kartawinata for his assistance in arranging MacArthur Foundation funding to allow Vietnam to develop a country program. We also appreciate Nick Menzie's help in opening the way for the Network's nascent involvement in China. Thanks are also due to Jeff Campbell for his continued support to Network activities in India. We are also grateful to Bob Wallace and Charlotte Fox for providing further assistance to the India program from the Wallace Genetics Foundation.

The Network Secretariat continues to appreciate the support it receives from its host institutions, the East-West Center's Program on Environment and the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Our thanks go out to Jeff Fox, Meg White, Terry Rambo, Richard Buxbaum, David Szanton, Bob Reed, Eric Crystal, and Magdalene Khoo.

This year's annual meeting was wonderfully organized and executed, thanks to the efforts of our colleagues at the Environmental Research Division of the Manila Observatory and with special gratitude to Rowena Soriaga and Monina Letargo. In preparing this proceedings, we thank the ERD staff and Jane Sterzinger for the artwork, Daniel Bauer for editing and layout, and Jack Brulle at Apollo Printing.

Finally, we wish to give a special acknowledgement to the participation of Mr. M.F. Ahmed, India's inspector general of forests. Mr. Ahmed has been working in the field of community forest management for over thirty-five years, contributing greatly to its evolution. We warmly welcome Mr. Ahmed to the Network and gratefully accept his enthusiastic to hold our next annual 1996 meeting in Orissa.




Mark Poffenberger, Director
Asia Forest Network

Asia's forests are experiencing growing pressures from expanding economics and populations. Sustaining these valuable resources requires effective access controls and sustainable use systems, often best managed by local communities residing in or near the forest. Over the past twelve months, Network members continued to explore how public forest management responsibilities may be devolved to hundreds of thousands of rural Asian villages. After nearly 150 years of growing state control, the process of decentralizing the management of forestlands is an immense task. In the Philippines, a decade after the issuance of policies supportive of community management, progress in public land reform has been slow. In India, even with a grassroots forest protection movement that has swept the eastern states since the early 1970s, less than 2 percent of public forestlands are actively protected by local community groups. Implementing effective village-based forest protection and management over Asia's vast forest tracts is a process that will continue well into the next century. The challenge of the Asia Forest Network, and this meeting, is to seek ways to understand this historical process, design learning processes for the present, and facilitate and accelerate its progress for the future.

Viewing current changes in Asian forest management as part of a historic transition in public policies and social institutions is helpful in anticipating future challenges in this sector. Forestry was only one of the many government agencies that grew dramatically as a part of bureaucratic expansion of the post-World War II era. While government technical agencies and local governance structures have been effective in delivering many services, it seems they are unable to replace many of the resource management functions provided by indigenous cultural and communal institutions.

To understand the changes that may be required to sustain Asia's forests it is useful to (1) view the management transition as part of a historical social process rather than as a composite of donor-driven social forestry projects and policy decisions; (2) recognize both the management disjunctures and the linkages between the formal structure of governance and informal cultural institutions; and (3) build on both scientific and indigenous knowledge of forest ecosystems and management strategies as a framework for understanding decision making.

Paradigm Shift: Project Driven to Process Responsive

During Asia's Development Era, which began gaining momentum in the 1960s, planners attempted to set in motion national economic transitions, establishing five-year-plan targets funded through project activities. This approach relied heavily on the creation and staffing of formal institutional structures, with large investments in new technologies and capital. Forest management, like other social and environmental sectors, took on these attributes. Forestry activities were structured around project investment, guided by centralized decision making and donor priorities, while traditional use fell largely outside the programming view. This frequently resulted in disconnected, often-conflicting interaction between rural use needs and forestry project needs.

Increasingly, planners are finding that project-structured forestry intervention are failing to respond to the management requirements of the huge areas of natural forests, and at the same time are alienating forest-dependent communities. After a cycle of project funding ends, tree planting activities cease, with little or no effective management structure left in place. Because reforestation projects are often designed around exotic species and alien nurserying and management practices, local people cannot readily understand new technologies or participate easily in the initiative, especially in meaningful leadership roles. Typically, forestry skills are not being transferred from the project staff to communities, nor are projects linked well with village forest-oriented activities.

Localized projects also create an "island effect," with short-term benefits flowing toward specific locations or groups, leaving neighboring communities and forest unaffected. Throughout Asia, these linear, time-bound, target-oriented activities absorb hundreds of millions of dollars, but due to a lack of community accountability and social fit, they often leave little behind. Forestry projects come with high price tags as well. Establishing one hectare of fast-growing exotic trees often costs over US$1,000. With tens of millions of hectares of disturbed natural forests, replanting even a fraction of the area has been prohibitively expensive. With survival rates of seedlings frequently low, costs increase. Communities, too, are often unhappy with the hardy but low-value species generally relied upon for plantation, finding them of little use beyond a cheap source of fuel. Yet for over two decades, multilateral development bank and bilateral assistant agencies throughout Asia continued to invest billion of dollars in forestry plantation projects.

While donor agencies continue to invest heavily in these projects, there is a growing recognition that a very different approach is needed to stabilize the region's natural forest. Network members are advocating a major reversal in strategy away from directive capital and technical investments to one which is supportive of community-based initiatives to regenerate natural forests through local institutions. By perceiving the stabilization of forest use to be part of a social process that will be driven by communities' own resource needs, planners may need to transfer authority and control of forests to village user groups rather than attempt to retain control through short-term projects.

Increasingly, Asian villagers are informing urban planners that forests can best be managed through their small community groups and cultural institutions rather than through the local government administrations commonly relied upon for project management. In some parts of the region, they are requesting that their informal institutions and emerging resource management systems be legitimized by government. To respond to these new opportunities, government agencies will need to develop a capacity to include rural partners in management, evolving new abilities to extend information, flexible financing, and appropriate technical support in a responsive and timely manner. This requires forestry agencies to play a new role as facilitators of a management transition process rather than as controllers of projects. It also implies a shift in emphasis from fiscal accounting and target setting toward enhancing horizontal communications and monitoring information on social and ecological changes. Some distinguishing characteristics of project and process approaches to forest management are presented in Table 1.


Table 1. Characteristics of Project and Process Approaches to Forest Management

Project Approach

Process Approach

Time-bound, linear concepts

Evolving social processes, integrated concepts

Inflexible, structured approach

Flexible approach, able to adapt to changes in community circumstances

Output drives design-specific research

Output emerges as a consequence of evolving information and research

Decisions delegated to community and timed according to project plan

Activities move at a pace matching the community's ability, giving it more control of the process

Community participation and transfer of appropriate skills is limited

Participatory skill are transferred, resulting in interactive learning for both researchers and communities

Recognizes little integration between areas, producing island effect with no effects spreading beyond the project boundary

Acknowledges linkages between areas and seeks to spread potential of research activities

Activities are nonsustaining, providing only short-term benefits

Community empowerment is enhanced as part of a long-term sustained management strategy

Lack of feedback mechanisms results in no accountability to the community for activities

Participatory nature ensures regular feedback with communities, making the process accountable for activities


Communication Strategies: Integrating Scientific and
Community Knowledge to Improve Forest Environments

This year's meeting highlights new concepts emerging from the field that have potential to assist in the shift from project to process orientation. Human knowledge regarding natural forest ecosystems is largely composed of information from the modern science of silviculture, applied forestry research, and community-based environmental knowledge. The tree diagram in Figure 1 illustrates these sources of knowledge. Government forest management systems have relied almost exclusively on the knowledge generated from the two branches of silviculture research and applied research. The terminology, conceptual frameworks, problem foci, and management goals used by professional foresters have been shaped through this perspective and have profoundly influenced forestry policy and practice throughout the Asia region. While this has brought a wealth of information and an analytic structure to the hands of planners, it has also determined a European-derived terminology and conceptual orientation to Asian forest. At the same time, the third branch of community knowledge holds the accumulated knowledge from thousands of years of Asian experimentation in manipulating forests for societal needs, knowledge that has been largely ignored.

This predominant reliance on western concepts of silvicultural and applied research has erected barriers to community integration. In part, this results from the use of foreign management concepts, extension frameworks, and terminologies that impede communication. Terms like "biodiversity" and "sustained yield felling cycles" have little meaning to indigenous forest users and are therefore difficult to translate. Yet, Asian communities have extensive and diverse indigenous experience with a wide range of forest manipulation and use systems that are often sustainable and foster biodiversity. This field-based reality needs to be communicated to the government sectors, with policies and programs modified to support indigenous management systems, to integrate them into national planning.

In many Asian countries, governments have been unable to coordinate forest policies and management programs effectively with communities because of the absence of a common language for discussing options and inadequate mechanisms for communication. This can result in conflicts that lead to forest degradation. Policy and program initiatives drawn solely from professional knowledge usually have a minimal if not detrimental impact on forest communities.

Communities are generally excluded from project planning, they do not understand the goals of the activity, and they are sometimes alienated from their lands or resources in the process. Network members agree that in much of Asia, given the pervasive presence of rural population in forested areas, better communication linkages and coordinated decision making between the government forestry sector and community-based resource users are prerequisites for improving forest management.

If governments are to succeed in sharing forest protection and management responsibilities with community groups, a common framework needs to be formulated that helps establish mutually understandable agreements. The adoption of indigenous forest management concepts and terminology will enhance this process. The use of local land use typologies and forest-related vocabularies allows villagers to not only speak in their own terms, but also use words that more that more accurately reflect perceptions and realities related to forest use. Further, by finding ways to integrate basis and applied forestry knowledge with indigenous experience, a much deeper understanding of Asia's complex tropical forest ecosystem will result. Until ways are found to bring local terms and knowledge concerning forest use into the resource planning and policy dialogue, the expertise of the community will be neglected in the policy environment.


Linking Government Structures with Cultural Institutions

Network members find another factor inhibiting sustainable forestry has been the lack of linkages between formal governance structures and traditional cultural institutions involved in resource management. Many Asian communities have regulated forest use through tribal, clan, and extended family units, indigenous councils, local leaders, and others traditional institutions. While some traditions have eroded, others are still active or are being reestablished to respond to resource scarcities and environmental problems. Unfortunately, government resource management systems and donor projects are designed to administer policies and implement activities through formal governance institutions. Experiences with Asia social forestry projects over the past two decades indicates that local government bodies may not represent the views or needs of forest-dependent communities. Local government institutions are frequently dominated by political and economic elites who capture development benefits for their immediate constituencies. More marginal, forest-dependent hamlets are often bypassed in project decision making, even though these activities are drawn from their traditional resources.

Effective partnerships between government and forest communities in the management of watersheds and forest resources will necessitate new mechanisms to link formal administrative structures to traditional and emerging resource user institutions embedded in local cultural systems (see Figure 2). New methods are being developed to identify and acknowledge the presence and role of small hamlets, often composed of ethnic minorities, as local resource managers. Settlements, often composed of a single tribe, caste, or clan group, may want to cluster and coordinate management systems in ways that conform to cultural or physical, rather than administrative, boundaries. Government agencies will need to create more flexible public lands management frameworks that allow indigenous forest use and tenure systems to be recognized and incorporated within national land management policies, if they are to build on these important social institutions to stabilize forest resources.

In summary, Network learning continues to confirm the need to shift strategic thinking from the planning and implementation of discrete forestry projects to supporting a social process leading to the decentralization of public lands management. Forest management systems need to build on the scientific and technical knowledge available from both modern knowledge and indigenous experience. Such a synthesis not only enriches our understanding of the natural ecosystems and how they might be manipulated to meet human needs, but also may lead to a common vocabulary and improved communications between planners, scientists, and forest villagers. Finally, new linkages are needed to bring the formal government structures and informal cultural institutions together in cooperative forest management efforts. Evolving forest management polices and programs that reflect and support local user activities and institutions will help to reduce conflict and encourage more cooperative, stable utilization practices.

Box 1. The Evolving Asia Forest Network

The origins of the Asia Forest Management are rooted in its members' shared interest in supporting the role of communities in protecting and regenerating natural forests. In the early 1980s, Southeast Asian researchers identified a common need to decentralize the management of public lands to the community level to stabilize the management of public lands to the community level to stabilize forest use. They recognized that planners formulating policy reforms would require accurate field information reflecting emerging community management techniques and strategies to guide management transitions. This recognition led to the decision to form a small coalition of committed professionals who would systematically explore community forestry as a forest management option for Asia.

In eastern Indian in the late 1980s, hundreds of forest protection committees began emerging in response to deforestation. Foresters, researchers, and NGOs held a series of meetings in West Bengal, New Delhi, Gujarat, and Orissa to develop strategies to support these grassroots environmental initiatives. By the early 1990s, working groups were formed in three states and at the national level to respond to policy, training, and research needs. Collaboration between forest officers, scientists, and Indian NGOs began to breakdown distrust, leading to accelerated learning. A series of national workshops were held as new government policies supportive of joint forest management were enacted.

In January 1992, the First Regional Meeting of the Asia Forest Network was held in Bangkok at the Regional Community Forestry Training Center, bringing together participants from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. Country teams agreed to undertake comparative studies of natural forest regeneration patterns under community protection. A Network Secretariat was established at the University of California, Berkeley, and the East-West Center in Honolulu. The Second Regional Meeting was held in Ciloto, West Java, Indonesia, in March 1993. At this meeting the first round of comparative research finding were presented by country teams. Many studies emphasized the extensive indigenous knowledge of local communities regarding forest use and regeneration patterns. Over the course of the next year, the Secretariat staff worked with country teams to produce three monographs reporting research findings.

In March 1994, the Third Regional Meeting was held at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. This meeting focused on the policy implications of decentralizing the management of public forests and natural regeneration as a primary approach to ecological restoration. More than sixty people attended from the participating countries, including new members from China, Vietnam, and Nepal. Senior policymakers from several Asian countries took part in a dialogue with donor agency representatives from the World Bank and USAID. The workshop proceedings reported the enormous biological potential of natural regeneration for Asia's degraded forests, as well as the proven capacity of rural communities to act as keepers of the region's forests.


Figure 3

Evolution of the Asia Forest Network



The Asia Forest Network Secretariat had a very productive year (see Table 2). Following last year's annual meeting in Honolulu, the Secretariat coordinated a series of workshops in India, China, and Vietnam. Two visits were made to India; one was to conduct a workshop in Orissa on new spatial assessments, including well-received training in a new spatial assessment methodology known as manual GIS (geographic information system).

A second visit to India in November helped establish a new research project that integrates satellite imagery analysis with ongoing case history and field mapping of community forestry protection activities by Network members in the states of Orissa, West Bengal, and Bihar. This project links India members with Mark Poffenberger at UC Berkeley and GIS-expert Nancy Podger from the East-West Center's Program on Environment. An additional manual GIS workshop was held in Udaipur for divisional forest officers in February 1995. Over the next few years, the Indian Forest Service hopes to develop manual GIS as a monitoring system that can track the spread and long-term impact of community forestry activities across large areas of land.

Over the past year, network Vietnam members established community forestry research sites in Bavi National Park and in Yen Chau District in the Da River watershed. In May 1994, Secretariat staff held a research design workshop with Network members in Hanoi's Forestry Inventory and Planning Institute to assist them in project development. The Network's Southeast Asia Secretariat office arranged for four members of the Vietnam team to visit the Philippines country team in October 1994 to learn field-level research techniques. The Secretariat, joined by members of the Philippines group made a return trip to Vietnam in December to coordinate a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) training workshop, giving the Vietnam team a well-rounded introduction to community forestry research and field experiences.

Secretariat staff Mark Poffenberger and Cynthia Josayma also made trips to Thailand and China to participate in a range of activities.


Table 2. Network Secretariat Support Activities, 1994-95



Fourth Annual Network Meeting: Policy Dialogue on Natural Regeneration and Community Management -- Honolulu, Hawaii


Orissa Spatial Assessment Techniques Workshop -- Bhubaneswar, India

Community Forestry Research Design Workshop -- Cuc Phuong and Bavi National Parks, Vietnam


Publication and distribution of annual meeting proceedings


Community and Forestry Mediation, Natural Area Reserves-Big Island, Hawaii


Preparation of "Village Voices -- Forest Choices" for publication by Oxford University Press


Vietnam Cross-Visit to the Philippines


Vietnam Training Workshop in PRA Techniques -- Da River and Bavi National Park, Vietnam


Diagnostic Assessment of Community Forestry in the Salween River Watershed -- Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yunnan Province Community Forestry Analysis Workshop -- Kunming, China



East Kalimantan Research Design Meetings -- Jakarta, Indonesia

Eastern India Village Forest Protection Movement Study -- Field visits in West Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar, India


Workshop on Manual GIS Methods for Community Forestry Inventorying-Udaipur, India


Workshop to Develop Community Forestry Case Studies as Training Modules -- RECOFTC, Bangkok, Thailand


Fifth Annual Network Meeting -- Mindoro, Philippines


Lert Chuntanaparb and Wanida Subansenee met with the Secretariat staff in Bangkok to finalize reprinting of the Thai case study into the Thai language for wider distribution within the Royal Forest Department. Network Chiang Mai members Samer Limchoowong and Uraivan Tan Kim-Yong and other members of the Sam Mun Project met with the Secretariat to discuss the current research on regeneration plots of the Karen, Lisu, and Hmong. Network Philippines members Peter Walpole and Gilbert Braganza also joined in a field trip to observe the research site before conducting a diagnostic assessment of the Salween River watershed along the border of Thailand and Burma.

The Secretariat also funded and hosted with the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC) in Bangkok a ten-day writing workshop to develop community forestry case studies as training modules. Using a Harvard case-study analysis format, the training modules are being developed specifically for forestry students to develop problem-solving skills needed for joint forest management. The Secretariat would like to acknowledge the work of Pradyot Bhattacharya (India), S. M. Mariano (Philippines), Guangxia Cao (China), Niti Rittipornpan (Thailand), Helle Quist-Hoffman (Denmark), and Kadi Warner (RECOFTC) in writing and producing these forthcoming teaching tools. The publication is available for general distribution to teaching institutes across Asia and the United States.

The Secretariat also collaborated with the Institute of Botany and the Yunnan Institute of Geography in Kunming in holding a three- day community forestry workshop. The goal of the meeting was to begin analyzing the characteristics and status of indigenous and newly emerging community-based management systems within Yunnan's five social-ecological zones. A new Network team was formed with members from the Yunnan Institute of Geography, the Institute of Botany, the Academy of Social Science, and the Yunnan Provincial Department of Forestry; they are currently completing a monograph based on their past research and the findings of the analysis workshop. The final report will be published in Chinese and English in the coming year.

The Asia Secretariat is also proud to announce the opening of a Southeast Asia regional office, at the Environmental Resources Division (ERD) of the Manila Observatory. This transition has allowed for such activities as the Vietnam-Philippines cross-visits and the coordination of this year's conference. Thailand and India have similarly expressed interest in establishing regional offices of the

Network within their countries in the upcoming year. This should further encourage inter-country exchanges and shared learning, a primary objective of the Network.

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