There is a great diversity of contexts in which both conservation and destruction of tropical forests occur in the vast Asia-Pacific region. There are many actors involved (societies, governments and industries), responding to very different pressures. Only by understanding the interactions between them, will it be possible to understand the broad trends and to identify the potential to modify the driving forces through reform of existing policies or institutions, or by international monitoring or compensatory arrangements, to achieve socially and environmentally preferred outcomes.
It is difficult to assemble comprehensive evidence of the importance of forest products to rural people in Asia-Pacific. Official statistics provide little assistance, because most production, consumption and marketing of non-timber forest products (NTFP) is outside the formal economy. However, as one example, a study in Sri Lanka (IUCN-Sri Lanka, 1993) suggests that as many as 90% of rural communities are dependant on firewood for cooking. While there are probably very few who survive solely from forests, evidence presented by Lynch (1992) suggests that several hundred million people in the Asia-Pacific region earn much of their subsistence and/or incomes, from-non-industrial forest products, through collection, marketing or simple processing activities such as handicrafts, furniture making or food-processing. While most of these people are in rural India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, western China and outer Islands of Indonesia, such people are also found in virtually every developing country in the region.
Forests are also of great cultural significance to many communities throughout the region, illustrated by the Sacred Groves of India, and very conservative management practices of many cultural minorities in Yunnan or the Philippines, Dyaks in Borneo, and many peoples throughout Melanesia6.
Both upland and lowland populations benefit from watershed management and catchment protection functions of all forests. These and other amenity values are explicitly recognised by societies and governments in such diverse contexts as the Indian Himalayas, northern Thailand and the Philippines. This has even led to logging bans in the latter two countries7 and severe local restrictions in most8, in order to protect highly-valued (but non-monetary) benefits from retaining forests in catchments.
The cultural importance, subsistence value and environmental protection, all provide an ethical basis for local users to have a strong voice in management of such forests, including those found in protected areas. Furthermore, there is evidence that community management systems in many countries (e.g. Fisher 1989, 1990 from Nepal) can be sustainable, productive and equitable.
Governments across the region recognise a spectrum of forest uses ranging from:
· Preservation and complete protection on the basis of strictly protected areas
· Protection Forests (typically catchment areas in which collecting NTFPs, but very little or no logging or clearing, is permitted)
· Production forests (notionally multiple use but timber is usually the primary or only objective in practice) and
· Conversion forests where clearing and colonisation is permitted or even encouraged.
In many countries, emphasis has been on industrial logging and conversion, while forest conservation outside formal reserves and protected areas has not been a priority. Pressures to convert some forest lands to agricultural, infrastructural, industrial and urban uses persist, as these are often considered signs of economic development. However, India has been extremely successful in stopping diversion of forest lands to other uses, through new Forestry legislation of 1990.
In the more affluent countries of the region, there is no net deforestation now. Rather there are continuing expansions of their forest estates through: the cessation of land clearing for agriculture (Australia and New Zealand); the addition of new plantations; through (consequently) much lower rates of logging of natural forests; and accelerated regeneration of successional forests on lands that have previously been cleared for agriculture or pasture. This trend of declining importance of natural forests for timber production, but increasing conservation, habitat, amenity and watershed values, is beginning to emerge in the rapidly developing countries of the region.
The process of deforestation occurs at two levels: agents and causes. The agents of deforestation refers to those who physically (or through instructions to their employees) convert forests to non-forest uses: small-holder farmers; owners of plantations and estates; forest concessionaires; infrastructural development agencies). FAO has characterized deforestation in Asia as a combination of relatively large operations (as in Latin America) and rural population pressure (as in Africa), involving a conversion of closed forest to long and short fallow, and to plantations and non-forest uses. Often, various kinds of agents operate in the same location, making it impossible to segregate them analytically one from the other. Some operate inter-dependently (cattle ranchers supplying small-holders with chain saws) or sequentially (small-holders occupying abandoned timber concessions).
Causation refers to all the factors that shape the agents' decisions to deforest. These factors may be market-driven (e.g., international prices of agro-export commodities), economic (e.g., a sudden large currency devaluation), legal or regulatory (e.g., a change in land tenure laws), institutional (e.g., decision to deploy more forest rangers to particular area), or political (e.g., a change in the way forest concessions are allocated). It is necessary to understand these underlying causes in order to influence the behaviour of agents and lessen the deforestation rate.
The evidence suggests that individuals and businesses deforest inappropriately because it is their most profitable alternative. To get them not to deforest, either deforestation must be made less profitable or other alternatives must be made more profitable. Deforestation can be made less profitable by reducing the demand for products produced on cleared land, increasing the unit costs and riskiness of production, or eliminating speculative gains in land markets. Alternatives to deforestation can be made more profitable by increasing the profitability of maintaining forests and increasing the opportunity costs of labour and capital. Each national situation is different, much uncertainty remains about key cause and effect relations, and there are usually trade-offs between policies' effectiveness, ability to be targeted, political viability, and direct and indirect costs.
Conversion to unsustainable land uses and serious degradation of tropical forests9 thus occurs due to a number of driving forces.
· Migration, colonisation and land grabs: The creation of permanent or temporary farms (legally or illegally) through spontaneous migration or under official schemes, occur in many parts of Asia-Pacific. Often, the traditional swidden agriculture or 'forest farming' activities of small numbers of indigenous forest people are included in this category, though usually the impacts on Biodiversity are quite different.
· Alternative land uses at landscape level: Ranching, pasture development, plantation agriculture tree-crops (rubber, cinnamon, cocoa, oil-palm, etc.), or even exotic timber plantations (e.g. Acacia mangium, Eucalyptus camaldulensis) are common in many parts of South and Southeast Asia.
· Significant industrial logging for the international tropical timber trade now occurs only in seven developing countries of the region10, although most still have commercial logging operations for domestic markets (which are very large for China and India).
· Fuelwood gathering may be a predominant contributor in drier or high-altitude parts of Asia (e.g. parts of Nepal, China and Pakistan; Eastern Indonesia).
Most authorities highlight the roles played by shifting cultivators, the expansion of agro-export crops, the use of fire, controlled as well as uncontrolled logging activities, and fuelwood gathering. Uneven land distribution, civil unrest, infrastructural development, industrialisation and urbanisation are sometimes mentioned, but population growth is often listed as the major force increasing pressure on natural resources, leading to conversion from forest to unsustainable agriculture or degradation of both conservation and timber values.
Forest policies (or more generally, policies affecting land use directly or indirectly) are critical to conserving forest resources as well as improving the situation of people most dependent on the resource. Poffenberger (1990) has argued that, for Southeast Asia, the gradually intensifying conflict between State land management policies and local forest use systems is a major obstacle to conservation and sustainable management. Instead, it has been a cause of deforestation and mismanagement of forest resources. If so, better mutual understanding between governments, foresters, indigenous forest dwellers, migrant farmers and loggers will be essential for managing forest resources and reforming inappropriate forest policies.
Government forest policies focusing on timber production and, more recently, on plantation establishment (i.e. the pro-industrial approach) may have damaged the forestry economic base. Exploitation of the once-abundant resource has only rarely resulted in the expected economic growth and industrialisation in the areas where the forest resources were located. (Westoby, 1987).
In the Asia-Pacific region, the forestry sector has been progressively changing from a-"pro-industrial" approach to more of a "development from below" approach (Gilmour and Fisher, 1991), sometimes leading to partial handover of forests to local control.
Despite the successes of Joint Forest Management in India and land-tenure reforms in China, the idea of rural communities having secure access to NTFPs within forest boundaries is still generally considered radical, (Malla 1992, for Nepal). The implementation of Joint Forest Management in India still places quite strict limits on role of the community and their share of the benefits, the degree of community influence on management, and even which forests are eligible. Finally, the Forest Department can unilaterally cancel the agreement at any time, and for unspecified reasons.
Thus, while forest policies are slowly changing, the predominant focus still is on production forestry and then on protection, though it is obvious that forest industries and particularly logging operators can rarely be controlled adequately. An exception is the recent forestry policy on Sri Lanka which places top priority on conservation.
The industrial focus on wood products and the appropriation of forests by state governments, and neglect of traditional forest uses for timber and non-wood forest products has led to-land-use changes despite forest policy efforts aimed at resource conservation. The process of resource degradation was made worse by restricting peoples' rights to use land and neglecting their traditional uses as well as their capacities to protect and preserve forests.
Attempts by national governments to protect forests of high conservation value from local people, without engaging them in the process and without ensuring that local populations actually benefited from such conservation, have frequently failed, or even had the opposite effect. Indigenous shifting cultivators are widely blamed by governments and industry throughout Asia (but not in the Pacific where shifting cultivators are the ethnic and political majority) as the major cause of forest destruction. Many government foresters thought that rural people were incapable of conservation, forest management and tree growing.
Yet recent analyses, for example, Warner (1991), Cramb (1993), Dove (1993) and Colfer, et al. (1995) have concluded that these allegations are unjustified: the number of such forest-dwelling people and the scale of their forest interventions is small, and they typically possess a considerable amount of indigenous ecological knowledge about how to meet their subsistence needs with minimal environmental impact.
A new approach to protected area management which actively engages local people in decisions and management for conservation, and which ensures they are not disadvantaged by forest conservation measures, is currently being applied and evaluated in many parts of Asia. But in some cases, market integration, modernisation and interventions are threatening a breakdown of traditional forest use and traditional communal decision making. Governments and their citizens need to jointly develop effective shared responsibilities for broad scale forest conservation. The most telling finding of these recent reviews is that the problems are much larger than just the conventionally defined forestry sector - the answers must be found in the relationships with other sectors.
The broad policy thrust espoused by Asian-Pacific governments can be gleaned from the statements made to the Ministerial Meeting of the FAO Committee on Forestry in Rome, 16 March 1995.
"Malaysia has expanded its permanent Forest Estate from 12.7 to 14.1 million hectares and dedicated 4.7 million ha representing 24% of the total forested area of 19.1 million hectares for the protection of the environment and conservation of biodiversity."
"To maintain biological richness we (Indonesia) have set aside 496 million hectares of forests, or 25% of our land area as Totally Protected Areas (TPAs)."
"The Vietnamese Ministry of Forestry has carried out two big programs: a forest land allocation program to allocate at least seven million hectares to the rural people to protect, to manage and to develop; and another program to re-green the bare land to increase the forest coverage from 28% to 40% by the year 2000 and to reduce poverty among the rural people"
"All classified forest lands of Bangladesh will be included in a national protection system and be managed under a number of Multiple Use Management Areas. This concept would introduce a systematic approach to forest land management with landuse designated according to land evaluation, land capability assessment and suitability assessment. The 'core-buffer-multiple use zone strategy' could be used for the management of these Multiple Use Management Areas, from which the protection of Biodiversity could be accomplished while still gaining more social and economic benefits".
These statements clearly indicate a move away from trying to achieve national conservation goals just through isolated and strictly protected areas, surrounded by largely unregulated land use.
Some of the indications that much higher emphasis is being placed on conservation outside protected areas include:
· promotion or requirement of reduced impact logging techniques;
· certification of forest management units as 'sustainably managed';
· and engagement with local and indigenous peoples in forest management, including recognition of indigenous knowledge and management systems, and of the importance of NTFPs.
Logging company decisions about whether or not to log "benignly" and then manage sustainably, depend on expectations of future returns. Those with secure tenure may decide to sustain, even improve their forests, if they are confident future benefits will be greater than the alternatives. Unfortunately, in many countries, such conditions are not met: logging companies think future forest values will be low, costs will increase, they fear political uncertainty or they have other more attractive financial options. This is not true of all commercial forest interests and certainly not of the reputable forestry companies that do manage and protect the forests under their control. However, those who log and then abandon forests, are effectively admitting that neither continuing forest management, nor any other possible land use, is commercially attractive to them.
It is commonly argued that logging causes deforestation in Asia, if not directly, then because the roads that are constructed open up new areas for spontaneous colonisation. The greatest threats to the conservation of remaining forests may come through roads which create access. The link between commercial logging and the disappearance of forests may be the creation of access. For example, the highest rate of population increase in the Philippine uplands was in the municipalities with logging concessions.
This is especially noticeable when there is very poor enforcement of forest boundaries by government agencies (e.g. Forest Service or National Parks Service) and an institutional or legal context in which people expect that land which they occupy, claim or 'stake out', will eventually be recognised, even legalised by the government. In Asia, rapid forest clearance by 'squatters' tends to occur where enforcement has been weak or ineffectual and where there are many unemployed or landless people, with very low incomes and few alternative livelihoods. But without these conditions, forests have been logged and remained under management, they were not cleared or seriously degraded, for example in Peninsular Malaysia.
To this point the focus has been on colonisation and forest conversion to other land uses by smallholders. Industrial logging is most likely to lead to permanent deforestation if it is associated with spontaneous small-scale settlement and conversion, or with large-scale-agro-industrial conversion. Governments of many Asian countries have deliberately and explicitly encouraged forest conversion in the past, and some (for example, Indonesia) still do, in both large-scale and small-scale forms, as well as through official resettlement programs, such as transmigration.
A broad view of the threats to the continued existence of tropical forests must be developed, if effective solutions are to be devised. In the Philippines or Viet Nam, for example, even if there were no sawmills or logging operations, deforestation might still continue, as people move up into the mountains looking for somewhere to earn a livelihood, even if it is temporary, illegal and marginal. And this is not due only or primarily to population growth rates. Even if the population was static, whenever agricultural workers are displaced by mechanisation in commercial agriculture, or if urban workers cannot find employment in the formal economy, then 'a livelihood of last resort' may be to clear forests to make an illegal farm (Garrity, et al., 1993).
Recent policy experiments in Tonga and Fiji, where governments have leased lands from traditional-customary owners, to be used as National Parks, provide interesting possible models to how local people can directly benefit from forest conservation. These trials suggest that these people are keen to retain their forests, and to continue enjoying their cultural, NTFP and amenity benefits, provided it does not cost too much to do so.
For this study, it may be useful to assign some probabilities to the question of whether governments' priority to conservation and biodiversity will rise, fall or continue at about current levels. Based on policy pronouncements of governments, participation in international negotiations and field experience, we subjectively assess that the continuation of current policies and institutions has a probability of about 30%.
The Asia Pacific region, especially East and Southeast Asia, is the fastest-growing regional economy in the world. This has three principal effects:
First, with increased incomes and more industrialised and urbanised lifestyles, increasing number of Asian citizens will attach much higher values to environmental conservation - not only for recreation and aesthetics, catchment protection and wildlife, but for the more abstract 'existence values'11.
Second, the same changes will greatly reduce the pressures to derive marginal incomes by clearing or degrading forests and protected areas, as more people move to higher paid urban jobs. This trend is already clearly demonstrated in Republic of Korea, Malaysia and on the eastern seaboard of China.
Third, with economic prosperity comes the ability (as well as the desire) to funnel resources into biodiversity conservation - that is, it becomes affordable as well as desirable.
The status of forest conservation outside protected areas is likely to remain largely unchanged. Forests will continue to be exploited, but adoption of reduced-impact logging techniques may spread slowly, reducing some of the damage to production forests. Conservation will perhaps still be seen as just a matter of refugia - isolated areas allocated for conservation because they have no better use. Industries will continue to come into conflict with traditional rural societies, and increasingly urban people will suffering a deteriorating environment.
On the other hand, conservation may receive more priority in all natural forest areas, especially if fast-growing industrial plantations reduce the need or commercial feasibility of logging natural forests. Even with continuing population growth, fewer people will seek to derive their incomes from forest exploitation, and more opportunities are likely to emerge in eco-tourism and related service industries. Economic development may help achieve forest conservation.
It seems reasonable to assume that in traditional societies, the NTFP extractors might be progressively incorporated into the modern economy as employment opportunities arise and as many of their traditional products become less sought-after in the modern market-places. Is the 'extractivist option' merely a short-term transition, pending modernisation, or could it be a viable livelihood option in the long term? Part of the answer will depend on the future of green consumerism, both in the Asia-Pacific region and in global markets.
The probability that there will be sustained and effective environmental campaigns is subjectively estimated at about 60%.
The outcomes of increasing affluence with greater environmental consciousness in Asian societies for tropical forest conservation is likely to be revealed in many ways:
Much more rapid adoption of (even more radical) low-impact logging techniques in production forests, such as greater use of helicopter or balloon logging will become evident. Unless very strict environmental protection standards can be attained, all logging in natural forests may well be banned, as has already happened for example in Thailand.
Simultaneously, forest industries are increasingly likely to move towards a plantation basis, as their production efficiency increases and unit costs continue to fall (while the opposite trends are likely for most natural forest logging). Such plantations are likely to be quite different from the current large-scale exotic monocultures, being based more on mixtures, and/or mosaics of smaller uniform patches of plantation forests, interspersed with more natural landscapes and agriculture. A greater proportion of the industrial timber supply might eventually come from farm-forests, but such changes in the scale, composition, ownership and importance of plantation forestry are likely to evolve gradually, not change suddenly. As part of the gradual evolution, it seems likely that increasing emphasis will be placed on "biodiversity-compatible" plantations which can be very productive, while also contributing to landscape scale conservation objectives, as part of the multiple-use matrix surrounding high-priority protected areas.
International pressures and support for conservation in the region would bolster internal demands for enhanced conservation of forests, and may provide direct and indirect commercial support through, for example: certification and eco-labelling; eco-tourism; compensatory mechanisms under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international treaties; and debt relief or debt-for-nature swaps.
The probability of there being a reduced emphasis or effectiveness of forest conservation is believed to be low, about 10%, and then only in conjunction with major international economic disruptions such as recession with high unemployment; major trade struggles between powerful regional economic groupings; or the collapse of international tourism for some unanticipated reason.
The outcomes of this development are basically the opposite to the above: greater conversion of remaining natural forests to agriculture or timber estates; continued failure to protect priority conservation areas against the onslaught of people looking for lands to cultivate or resources to exploit.
Over the past decade community forest policies and programs have started emerging in many Asian nations. This shift is being driven by a complex blend of demographic, socio-political, environmental, and economic forces. This section briefly describes the contexts generating community forestry policies and new operational management systems, the current status of existing and potential community management systems, and likely scenarios for the year 2010.
Beginning in the later part of the 19th century much of Asia's forest land was legally placed under the authority of the state with bureaucratic agencies established to oversee management. As forest nationalization policies were strengthened and field management systems implemented, the forest rights and practices of forest-dependent communities steadily eroded (Richards and Tucker, 1988). Since many of these groups were, and are still, dependent on forests for hunting and gathering and long rotation agricultural land, their management practices were often disrupted by the expansion of government control over forest resources. While legally dis-empowered, community forest management systems continued to operate informally throughout Asia. At the same time, they continue to be under growing pressures from an expanding influx of lowland migrants and commercial interests.
During the post World War II era, the growth of the international timber trade greatly accelerated commercial forest exploitation. Unsustainable felling practices and lack of-post-logging access controls created a pattern of "boom and bust" in the Asia forestry sector. Commercial timber production in nations like the Philippines, Thailand, and India peaked in the 1970s, with many Asia countries now net importers. During the 1980s, a growing number of countries passed timber export bans to help develop their domestic wood-processing industries. Today, only a limited number of countries in the region remain major international timber exporters, and even those nations now possess extensive areas of logged-over forest.
Many Asian government forest agencies currently face static management budgets, or are under pressure to cut operational staff. At the same time, the population of forest-dependent communities continues to grow. In India, there are an estimated 600,000 rural communities, many of which are dependent on forest products to meet a wide range of subsistence needs. The population of India will expand from 935 million in 1995 to 1.2 billion by the year 2010, yet India possesses only 1.7 percent of the World's forest stock (WRI, 1994). This pressure is reflected in 90 percent of India's total wood consumption being used for domestic fuelwood.
In Java, the Philippines, and many areas of rural, mainland Southeast Asia growing local populations and upland migrants are placing similar pressures on forests. In the Philippines, the population of the uplands has reached 17.5 million and is growing at a rate of 4 percent annually. Seventy percent of upland residents are migrants from the lowlands, many of whom hope to convert forest land to agriculture (WRI, 1994). Lowland-upland migrant pressure is a common pattern throughout many parts of insular and mainland Southeast Asia and underscores the need for clarifying land and forest usufruct rights.
Analysis of deforestation patterns in Asia indicates that in many areas the usurpation of local rights and responsibilities by governments, followed by outside commercial exploitation, established an environment where poorly or uncontrolled use dominated. With few or no rights, communities that had once been oriented toward sustainable use saw their best opportunity was to capture economic benefits before they were taken by outside private operators or neighbouring villages. Migrants took advantage of newly developed logging road access and the absence of effective access controls to open forest lands for farming. Since the 1960's, the combined environmental impact of these forces on Asia's forests have been dramatic (Poffenberger and McGean, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1996)
Between 1981 and 1990, Asia's forest receded at a rate estimated between 1 and 1.2 percent annually (WRI, 1994). In addition to deforestation, much of the region's forests are under pressures and experiencing degradation and biomass depletion. Due to steady declines in forest quality and cover many communities are observing unfavourable environmental changes including declining hydrological function reflected in uneven surface run off, erosion, siltation and falling groundwater level; adverse micro climatic change; and the disappearance of important flora and fauna. An increasing number of communities are experiencing growing shortages of critical forest products used for housing, agricultural tools, fodder, fuel, medicine, food, ritual, and raw materials for small industries. Due to the very low income levels of millions of Asian households, these necessary products cannot be obtained through outside markets. A national survey in India determined that 67 percent of rural households make less than US$357 (Rs.12,500) per year, less than one dollar per day for a family of five (Raod, 1993). As a consequence of limited access to cash, many goods needed for survival are grown and collected from agricultural and forest land. Sustaining environmental services and meeting the needs of rural communities will become the priority goal of forest management in the 21st Century for most Asian nations. Given current demographic trends, this will only be possible if effective partnerships can be established with millions of forest user communities.
While Asian communities have protested and struggled against the attempts of outside authorities and interests to gain control over forests and other resources, in recent years community perspectives have begun to gain ground. The growing centralization of control over the public forest domain, reflected in forest policies and investments in building agency infrastructure, has slowed and even started to reverse in some countries. Emerging political systems are giving greater importance to the needs of large electoral blocks in rural areas, donor agencies have channelled billions of dollars into forestry programs with increasing emphasis on community involvement, and communities themselves are beginning to take action.
Starting in the 1970s, villages in eastern India began voicing growing concerns over forest degradation and the role of forest departments and private companies. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, without policy approval or programmatic support an estimated 10,000 villages in Orissa, West Bengal, and Bihar took control of nearly two million hectares of largely degraded state forest lands, and through their protection began to restore its ecological health and productivity. Similar movements have emerged in the Himalayas, western India, and the eastern and western Ghats.
Grassroots forest protection and management systems are active in many other parts of Asia as well, some based on older indigenous practices, others through newly formed institutions responding to perceived environmental threats. In northern Thailand, ethnic minority groups along the Burmese border have entered into micro watershed agreements, delineating new controls and use practices in response to growing population pressures and resource conflicts. While donor-funded government projects and NGO efforts have often helped establish these dialogues, other cooperative resource management agreements are based solely on community initiatives.
In north-western Viet Nam, long administered by the government as a semi-autonomous zone, some traditional systems of forest management are still functioning among some of the 50 ethno-linguistic groups that inhabit the uplands. Such indigenous systems are also active among the 25 ethnic minority groups of Yunnan. Ifugao and Kalinga communities of Northern Luzon in the Philippines have evolved sufficient political power to restrict the intrusion of commercial logging into their areas. Yet, while many indigenous communities are engaged in forest management, others are still struggling to regain rights and responsibilities to control local forest use. During the 1990s, in Kalimantan and Irian Jaya in Indonesia some indigenous communities blocked logging roads and burned timber company base camps in attempts to halt commercial logging operations.
The challenge of reintegrating communities formally into the forest management sector is complicated by the vast diversity of ethno-linguistic groups present in the region. While indigenous cultural communities are often a small proportion of total national populations, they are frequently the dominant populations in remote forest areas and may already be playing important roles in resource management. A global study (Clay, 1993) documents the presence of over 3,000 distinct ethno-linguistic groups in the larger Asia region of varying sizes (see Annex 7).
National governments in China, Thailand, the Philippines, India and other Asian countries are attempting to establish dialogues with these groups and develop collaborative forest management agreements. The challenge is to create negotiation processes that can overcome cultural differences and link informal community resource governance systems with national societies. Formulating enabling policies that effectively allow for a devolution of management rights and responsibilities must be complemented with operational strategies that allow new policies to be implemented.
Many Asia countries are in the process of formulating policies that provide communities with opportunities for involvement in the management of public forests. Community involvement may be authorized through laws that recognize claims to ancestral domain, leases and contractual arrangements, stewardship certificates, group management agreements, and formal registration processes. With the exception of Papua New Guinea and some Pacific Island nations, no Asian government has established private community-based property rights (Lynch, et al., 1995). While such laws would extend the greatest legal authority to communities to manage forest resources, major land law reforms are unlikely to take place by the year 2010 given existing political environments.
The Governments of Nepal, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand are developing time-bound, leasing arrangements that extend management rights and responsibilities to local groups. These new collaborative management approaches, while widely supported by donor organizations, have often been formulated centrally and are necessarily imperfect. Often reflecting anxieties of government forestry agencies reluctant to loose legal control, most new community forestry policies are tentative, providing only limited tenure security. Further, forest departments often lack the will and capacity to actively implement new policies. As a consequence, only a very small percentage of the larger public forest estate of the Asia region had been formally brought under community control or some form of co-management by late 1996.
Knowledge of the critical policy and programmatic components necessary to extend management authority to communities is also limited. Community forest management policy is a new arena where experience with successful and problematic approaches is only now being acquired. Forest departments' commercial leasing practices, wildlife management policies, and major reforestation projects often undermine opportunities for communities to play a greater role in public forest management. Forestry and other related policies that are in conflict with community interests in management are just beginning to receive attention.
While much attention has been focused on formal community forestry policy development, experience indicates that field operations and staff interactions with local groups may be even more influential in determining opportunities for collaboration. "The process, not the paper, is the key to meaningful community participation in forest management..." The document itself, while meaningful, "is less important than the understanding, commitment, and good faith of parties to the agreement" (Seymour, et al., 1993).
Establishing effective community forestry policies extends beyond the authority of national ministries of forestry. Preferential forest department policies towards the private sector are often heavily shaped by powerful political figures. Coalitions of political leaders, private sector interests and forestry agencies that shaped and directed commercially-oriented forest use policies and management systems remain very influential. It is likely they will continue to resist community-management devolution efforts through 2010. Accelerating transitions towards sustainable, community-based forestry as a major form of public lands management in 21st century will require the committed support of senior national leaders.
Bureaucratic reorientation is a complex and difficult process, but a fundamental element in creating conditions for significant community involvement in forest management by the year 2010. While forestry agencies have a mandate to move in new directions, they are constrained by tradition, procedures, attitudes, and incentives that resist needed policy and operational reforms. The forest services of India alone have over 150,000 salaried employees, many of whom require retraining to build agency capacity as the state departments shift to community-based forest management systems. Changes in attitudes are at least important as skill building. For decades communities have been viewed as a threat to the forest and its commercial production objectives. Bringing communities formally into management and devolving authority and rights to them is a dramatic shift of direction and will require considerable discussion if supportive staff attitudes are to be established. Without an institutional conviction among field and senior FD staff that new management directions are desirable, progress in implementing new community forestry policies will be slow and outcomes disappointing. Shifting attitudes require a commitment of the leadership, education, and new professional incentives including promotions based on merit. While donor-funded social forestry programs of the past twenty years have helped to reorient forestry agencies towards communities, fundamental institutional changes in most Asian forest departments have been limited.
Donor agencies have redirected much of their forestry sector assistance towards supporting the greater involvement of communities in forest management over the past 5 to 10 years. Yet, while donor loans and grants often regard communities participation as a fundamental strategy, ODA institutions are constrained by their programming modalities. Most major donors work through forest departments, and must structure their project in a rigidly time-bound format, relying on quantitative targets for monitoring the transfer of capital and technologies. While forest sector grants and loans are still dominated by financial and technical components, forest management transitions in Asia are being shaped by social and political factors. Because donor projects are designed for short-term (3-5 year) periods, they can not strategically support longer term institutional changes that need to take place in Asian forest departments.
Donor requirements for the formulation of rigid and detailed program plans also limits flexibility and adaptation to changing environments and learning. Learning is also constrained by donor tendency to work in relative isolation from other donor agencies working in the same sector. As a consequence donor projects have generally had limited impact in responding to the needs for organizational reorientation apparent in many Asian forest departments. In some cases, large donor programs have reinforced and strengthened conventional procedures and hierarchies allowing them to resist pressures for change from below.
Effective donor support for community forest management transitions will require coordinated and long-term ODA assistance that is designed to facilitate fundamental institutional transitions in administrative structures and functions. Institutions designed for unilateral custodial control and commercial timber production will need to function as centres of planning, monitoring, and technical and marketing expertise and be able to reach out to forest managing communities to serve their needs. If these new capacities are to be developed, donor assistance must shift funding flows to emphasize training and applied research components, rather than continue investing in agency controlled reforestation projects.
NGOs are playing a diversity of roles in the Asian community forestry sector reflecting their own highly varied locations, size, capacities and goals. Some grassroots NGOs largely comprise community leaders. In some cases environmentally oriented, village-based youth clubs have catalysed community forest protection initiatives. Village leaders and school teachers have also helped mobilize communities to address resource management problems, often forming into local non-governmental organizations. These types of organizations are also providing foundations for larger networks and federations that coordinate forest management over larger territories. In eastern India these networks are already emerging, as they are in Central America, providing a framework for linking communities with formal governance structures in managing public forest lands.
Urban-based NGOs are playing diverse roles, both in community and forest department training and in diagnostic research. Other NGOs act as advocates for community forestry groups, placing pressure on planners and donors for government policy and operational change. Asian NGO support groups have already held thousands of meetings with communities and foresters, accelerating discussions and the search for alternative approaches to management. With their urban base, these groups also help bring community perspectives to Asian capitals, and even into global policy discussions. They will likely become increasingly influential as their expertise in the sector and their numbers grow.
In much of Asia, the efforts of NGO advocacy groups have drawn national and international attention to policy and operational failures of existing forest policies and programs. The work of such groups will increase in the coming 15 years developing stronger linkages with environmental groups in the North. Both NGO support groups and advocacy organizations need outside support. They represent important human resources that can seek alternatives in the difficult process of designing new forms of forest management. International conservation organizations have also shifted their attention towards community participation in resource management. At the October 1996 World Conservation Congress (IUCN) in Montreal, for example, collaborative resource management was adopted as a major strategy by Union's 800 members covering 125 participating countries.
Communities throughout Asia have played and continue to play important roles in forest management. In some cases they do so as part of unbroken traditions, in others to regain forest control and stabilise environments upon which their lives and livelihoods depend. Growing demographic and resource pressures are making intensified forest management increasingly attractive to communities, stimulating local interest to invest in sustainable use systems. Given growing forest resource scarcities common throughout much of Asia, effective forest management will become a necessity for community groups and provide opportunities for local economic development. Whether government policy makers and planners will respond effectively to growing demands by communities to develop greater forest resource rights and responsibilities to their informal and local governance structures remains a question. It is also uncertain how quickly community organizations will develop capacities to administer these resources, given the immense land areas requiring careful custodianship.
In looking towards 2010, the scale of the transition towards substantive community engagement in Asia's forest management is immense. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of the entire land area of the South and Southeast Asia is under the jurisdiction of forest departments. The process of negotiating management agreements between communities, forest departments, and local governments is a formidable task. The huge numbers of people estimated to be either forest dependent or actually residing in forest environments is reflected in Table 6.
Table 6 Estimates of Forest Dependent Populations in Five Asian Countries - 1990
People Directly Dependent upon Forest Resources
Peoples Living on Land Classified as Public Forest (millions)
Source: Lynch (1992)
These statistics imply that up to 200 million people (or 40 million households) in the five Asian countries listed require negotiations regarding their forest occupancy, while up to 500 million forest dependent people (or 100 million families) need engagement in some aspects of management decision making. If the remaining nations in Asia are included, the numbers probably double. If effective efforts are not made to bring these groups into meaningful dialogues, existing conflicts and insecurities will continue to drive unsustainable use practices and much of the region's forests will remain open access.
The most plausible scenario is one of mixed-outcomes. The implementation of effective community forest management is smoothest for forests already under de facto community control. In the north-eastern Indian state of Tripura, for example, a few years after joint forest management policies were passed in the early 1990s, over one-third of the forest domain was reported to have been officially registered with tribal communities. Nepal recently targeted 61 percent of the nation's total forest area for community management supported by interlocking policies and extension programmes developed over the past two decades. While it will take a decade or more for Nepal to fully implement current plans, it will probably be the first Asian nation to bring over half of its forest lands under community control.
While only 2 to 3 percent of India's public forest estate is estimated to be under community protection recognized by state forest departments, this could increase to 25 percent by 2010 if forest departments and NGOs can expand capacities to negotiate, demarcate, and register forest dependent communities. The challenge in India, as elsewhere in Asia, is to allocate rights and responsibilities in ways that are responsive to historical rights and needs of rural forest users. Politically dis-empowered low income tribal communities and women need effective representation as new forest management agreements are formulated.
The emergence of a national system of operational community forestry management systems in the Philippines has moved slowly over the past 15 years, despite the fact that the nation possesses some of the most progressive policies in Asia. Recent efforts to remove constraints to program implementation and integrate local government and agency field staff may allow the pace of decentralization to accelerate.
Throughout Asia, the success of community forestry strategies in stabilising the region's forest resources will probably rest on synchronising national strategies with grassroots community efforts. National inventories assessing the roles and areas where communities are already informally managing forests would establish a baseline from which supportive transition strategies could be formulated. National working groups are needed to bring field experiences into the development of long term transition programs, requiring the coordinated support of donor agencies. It is likely that public forest land reform processes and the role communities will play in management will still be at an early stage of definition in 2010, but will continue well into the 21st century.
To date, "forest policies" have often been focused primarily on the relationship between government forestry agencies and the gazetted forests directly under their control, or the relationship between forestry agencies and private or State companies engaged in industrial activities such as timber extraction. These policies and related practices, while clearly not yet perfect, already are (on paper) quite reasonable in most countries in the Region - but they are frequently ignored, poorly implemented or lack public support.
While existing policies and regulations, if enforced properly, deal adequately with the trees in reserved forests, and with companies that harvest and/or plant trees, they have dealt very poorly with people. Most forests in Asia Pacific are surrounded or populated by people who use them. The behaviour of these people responds to many "external forces" and these are often much stronger than the policies and policing of the forestry agencies or protected areas agencies. Depending on these forces, ordinary household behaviour may be either constructive or destructive.
The industrial production or conservation policies of forestry agencies may become marginal, irrelevant, or even be directly contradicted, by policies outside the forestry sector such as agricultural pricing and subsidies, population and employment policies, infrastructure developments, the spread of the market economy and hence all the impacts of macro-economic and international factors. The problems of forest-dependent communities, the conservation of biodiversity and deforestation can only be resolved by considering these wider issues, and others such as population movements, land reform and disparities in income distribution.
Perhaps the previous concentration on industrial logging and timber is a reflection of conventional forestry concerns, of the linkages between the forests, the loggers, the processing industries, and the domestic and export markets. This whole chain is indeed affected by government policy decisions. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong that tinkering with policies within this chain of affairs is unlikely to significantly reduce the extent of forest clearance, or enhance forest conservation significantly, or to improve the livelihoods of poor, forest-dependent people. It may reduce adverse localised environmental impacts, enhance biodiversity conservation slightly, generate more income and employment for local workers, or capture more of the potential revenues and foreign exchange earnings for government. These are all worthwhile objectives, but all marginal gains if the greatest threats to tropical forests comes from any direction other than legal, export-oriented, large-scale, industrial logging.
To stop forest conversion and achieve conservation, it may not be necessary to stop logging outright, or to stop logging in all new areas, but rather to reform the policies that presently make forest colonisation attractive. This might include the pull factors (reduce the profitability of illegally clearing forests, or of speculating in land that was supposed to be kept as forest) or the push factors (increase the limited employment or livelihood options outside of forests). The evidence from the rapid economic growth of Asian tiger economies is that as employment and income prospects outside the agriculture sector improve, fewer people want to undertake the dangerous, illegal, difficult and often unprofitable activities of temporary agriculture in forest lands. However, if the new land use is very profitable (e.g. growing cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, rubber, fruit trees) and the potential capital gains from capturing some real estate from the government forests are high, it might be very difficult to slow the rate of forest conversion.
Forests will be permitted to remain when the people deciding the forests' fate conclude that the continued existence of forests is more beneficial (e.g. generates higher incomes or has cultural or social values) than their removal. If not, forests are cleared. Some natural forests remain because they are not worth exploiting as they lack commercially valuable species, are remote or inaccessible. In other words, it would cost more to exploit them than their current commercial value, so it is economically sensible to leave them for the time being. People living in such remote and 'uneconomic' forest areas may be permitted to enjoy the many traditional, non-commercial benefits of forests, but may also be denied access to many modern goods and services by the very inaccessibility that protects their forest.
6 "Forests, particularly in developing countries, are intimately interwoven with the lives of hundreds of millions of people with bonds that are equally social and economic" Statement by Indian Minister of Forests, Kamal Nath, to Ministerial Meeting of the FAO Committee on Forestry, Rome, March 16, 1995.
7 "A ban on logging operations in the old growth or virgin forests and shift of timber harvesting to second growth or residual forests have already been effected. All virgin forests are now considered part of the Integrated Protected Area System and shall be managed for biodiversity conservation. Simultaneously, buffer zone areas are also being established to prevent people from encroaching into NIPAS while limited production forests within proclaimed watersheds are being introduced to provide alternative livelihood opportunities to people already occupying these areas." Statement by Philippines Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, to Ministerial Meeting of the FAO Committee on Forestry, Rome, March 16, 1995.
8 "At the 25th South Pacific Forum meeting, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu agreed to have a common code of conduct governing logging of indigenous forests to which companies operating in these countries have to adhere." Statement by Fiji Minister of Agriculture & Forests, to Ministerial Meeting of the FAO Committee on Forestry, Rome, March 16, 1995.
9 Deforestation is taken to mean a permanent change of land use. If one hectare of secondary forest is cleared by swidden cultivators, and allowed to re-grow towards a mature forest, after one or two years of cropping, that is considered disturbance or degradation, but not deforestation. Degradation means a substantial decrease in the ability of the forest to supply particular specified benefits, so the term needs to be qualified e.g. degraded with respect to timber production potential, or for watershed protection, or for conservation of biodiversity.
10 Specifically, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (and to a small extent, in a few others).
11 "Demands for forests in Korea have diversified as our economic life improved along with accelerated industrialisation. The benefits of forests such as clean water, fresh air and recreation are now indispensable factors for enhancing the quality of life." Statement by Korean Forests Administrator to Ministerial Meeting of the FAO Committee on Forestry, Rome, March 16, 1995.