Reorienting Forestry Education to Sustainable Forest Management

Lucrecio L. Rebugio[1] and Leni D. Camacho


This paper is about organizational re-engineering to strengthen forestry education in support of Sustainable Forestry or Sustainable Forest Management. It focuses on the change strategies adopted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) to re-orient its academic programs to the needs and challenges of sustainable forest management. Sustainable forest management implies a new way of seeing, thinking and doing in relation to forests, natural resources and the environment. As such, new policies, programs, and approaches as well as new institutional and individual capabilities (knowledge, attitudes, values and skills) in forestry are needed. To maintain its relevance, the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources, as a leading tropical forestry institution of higher learning, has initiated changes in its academic programs so that it will be more responsive to sustainable forest management challenges. To achieve the desired changes, the College has adopted five institutional development and change strategies. The experience at UPLB CFNR could offer some insights to other forestry educational institutions that also wish to maintain relevance in the face of the paradigm shift in forestry and natural resource management.

I. Introduction

Sustainable Forest Management Paradigm and the Need for Institutional Change

Forests serve diverse ecological functions and provide numerous environmental and socio-economic benefits to society. However, their capacity to provide these services and benefits to society on a sustained basis has been continuously threatened by the environmental crisis in forestry characterized by massive forest destruction and degradation. This massive forest despoliation has been attributed to inappropriate land use practices generally driven by elitist greed and extreme poverty exacerbated by rapid population growth and inequitable wealth distribution in the society.

The environmental forestry crisis could be an indicator reflecting the obsolescence of traditional forestry paradigms. When old paradigms become obsolete, new paradigms emerge and supplant the old, to become the new instrument for dealing with new challenges. In forestry and natural resources management, this new paradigm is the sustainable forest management (SFM) paradigm. This paradigm shift in forestry and natural resource management implies a change in the way professional foresters see, think, do or act in relation to forests, natural resources and the environment. It demands changes not only in policies, programs and approaches but also in the capabilities of institution and individuals involved in sustainable forest management. For any forestry institution to be relevant and effective, it must be able to internalize the new SFM paradigm. It must innovate its programs and processes, change its structure and develop competencies consistent to the demands and challenges of SFM.

Objectives of the Paper

How will forestry educational institutions respond to these imperatives for institutional change demanded by the new SFM paradigm? This paper is generally an attempt to address this question. Specifically, it tries to discuss briefly what the sustainable forest management paradigm is, its imperatives, and the change strategies to respond to these imperatives, particularly those adopted by the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources, a leading tropical forestry educational institution.

II. Sustainable Forest Management Paradigm

SFM can be viewed as a system which aims to satisfy the needs of society for various forest goods and services through the application of forestry, environmental management, ecological, social, economic and business principles and methods in the wise utilization, renewal and development of forest resources without significant degradation of the inherent capacity of the forests to provide goods and services on an uninterrupted basis (Revilla et al. 1999). As a paradigm or framework, sustainable forestry is closely link to or intertwined with environmental conservation and socioeconomic development (Figure 1). This relationship implies that sustainable forestry, environmental conservation, and socioeconomic development are mutually reinforcing elements of sustainable development (Rebugio and Cruz 1998).

Figure 1. Conceptual framework or model for sustainable forest management.

Imperatives for Sustainable Forest Management

From Figure 1, SFM paradigm implies, at least three imperatives of successful sustainable forestry: enabling/reinforcing forest and related policies; relevant programs and strategies; and appropriate capabilities.

Supportive policies. The basic forestry policies that are recognized to be indispensable to sustainable forestry include: holistic, integrated and balanced framework for forest management; promotion of social justice and equity through participatory approach to forest management; recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous people; conservation of soil, water, biodiversity and other natural resources; and economic and environmentally sound forest harvesting and processing technologies.

In the Philippines, these policies are embodied invariably in the Philippines Constitution and are further articulated in the Philippine Strategy for Sustainable Development (PSSD) and the Philippine Agenda 21.

Strategic programs. The strategic programs that could give flesh to the basic policies include: watershed-based integrated forest management; community-based forest management; conservation of biodiversity, soil and water resources; rehabilitation of denuded forest lands; efficient forest product utilization and forest industry development; continuing research and technology development.

Institutional capability building. The success of sustainable forestry would depend on the effective and efficient implementation of the policies and programs. However, this will not happen unless trained manpower is available and appropriate institutions are in place. A program for building up required human competencies and for promoting appropriate institutional mechanisms is essential for ensuring sustainable forest and environmental resources management.

Physical capability building. To match the improvement of human resources, the physical resources needed for sustainable forestry will also have to be upgraded. This would entail development of forest resources information and management decision support systems and acquisition of modern telecommunications, transportation, and research facilities that should improve forest protection, environmental monitoring, forestry research, and sharing of information, expertise, experiences and other resources for sustainable forestry.

Shifting Paradigms in SFM

The adoption of SFM as a paradigm or framework for forest resources management is associated with some changes or shifts in the way professionals view or regard the forests, the forestry profession, forestry practice and forestry as a discipline (Rebugio 2000; Rebugio 1999). These shifting ways of seeing and doing in forestry can be gleaned from Table 1.

Table 1. Shifting Paradigms in Forest Resources Management

Conceptual Categories


Old Paradigm

New Paradigm

1. Forests

Specialized shops producing one (timber) or few products

Emporium of multiple products and diverse services

2. Foresters

The technical experts and forestry authority.
Manage forests by themselves

Technical experts and competent social practitioners
Leaders in forest resources management
Manage forests in partnership with others

3. Forest Resource Management
- Publics
- Problem
- Goal
- Objective
- Strategy
- Program
- Administration

Single or Limited
Productivity and Efficiency
One or limited
Rigid/hierarchical organizational structure
Centralized power, authority and decision making
Communication - one way

Many or plural
Technical and social
Equitability and sustainability
Open/flexible organizational structure
Devolved power and authority; shared or participatory decision-making
Communication - two way

4. Forestry Discipline

Biological and physical science

Bio-physical and social science

Source: Rebugio 1998; Rebugio 2000;

III. Sustainable Forest Management and Forestry Education

Generally, by its nature, forestry education should be able to create the behavioural changes in terms of knowledge, attitudes, values and skills required for SFM. These desired behavioural changes could be achieved through formal or non-formal forestry education. Through formal and non-formal education approaches, there are at least three types of roles that forestry education could play in promoting SFM: advocacy, information/knowledge generation, and capability building or human resource development (Table 2).


The advocacy or public education role of forestry education aims to create public awareness, interest, and appreciation of sustainable forest management policies, programs and strategies through a systematically planned and aggressively implemented advocacy programs. To be effective, advocacy programs must be designed to respond to the behavioral needs of specific publics relative to sustainable forest management.

Information/Knowledge and Technology generation

Through research, forestry education institutions could help generate and build on the information and knowledge base for SFM policies, strategies and programs. This scientific knowledge base for the policy and practice of SFM should include not only biophysical and technical aspects but also social and human dimensions.

Capability Building

Through this role, forestry education produces the human resources needed for sustainable forest management. Through formal forestry education, forestry professionals could acquire the basic competencies (knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills) required for SFM. Through non-formal forestry education, existing SFM capabilities of forestry professionals could be reinforced, and obsolete competencies can be replenished. Curricular development and change is a strategy that could ensure that forestry education effectively performs its capability building role relative to the needs of sustainable forest management.

Table 2. Role of Forestry Education as implied from the imperatives and needs of Sustainable Forest Management

Imperatives for SFM


Role of Forestry Education


Clear SFM Paradigm

Public awareness, interest, appreciation and internalization; solid scientific base

Advocacy or Public information and education Information/knowledge generation

Non-formal Education; Research

Supportive SFM Policies

Public awareness, appreciation, formulation and adoption of science-base appropriate SFM policies

Advocacy or Public information/and education Information/Knowledge Generation

Non-formal Education; Research

Appropriate SFM Programs

Public awareness and support; Appropriate models


Non-formal Education; Research and Development

Appropriate SFM Capabilities

Awareness, appreciation, and adoption of appropriate organizational structure and human competencies

Advocacy Capability building

Formal and Non-formal Education

III. Strategies to Re-orient Forestry Education to Sustainable Forest Management

In the face of shifting paradigms in forestry and natural resource management, four general strategies have been adopted by UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources to maintain its relevance and effectiveness in responding to the challenges of SFM.

1. Shift toward sustainable development and environmental conservation as a guiding framework/paradigm for program development

Way back in the 1990's, CFNR adopted the concept of sustainable development and environmental conservation as its guiding framework for R & D and curricular initiatives. Specifically, the College adopted "Forests, Environment, and People" (FEP) as its umbrella program. It is based on the notion that forests are integral component of the environment, and that meaningful environmental conservation ultimately redounds to the benefit of the people. As an umbrella program, FEP is envisioned to unify or align all academic programs of the CFNR towards promoting sustainable forestry, enhancing environmental sustainability, and achieving equitable socio-economic development.

2. Re-aligning R& D around SFM related programs

Under the FEP umbrella program are three major and interrelated themes or sub-programs namely: a) forestry and environment; b) forestry and poverty alleviation/eradication; and c) forestry and food security, nutrition and health.

To give flesh to the major themes are nine major research and development thrusts: biodiversity conservation; environmental forestry including forest and climate change, forest and pollution; rehabilitation of degraded lands; urban forestry; community-based forestry and agroforestry; management and utilization of residual forests and non-timber products; role of forestry in agricultural productivity; role of forestry in nutrition and health; and conservation and development of the Makiling Forest Reserve

Specific advances and initiatives in SFM and environmental forestry research include:


Biotechnology research had provided opportunities for the development of environmentally friendly technologies in forestry and industry. Examples of these are: breeding of resistant crop varieties through inter-specific and genetic marker breeding techniques; production of biofertilizers as substitutes to chemical fertilizers; micropagation (tissue culture) techniques to rapidly mass produce genetically improved tree species; biological control of pest and diseases to enhance forest productivity; enzymatic bleaching of pulp to minimize chemical pollution; use of DNA analysis in biodiversity analysis; and use of microorganisms for breaking dormancy, seed vigor testing, and as biocontrol agents;

Sustainable management systems

Include studies and experimentation in integrated farming systems, agroforestry technologies, integrated forest protection systems that enhances soil conservation, crop productivity, and farmers' income.

Participatory resources management

Includes initiatives in the use of participatory resource assessment (PRA), and participatory monitoring and evaluation (PME), and community-based resource management (CBRM). These participatory techniques enhance community empowerment and peoples participation in resource management program to ensure a more equitable benefit sharing.

Policy studies

These are conducted to determine the policy gaps and institutional constraints to wider adoption or application of sustainable and environmentally sound forestry technologies.

3. Re-aligning curricular programs through curriculum change and development

Formal education

In a recent multi-sectoral workshop involving academicians, forestry practitioners in government and non-government organizations, and forestry employers conducted by the Philippine Technical Panel for Agricultural Education (TPAE) Committee on Forestry the participants identified several human and technical competencies a forestry professional should possess for him to play an effective role in SFM. The human competencies include: seeing, thinking, and doing systemically; communicating, managing and supervising people, managing conflicts, and interrelating or collaborating with others, effectively. Aside from the traditional forestry skills, the new technical competencies which the new forestry professional should develop include sourcing and processing information through information technology (IT) and other sources; geo-spatial visualization, interpretation and application; and integrated and balanced management of forest ecosystems. The new forestry professional should also be able to practice professional ethics and be conversant with national, regional, and global issues relevant to forestry.

SFM competencies needed by the new forestry professional could be developed through the following formal forestry education curriculum development and change strategies.

Enriching existing courses by integrating sustainable management concepts. The simplest strategy to promote SFM capabilities is to integrate sustainable development concepts in already existing courses in the forestry or natural resource management courses. Through this strategy forestry faculties are encouraged to incorporate in traditional forestry courses they are handling relevant SFM concepts. This change process just involves the individual faculty member thus the degree to which SFM concepts are integrated into the curriculum depends on the creativity and innovativeness of individual faculty members. The result of this change strategy does not normally go through the curricular change mill.

Enriching existing curriculum by instituting new courses in sustainable forest management. This involves the institution of new courses supportive of SFM in addition to those already existing in the curriculum. The new courses could be taken as additional prescribed or elective courses. Course proposal in this curricular change process normally emanates from individual faculty members. The proposed courses passes through the scrutiny and approval of relevant curricular development committees at the department, college, and university levels. At the UPLB institution of new courses takes a long process.

The SFM related environmental forestry courses instituted by the CFNR among others include: Forest Biodiversity; Principles of Wildlife Management; Fundamentals of Environmental Forest Management; Environmental and Natural Resource World Views; Parks and Outdoor Recreation Management; Watershed Management, Environmental Pollution in Forest Industries; Silviculture of Non-Timber Producing Plant Species; Silvicultural Approaches to Forest Protection; Environmental Impact Assessment of Natural Resource Management Projects; and Forestation Techniques in Marginal and Degraded Areas (CFNR-UPLB Catalogue, 2002).

Revision of existing curriculum to re-orient it towards sustainable forest management. This strategy is more complicated than just instituting new courses. This could involved the modification of the curriculum by changing the basic orientation and areas of concentration of the curriculum through the abolition of old irrelevant courses and institution of new courses. It could also involved the use of multidisciplinary teaching methods. The proposal for changing the existing curriculum is also a rigorous process involving all relevant bodies at all levels, but it normally emanates from the department or college/faculty concerned.

In 1995, CFNR revised its BS forestry curriculum to incorporate five areas of concentration: Forest and Environmental Resource Management, Silviculture and Agroforestry, Forest Biological Sciences, and Social Forestry. In 2000, two other areas of concentration were added to the BS Forestry curriculum; forest governance and forests products. The incorporation of the latter area of concentration is an alternative to the abolition of the BS Forest Products Engineering curriculum of the College. Very recently, the BS Forestry curriculum has again been revised to incorporate new general education courses in line with the University's program of revitalizing the general education curriculum. All these curricular revision initiatives would redound to the development of values, knowledge and skills relevant to sustainable forest management practices. Aside from the revision of the BS Forestry curriculum the College has also revised its two-year forestry technician course to strengthen its social and environmental component thus making it more relevant to SFM. As a result of the revision the former Forest Ranger curriculum has been changed to Certificate in Forestry.

Institution of a new curriculum related to sustainable forest management. This entails the introduction of new curriculum over and above existing ones. This is difficult because it has to show that this new curriculum would not overlap with existing ones. This normally involves new curricular design including new curricular objectives, new courses and methods. Just like the institution of new courses and the revision of the curriculum, the institution of new curriculum is a rigorous process passing through all stages in the curricular development mill.

Way back in 1984 the College has instituted a masteral program in forestry majoring in social forestry. This is primarily aimed at developing participatory forestry competencies in forest resources managers and other natural professionals. Participatory competencies makes forestry professionals better prepared to meet the requirements of SFM for integrated forest management and plural publics management. This innovative program of the College has been attracting students not only from Asia but also from Africa. Occasionally it also draws students from America.

In 1997, a Diploma in Agroforestry, a joint program of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College of Agriculture, and the College of Economics and Management was also instituted at UPLB with the College playing a leading role. The program hopes to produce graduates who can respond to the challenges of forest rehabilitation and environmental restoration and poverty alleviation of the uplands. A post baccalaureate but below the masteral level course the program however has been suffering from low enrolment because of the lack of scholarship support to prospective students.

In line with the restructuring of the College from the College of Forestry to the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College has proposed for the institution of a Master of Natural Resources Conservation Program with areas of concentration in biodiversity conservation, protected area management, and geographic information systems application to natural resource management. Through this innovative program the College expects to develop in forestry and related natural resource professionals the technical and social competencies for sustainable forest ecosystems management, which are not given much emphasis in the existing masteral forestry program.

Non-formal education

The CFNR through the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES) offers training programs (ie. short courses and study tours) consistent with SFM. (CFNR-UPLB Aannual Report 2001). The different areas of training and study tours offered by TREES include: community forestry; environmental impact assessment; forest policies; forest products utilization; forest resource inventory and surveys; forestry education; geographic information systems; land use management planning; logging operations; management information systems; non-wood forest products; organization and management development; project monitoring and evaluation; production of communication and extension materials; protected areas and national parks; range-pasture resource management; rehabilitation of degraded lands; tree improvement; tropical wildlife management; wood seasoning and preservation; and conflict resolution.

4. Institutional development through staff training and organizational re- engineering

Continuing education program for researchers, teachers and administrators

New R & D programs and new curricula on SFM and the environment imply new knowledge and skills. Conduct of SFM and environmental researches and delivery of SFM and environmental curricula need a new breed of scientists, teachers and administrators. What are needed are scientists who can effectively teach individually or with teams, and research managers or educational administrators who can organize genius and manage creative collaboration. Effective SFM and environmental science training program should be to satisfy these training needs. UPLB has also started offering Higher Education Administration Development Seminar (HEADS) for young, promising staff who would be future UPLB Administrators. The seminar could prepare them in the art of creative management which is basic to SFM.

Organizational re-engineering

To be responsive to the challenges of sustainable forestry and environmental resource management, the CFNR has decided to restructure in the following direction: integration of the Department of Forest Resources Management and Department of Silviculture and Agroforestry into an Institute of Renewable Natural Resources; expanding the Department of Social Forestry into the Department of Social Forestry and Forest Governance; creation of the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES); the elevation of the Upland Agroforestry Program into an Institute of Agroforestry; and creation of the Mt. Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems. The lesson which the College learned from its organizational re-engineering experience is that organizational change is a long and painful process and it is more of a political than a technical undertaking within the academe.

IV. Conclusion

To maintain its continuing relevance and leadership in forestry education not only regionally, but also, internationally, UPLB has to adjust to the needs and challenges of the new paradigm of sustainable forest management. The College is confident that it will be able to adjust or re-orient successfully to SFM through the various strategies it has adopted: a shift to sustainable development as its guiding framework; R & D re-alignment around SD and environmental conservation; curricular change development and change toward SFM; and institutional development through continuing education and organizational engineering. Other forestry educational institutions of the world may be able to learn from the experience of UPLB in SFM institutional re-orientation.

V. References

College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños Annual Report, 2001. CFNR, UPLB, College, Laguna, Philippines.

College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Catalogue of Academic Programs, 2002. CFNR, UPLB, College, Laguna, Philippines.

Rebugio L and Cruz R.V., 1998. Sustainable forestry and environmental conservation. Reaction paper to the public lecture of Secretary Victor O. Ramos on Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Conservation delivered on 16 March 1998 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

Rebugio L.L., 2000. Role of Forestry Education in Sustainable Forest Management. Proceedings of the Workshop on Sustainable Forest Management and People to People Exchange Between Asia and Europe, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland, 5-6 July 1999.

Rebugio L.L., 1998. Paradigm Shift: The Key to Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Resources Management. ASIAN Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. Volume 1 Number 1 January-June 1998. SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA), College, Laguna, Philippines.

Revilla A.V., Javier E., Vergara N. and Gendrano O., 1999. Quo Vadis Philippine Forestry: Toward Environmental Disaster or On to Sustainability. A green paper on Sustainable Forestry/Watershed-Based Sustainable Development, Forestry: 2050, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.

[1] Professor, Department of Social Forestry and Forest Governance, College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna 4031, Philippines.
Tel: 63-49-536-7446; 63-49-536-3493; Fax: 63-49-536 7446; 63-49-536-3206; Email: llreb@laguna.net