The inception workshop for the EC-FAO Partnership Programme: Information and analysis for sustainable forest management: linking national and international efforts in South and Southeast Asia was held at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in Bangkok, Thailand on 10-12 July 2000. The workshop was titled Forestry information processes and planning.
The event was organized by FAO with financial support from the EC through the EC-FAO Partnership Programme.
This report provides the proceedings of the workshop, including an overview of the Partnership Programme, the workshop objectives and conditions, conclusions and lessons learned from this exercise.
Overall Objective of the Programme: To promote sustainable management of trees and forests in the tropics of South and Southeast Asia founded on policies that integrate and balance relevant economic, environmental and social aspects of forestry.
The following countries have been identified as participants in the EC-FAO Partnership Programme activities:
South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Neal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, (6 countries); and
Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam (7 countries).
Immediate Objectives: To strengthen national capacities to collect, compile and disseminate reliable and up-to-date information on forestry in South Asia and Southeast Asia, to analyse the forest sector and to make information available to policy decision makers.
The workshop was designed to address the following components of the Partnership Programme:
Review of existing situation regarding data collection and use. Examine the role of local institutions in collecting and providing data on non-wood forest products. Examine possible guidelines for collecting data on land-use changes and assessing wood production outside of forests.
Build regional networks among national statistical correspondents to increase the exchange of data and information management methods.
Develop a framework to collect essential data, policy and institutional information that are not yet commonly available. Identify direct target beneficiaries in terms of countries and institutions and key individuals to be involved.
Conduct pilot studies to establish suitable arrangements to collect data that is essential for sustainable forest management (SFM), but not yet commonly available.
The Workshop focused on information systems and processes in the participating countries. A particular focus was identifying areas where the Partnership Programme could assist the process of strengthening national information systems by supporting the implementation of pilot studies.
The Workshop had four major components:
briefing of workshop participants on the structure and objectives of the Programme;
country presentations and analysis of national forestry information systems;
development of a framework for a network of forestry statistical correspondents;
discussion and development of a tentative workplan for the Programme.
In preparation for the workshop, participants were asked to focus on two major items.
Each participant was asked to prepare a paper describing national forestry information systems and processes. To align with the scope of the Programme, the paper was to include information on forest inventories (national and sub-national), methodologies for compiling wood supply data and statistics, and any particular surveys or studies of plantation forests, trees outside forests, wood energy, and non-wood forest products.
The second preparatory item was to identify subjects (within the scope of the Programme) of priority importance for pilot studies in participating countries.
Representatives from major regional forestry institutions and the European Commission were invited to attend the workshop. Representatives from the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the FAO-based Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific (FORSPA) and Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia (RWEDP), and FAO Regular Programme staff attended the workshop. A full list of participants is appended.
The workshop was primarily designed as an introduction to the Partnership Programme. It was designed to obtain feedback from the participating countries on national priorities, to elicit interest in pilot studies and to facilitate the drafting of a preliminary workplan. Furthermore, it provided a platform for conducting a gap analysis on national and regional forestry information systems. The other major components of the Partnership Programme were also introduced to participants and various aspects and components discussed.
Arrangements for the workshop were coordinated by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, in Bangkok, with assistance from the FAO Representatives to the participating countries.
The workshop itself was coordinated by four FAO staff (Durst, Ma, Brown, Enters). All FAO Bangkok forestry staff made presentations or participated in discussions. A number of other FAO staff attended the introductory session.
The welcoming address was given by the FAO Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Mr R.B. Singh, with the Deputy Regional Representative, Mr Dong Qingsong also in attendance.
Mr Singh emphasized the importance of sustainable forest management (SFM) to the welfare of the region, and the crucial role of information and statistics in supporting SFM. Mr Singh made mention of regional initiatives tied to SFM including various FAO forestry activities in the region. He stressed the importance of the EC-FAO Partnership Programme to forestry in the region, and noted the responsibility of FAO and the participating countries to ensure that Programme activities are wisely and efficiently implemented.
The Senior Forestry Officer and Programme Manager, Mr Patrick Durst, made a presentation describing the linkages between the Partnership Programme and various other regional and global activities. He noted the parallel EC-FAO initiatives in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. He also described Asia's progress in developing authoritative regional forestry information processes, particularly noting the successful cooperation engendered in the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. The presentation also discussed how the Programme complements other FAO initiatives, including the development of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, efforts to develop a model forest network, and to promote reduced impact logging.
Mr Thomas Enters (Forestry Sector Analysis Specialist) provided an outline of the overall Programme scope and objectives. His presentation noted the Programme's overarching objective is to promote sustainable management of trees and forests, with the more immediate objectives of strengthening national capacities to collect, compile and disseminate reliable and up-to-date information on forestry; utilising this information to update analysis of the forestry sector; and making information and analysis available to policy-makers. The presentation also suggested the type of information deficiencies the Programme might work to overcome, and summarized its expected outcomes.
Mr Chris Brown (Forestry Sector Outlook Studies Specialist) gave a brief outline of the agenda and objectives of the workshop. The outline stressed that a large portion of the workshop would be an exercise in brainstorming, attempting to elicit participants' ideas and views, as well as to tap their specialist knowledge of national information systems.
This presentation was followed by general discussions on the overall Programme and distribution of the pilot study ranking exercise.
A pilot study ranking exercise was designed as a means of introducing countries to the concept of pilot studies and demarcating the types of studies relevant to the Programme objectives, as well as providing a useful tool for collecting information on national priorities. The exercise also gave participants an early opportunity to provide their own thoughts on relevant pilot study options.
Participants were given a list of 39 suggested pilot study options - a title, with a three or four sentence description of what the study might investigate - and were asked to assign scores from 1-4, according to how relevant these studies might be to their country. Options were categorized by theme from A to G (see below). The options discussed and the results of the pilot study ranking exercise is appended (Appendix 2).
Forest Resource and Land-Use Change
Wood Supply Potential
Fuelwood Production and Consumption
Trees Outside Forests
Non-Wood Forest Products
Data Systems in Support of SFM
The participant from Nepal did not return the worksheet. Hence each pilot study received between 9 and 36 points. In general, pilot studies scoring 25 or more points were assessed by the group to be relatively important, though specific studies scoring lower (particularly in the woodfuels category) were also viewed as important by some countries (or subregions). Section 2.6 of the report provides information on the analysis of the ranking exercise results and the identification of particular pilot studies.
Ms Ma Qiang (Forestry Officer [Econometrics]) presented a regional overview on strengthening forestry information systems. This presentation drew attention to some key challenges in collecting and collating forestry information. The presentation noted that forestry statistics systems often suffer from a lack of identity and ownership. Frequently there is little coordination among agencies collecting forestry information, and little value-added to statistics through analysis. The presentation suggested several strategies for addressing deficiencies in information systems, including building analytical capacities, improving inter-agency coordination and forming regional networks. This presentation provided a lead-in to the national presentations.
The participants from each of the 10 countries presented a country brief on national forestry information systems according to a format distributed prior to the workshop. Mr Shamsudin Ibrahim (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) was invited to chair this session.
The national report for Bangladesh noted the development of the Resources Information Management System (RIMS) under the Forest Resources Management Project (FRMP) financed by the World Bank. The RIMS system stores and processes forest management data at the stand-level, and generates management prescriptions for individual stands. The presentation noted that the FRMP is supporting the development and integration of GIS with the existing RIMS. The presentation also discussed the relevance of these systems to forest planning at the national level and pointed out that forest inventories are conducted through remote sensing. The serious weaknesses in the planning processes were listed. The report recommended enhanced human resource development, an increase in the number of computers and higher budget allocations. The presentation provoked a lively discussion on cases where data management capacities may outstrip the actual quality of data supplied.
The national report for Bhutan noted that the main types of data collected are on forest resources, socio-economic status of forest dwellers and those living on the forest fringes, and ecology. The centralised nature of Bhutan's forestry activities means that data collection is well co-ordinated, and appears to be relatively comprehensive. Efforts are made to collect reliable data from various stakeholders. National criteria and indicators are being monitored and an updated national inventory will be carried out as part of the World Bank Forestry Development Project.
The national report for Cambodia noted that national forest cover surveys have been conducted by satellite imagery, most recently in 1997 through the Mekong River Commission and the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (MRC/GTZ). Forest resources data are being processed at the central level in the GIS Unit of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife and disseminated to ministries, the provinces and districts. Ground validation has only been carried out in one district. The presentation gave a brief description of efforts to collect information on the various information themes within the scope of the Partnership Programme. Forest plantation information relies on records of annual tree planting activities and data on NTFPs, including fuelwood, wood supply and trade are not collected systematically. No data on trees outside forests are collected. Lack of facilities, equipment and expertise constrain data gathering and analysis in Cambodia. Among the recommendations was human resource development and the establishment of a network among the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) member countries for the exchange of information and experiences.
The national report for Indonesia focused initially on the process and organization of the country's forestry information system. The reporting structure is relatively complex, and suffers from unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and the reliance on the postal service for data dissemination. Information on many relevant issues including NTFPs, plantations and wood consumption is weak, as data collection remains incomplete. Data collection and compilation is not rigorous and data processing is negatively affected by the lack of motivation by responsible officers. Private companies are not penalized for failing to transmit required data. The report made several suggestions to be addressed, including establishing a database on forest plantations.
The national report for India noted the national concern about the inadequacy of forest resource information. Although many data are collected and collated by various agencies, the absence of a centralized national forestry information system means forestry information collection, collation, analysis and dissemination are performed by independent and uncoordinated agencies. The presentation focused on the range of agencies collecting data, and the types of data they are collecting, and concluded by identifying a number of weaknesses and deficiencies in the current system. It also recommended the establishment of a national-level facility dedicated solely to collection, collation and dissemination of forestry information in India.
The national report for Lao PDR noted that as yet there is no centralized forestry information system and consequently data are difficult to access. The presentation briefly described efforts to collect information on the various information themes within the scope of the Partnership Programme. In numerous areas, data collection is very poor or is not performed at all. The presentation concluded that there are many obstacles facing information and planning sectors in Lao PDR, including inadequate staff capacities and lack of specialists, poor forest accessibility, short field season, outdated equipment, poor basic information, and shortages of financial resources.
The national report for Malaysia noted that comprehensive statistics are generated regularly. The forestry information system is largely well developed. The wood-based industries have to furnish data periodically, which in practice is a cumbersome process. There is a need to computerize data capture, analysis and retrieval to reduce personnel requirements and error in data entry and analysis. Within the Forestry Department Headquarters (Peninsular Malaysia), various units are involved in data collection. In Malaysia, forestry is a state matter and coordination of statistics among the three regions is an area that needs greater attention. There is considerable interest in improving procedures for the collection of data on non-timber forest products.
The national report for Nepal noted that data collection activities are carried out mainly in community forestry and national forest categories. The presentation noted a number of weaknesses in the forestry information system, particularly, the absence of skills (and interest) in collecting data among staff. Many baseline data are outdated (thematic maps are more than 15 years old), not comparable across forest management units and scales, poorly maintained, incorrect or unavailable. There is a major challenge in improving data coordination among organizations and development partners. Also, planning and monitoring have become ritual processes and often do not make use of information useful for decision-making. Therefore, the need of data collection, storage and retrieval is not felt widely among professionals. Recently the Department of Forest has started to automate its information storage and retrieval activities.
The national report for Thailand mainly discussed the national forest inventory and methodologies for implementing the inventory. The presentation noted that the main objective of the inventory is monitoring forest condition and collection of socio-economic and biodiversity information. The inventory uses a unit system, although the Royal Forest Department is investigating systems that are better tailored to Thailand's needs.
The national report for Viet Nam noted that the lack of a well-ordered information system is one important impediment to the country's progress toward sustainable forest management. There is no comprehensive centralized database; data collection networks are not well developed; and data collection among institutions is not well coordinated.
Based on the presentations several clear messages and themes were identified.
There is significant variability in the level of advancement of forestry information systems. Malaysia is most advanced, whereas countries such as India, Bhutan and Indonesia appear to have relatively good forestry information systems in place, compared with other countries in the region.
Coordination of data collection and exchange among national institutions, constituent states, and donor agencies is a major weakness in most countries. The situation varies among countries, with Bhutan, for example, having a relatively centralized forestry information system. By comparison, India has a very disparate system, with many states and many agencies collecting information. In Malaysia, forestry is a state matter, national forestry statistics do not exist and there does not appear to be a need for developing a national database. Notably, the Pakistan country report was accompanied by a request for assistance to develop a database networking system under the Programme.
There is much that forestry organizations can learn from each other regarding the operation of information systems. Much information exists in various forms in most countries, it requires organizing in many cases - and sometimes an incentive to publish in the public domain.
There is not always a clear objective for collecting and processing data. In many countries there is a lack of commitment from collecting data all the way to developing sound statistics. Generating relevant and useful information is often a low priority, in particular in situations, where skills are weak and there is a lack of human resources. Hence, at times, data are not analyzed to generate information for decision-making.
In some countries two sets of data appear to exist; unofficial and official data.
Most countries have started to make use of geographic information systems (see also results of pilot study ranking exercise), although the input data in many countries are of a questionable quality.
A data collection processes exercise was completed by all participants:
to help standardize information collected on forestry information systems across countries;
to assist in identifying gaps in national forestry information systems; and
as a brainstorming exercise, to generate ideas on national data and information deficiencies.
A copy of the Data Collection Processes Workbook is available in Appendix 3 (The version in the appendix is an electronic copy that was slightly altered after the workshop to facilitate electronic inputs). The level of participants' knowledge was generally sufficient to complete most sections of the workbook and these consequently provide a useful overview of data collection activities in South and Southeast Asia. However, in most questionnaires some questions remained unanswered or participants answered 'I don't know'. For these reasons an electronic version of the questionnaire was generated after the inception workshop and sent to the focal points for completion and validation purposes. The questionnaires were also sent to those focal points unable to attend the workshop.
The latter part of the second day of the workshop, and most of the third day, were devoted to discussion and identification of pilot study options for potential implementation.
This process began with an open group discussion to discuss the overall results of the pilot survey. These results were presented as a group "score", which showed that, as a group the six most favored pilot study preliminary suggestions were:
Establishing a GIS-based referencing system for forest resource data (36 points)
Assessing sustainable harvest levels for NWFPs (30)
Inventory sampling techniques for measuring trees outside forests (29)
Rapid appraisal techniques on forest condition in tropical forests (29)
Monitoring forest regeneration in South and Southeast Asia (29)
Assessing the value of economic contributions by NWFPs (29)
There was some discussion on whether the structure of the survey, and the terminology, may have biased results in favor of the GIS option. It was not clear precisely what value many of the participants saw in establishing a GIS system.
Individual sessions on Forest Resources, Trees Outside Forests, NWFPs, Woodfuels, Plantations and Potential Wood Supply were held on the third day. Each segment was preceded by a brief introductory presentation by a specialist speaker.
The introductory presentation to the segment on Forest Resources and Land-Use Change was made by Mr Soren Dalsgaard (Associate Professional Officer, FAO). This presentation outlined the Forest Resource Assessment 2000 and discussed project fieldwork to validate Remote Sensing Survey (RSS) interpretations in a sample unit covering the mid-north of Thailand. The former provided an example of the breadth of data countries are being asked to provide as part of international reporting on forests. The latter provided a useful example of a type of pilot study that could be implemented under the Programme.
This comprehensive and visual presentation generated considerable discussion on the findings of the pilot study and on the implications of those findings for the FRA RSS.
Of particular relevance to pilot study suggestions, Mr Shamsudin (FRIM) noted that FRIM had worked in the area of appraising forest condition and degradation and that these methodologies might usefully be adapted and transferred to other countries in the region. There was general agreement that methodologies would differ across countries and forest types. It was noted that capacity building in this area was very important. There was general agreement that a pilot study based around this issue would be useful and of high priority.
Mr Prasad (India) noted the social component of Mr Dalsgaard's fieldwork and suggested this was an area that needed much work. He explained that in India and several other countries in the region, participatory forestry structures create special issues for SFM. He noted that criteria and indicators for SFM have been developed at national level, but there was a need to develop indicators or benchmarks at the forest level, particularly so that these could be implemented by community management groups. This view was endorsed by other countries with important community forest management schemes. It was agreed that a pilot study in this area would be rewarding.
Considerable interest was shown in implementing pilot studies to investigate forest regeneration in countries. Respondents agreed that a focus on measuring deforestation meant that often measuring regenerating areas was neglected. Other potential areas for pilot studies suggested were an investigation of land-use change due to anthropogenic processes. Several countries noted the need for their countries to improve basic forest resource data.
Mr Thomas Enters made a brief presentation on Trees outside Forests (TOF), which discussed the increasing focus FAO is placing on trees outside forests. Some discussion focused around definitions of trees outside forests and the roles played by agricultural institutions in compiling information on non-forest tree crops. There was significant interest from several countries in developing inventory and classification techniques for TOF. Mr Prasad (India) offered IIFM's expertise in developing a pilot study to investigate these aspects. Several participants noted the difficulties in reporting about trees outside forests in terms of spatial classification. Interest was expressed in Viet Nam's classification system (mentioned in the Vietnamese national presentation). The important roles played by TOFs were recognized by countries.
Mr Conrado Heruela (Regional Wood Energy Development Programme) made a presentation on wood energy issues. The presentation focused mainly on a number of case studies being carried out by RWEDP to assist in wood energy planning and investigating the flow of woodfuels from source to "market". The presentation drew attention to the similarity between the RWEDP case studies and the types of pilot studies that might be implemented under the Partnership Programme.
Wood energy topics scored relatively poorly in the Pilot Study exercise, though there was notable variation between respondents from South Asia and those from Southeast Asia. Discussion suggested that a woodfuels component could be built into a trees outside forests pilot study - or into a study establishing benchmarks for SFM in community forests.
Mr Sameer Karki (IUCN) made a presentation on non-wood forest products. This presentation noted IUCN work to implement Integrated Conservation and Development Projects and the current situation in relation to knowledge gaps relating to ecological characteristics and sustainability for NWFPs, socio-economic contributions of NWFPs, and market information. It also identified priority areas for research including need for NWFP classification system, documentation of management systems for NWFPs and development of institutional monitoring and educational capacity.
Discussion on NWFPs elicited a number of interesting views. Most participants saw little value in carrying out single NWFP inventories, since there already appear to be sufficient inventory methodologies available for most NWFP classes. A major difficulty is the vast number of NWFPs to be inventoried, and whether the benefits would justify the costs. Most participants agreed there was a need to focus efforts on a limited number of NWFPs. Most interest focused on the pilot study exercise suggestions relating to assessments of sustainable harvest levels for NWFPs and assessments of the value of economic contributions by NWFPs.
Mr Chris Brown gave a brief presentation on forest plantations, focusing mainly on FAO's work to strengthen and update forest plantation data through the Forest Resource Assessment Programme, Global Fibre Supply Model and the Global Forest Products Outlook Study. The discussion focused mainly on the various pilot study options, with particular interest shown in the development of a rapid appraisal system for plantation forests, and in developing assessment procedures for the relative success of recently established plantations. Some discussion centred on whether there is a need for measuring biodiversity in plantations, and why it might be important in the future.
Ms Ma Qiang made a presentation on Wood Supply Potential. The presentation briefly discussed FAO efforts to improve information on this topic including the development of the Global Fibre Supply Model, the findings of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study, and the current study on the efficacy of removing natural forests from timber production as a strategy for conserving forests. Discussions centred mainly on wood residue studies, with transportation of logging wastes identified as being an area where research would be of value.
In general, there was broad interest in pilot studies, though only two firm proposals were advanced:
a pilot study to adapt methodologies for appraising forest condition and degradation and to provide training in assessment (offer from FRIM);
a study to further develop methodologies for assessing and classifying trees outside forests resources (offer from IIFM).
Ms Ma Qiang presented a range of activities envisaged under the Programme for improving communications, capacity building and networking among participating countries in the region. These included:
development of a Programme website;
establishing an internet listserver;
running regional workshops and reviews;
holding training workshops and seminars.
These proposals were generally well received. Only one workshop participant does not have access to e-mail and the Programme will investigate options of obtaining a connection for the participant. The listserver was seen as an effective means of communication. Brief discussion occurred over the types of training workshops that were envisaged, where they might be held and how they would be facilitated.
A brief session to discuss future activities, including the implementation of country studies and the policy review, rounded out the workshop proceedings. Several participants questioned the value of country studies and reports, noting that there was already a large amount of information available for many countries in the public domain. It was emphasized that the studies should target specific topics, and much of the work should be carried out by national consultants.
1 Papers presented are given in Appendix 4