Decentralizing Natural Resources Management: Emerging Lessons from ICRAF Collaboration in Southeast Asia
Chun K. Lai
University of Philippines Los Banos
Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon, and
Agustin R. Mercado, Jr.
Claveria, Misamis Oriental
The global trends toward decentralizing and devolving forest management responsibilities and benefits to local stakeholders - households, user groups, communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as the private sector - are resonating strongly in Southeast Asia.
Some of the key driving forces behind these trends are: renovation of central government bureaucracies; IMF and related pressures to reduce public-sector spending; rapid transition toward market economies in some countries; increasing commitment to community-based forest management; growing concern for more equitable sharing of benefits; and realization that centralized forest management approaches have been ineffective in protecting forest resources during the past several decades.
In Southeast Asian countries, there are several interesting examples of how national and grassroots organizations are experimenting and embarking on their dynamic processes of decentralization and devolution. Underpinning the devolution of forestry responsibilities and rights to the local level are various efforts to:
Many of these initiatives - while showing much promise - are still in nascent stages. As these dynamic processes evolve, new challenges and problems will inevitably arise. This paper will share some emerging lessons from Southeast Asia based on the collaborative work undertaken and supported by the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and numerous partner institutions.
The first section will briefly highlight recent developments related to decentralization policies and implementation in Indonesia and the Philippines. The second section will present highlights and lessons learned from three case studies:
The last section will attempt to articulate some general principles and lessons, which may be useful in considering how successful pilot efforts may be scaled-up to generate wider positive impact in the future.
Since May 1998, Indonesia has been undergoing a dramatic reformasi (reformation) process in virtually all economic sectors. In the forestry sector, the government is in the process of drafting new laws and policies that will redefine the roles of the State and local stakeholders in forest management. Three draft bills of paramount importance are: the Basic Forestry Law (regarding government regulations on the utilization of production forests); the Land Ownership Law; and the Local Governance Law. Key new policies have been drafted for nature reserves and conservation areas, and idle land
If passed and implemented, these new statutes may profoundly change the way in which Indonesia's vast forest resources are managed, and provide the basis for more equitable community-based management responsibilities and rights.
Preceding these recent developments is the historic decree issued in January 1998 (SK No. 47/Kpts-II/1998) by the former Minister of Forestry, Djamaloedin Soeryohadikoesoemo, that provided an official precedent for community-based natural resource management. The decree established a distinctive forest-use classification known as Kawasan dengen Tujuan Istimewa (KdTI-zone with distinct purpose), which covers 29,000 ha of damar (Shorea javanica) agroforests in Krui, Sumatra. Details of this landmark policy decision will be given in the Krui case study below.
On 7 October 1998, the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops signed a new decree on community forestry (SK No. 677/Kpts-II/1998) that revised a ministerial decree issued in 1995 (SK No. 622/Kpts-II/1995) (Sirait 1998). This appears to be quite a progressive policy regarding the role of communities in the management of old growth forests or good secondary forests. However, the new decree may not help much to solve the problems and conflicts on lands currently being used for agriculture and/or agroforestry that have been classified as State Forest Land without provisions for such activities (de Foresta 1998).
The era of reformasi has opened up the role of the civil society in the debate on how Indonesia's forest resources should be managed. On 11 June 1998, a political statement was issued by KUDETA (Coalition for the Democratization of Natural Resources), a group representing 66 Indonesian NGOs, networks, and student organizations (KUDETA Secretariat 1998).
The statement implored the government to "return natural resources to the people!" It highlighted the mistakes and failures during the 32 years of the New Order regime that caused the systematic destruction of forest resources. The Coalition called upon the transitional government to take remedial actions to address the undemocratic industrial development of Indonesia's natural resources that largely benefited corporate entities, and to recognize and restore the rights and responsibilities of forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples.
It is questionable to what degree the government will respond to these demands. However, the strong voice and role of NGOs and the civil society has been firmly established in the process to democratically decentralize and devolve forest resources management in Indonesia.
In the Philippines, there is a relatively long history of community forestry development. Since 1971, a series of policies, programs, and projects have attempted (with varying degrees of success) to incorporate and implement community forestry concepts.
During the past three decades, the development of policies underpinning community forestry in the Philippines has supported the following trends (Pulhin 1998):
The Philippine Master Plan for Forestry Development, a 25 year plan approved in 1990, stipulates that 1.5 million ha of the remaining 2.8 million ha of second-growth forest on land below 50 percent in slope should be put under community forest management over a ten year period.
Three key events that supported the decentralization and devolution of community-based forest management (CBFM) were the enactment of:
CBFM and IPRA are predicated on participatory planning and bottom-up approaches for identifying and articulating the communities' resource development and protection objectives and activities. Strong POs are the keys to successful CBFM implementation. However, a number of serious problems are evident in the field (Guiang and Harker 2000), including:
In January 1998, former Minister Djamaloedin signed a historic decree that established (for the first time in Indonesia) an official precedent for community-based natural resource management. Based on the minister's concept for a distinctive forest-use classification, Kawasan dengan Tujuan Istimewa (KdTI), the new decree recognizes the legitimacy of community-managed agroforests on a significant area of State Forest Land.
This decree recognizes the environmental and social benefits of an indigenous land-use system (damar agroforests), the role of indigenous institutions in ensuring the sustainability of this natural resource management system, and the rights of smallholders to harvest and market timber and other products from trees they planted. While the new KdTI area still is part of the State Forest Land, this classification is unprecedented in that:
The first KdTI area is in the heartland of the Krui damar agroforests in Lampung Province on the island of Sumatra. Through a process developed by the Krui people a century ago, these agroforests begin with land clearing and planting of upland rice, which is followed by a succession of tree crops, including coffee, fruit trees, various timber species and damar, which produces resin as well as timber. Managed by a succession of farmers, these agroforests develop over many decades into complex, multi-strata agroforestry systems that replicate a number of forest functions, including biodiversity conservation and watershed protection. Satellite images indicate there are approximately 55,000 ha of these mature agroforests in Krui. The new KdTI area covers 29,000 ha of damar agroforests at various ages that fall within the State Forest Zone, with the balance being on private land.
At least 7,000 families in the KdTI area will benefit directly from the decree's official recognition of their rights. If this pilot effort is implemented successfully, the KdTI prototype may be applied in other locations in Indonesia, with benefits for many households through poverty alleviation, improved resource management and reduction of social conflict.
Until this decree was issued, the Krui agroforests were at risk because of the uncertainty of farmers' tenure status in the State Forest Land. A private company held the government-awarded right to manage the area, including the right to harvest an estimated 3 million commercially valuable trees planted by local people, who could legally be fined or jailed for establishing and managing their agroforests. In addition, local farmers expressed growing concerns over the uncertainty of their rights to the damar agroforests they planted and are currently managing.
Many damar farmers adopted a "wait-and-see" strategy and chose not to plant damar and fruit trees. This uncertainty clearly endangered the very future of a system that is renowned worldwide as a rare example of successful and sustainable management of forest resources by a local community. Due to the new decree, damar farmers and their forests in the KdTI area should now be safe from such threats.
The KdTI breakthrough sets an important official precedent for community forestry in Indonesia. Former Minister Djamaloedin has pledged to continue working in his professional capacity to explore how this type of tenure instrument may be extrapolated to other areas where there is well-grounded and effective community forest management. Numerous ongoing community forestry programs and projects in Sumatra and Kalimantan would be keen partners in this process, and many forest dependent Indonesian families could potentially benefit from new arrangements to provide secure forest-use tenure.
A recent decree on community forestry, signed in October 1998, appears to be quite a progressive policy vis-a-vis the role of communities in managing old-growth forests or well-established secondary forests. This may act as a further incentive towards official recognition of community rights and responsibilities in forest management, and the development of appropriate tenure instruments to legitimize these rights.
Research will play an increasingly important role in providing options and insights for integrated conservation and development approaches. At the SANREM2 research site in the Manupali watershed in Mindanao, Philippines, a consortium of partners is working together. The research team comprises scientists and practitioners from many institutions, including ICRAF, NGOs, universities, the tribal community, and local and national government institutions (Lai and Garrity 1998). The objectives are to:
In 1996, a unique, local-level natural resource management (NRM) planning process began in the Municipality of Lantapan. This process was supported by research-based information and technical assistance from the consortium partners. At that time, the Mayor of Lantapan felt that the municipality would benefit from having a plan that could incorporate all the scientific and research outputs that had been assembled (Garrity and Amoroso 1998). The SANREM partners made significant contributions to the planning framework and the technical contents of the municipal Natural Resource Management and Development Plan (NRMDP). ICRAF helped to influence the perceptions of local planners that, indeed, natural resource conservation and management can be profitable. And ICRAF's technical contributions to the plan stemmed mostly from research work on soil and biodiversity conservation.
The NRMDP was adopted by the Lantapan Sangguniang Bayan (Legislative Council) in March 1998, and is the first of its kind in the Philippines. It is a five-year indicative plan, with the following vision (Local Government of Lantapan 1998):
A stronger community partnership towards well-managed natural resources and ecologically-balanced environment for sustained development in Lantapan by the year 2002).
The plan is now being implemented. ICRAF is maintaining a strong partnership with the local government to help achieve mutual goals and benefits for the farmers of Lantapan, through collaboration with the LGU in institutional development and working directly with the farmers on technology development, dissemination, and adoption. ICRAF is currently leading a major dissemination effort under the NRMDP's soil conservation component, using the Claveria Landcare approach (see the next case study) for dissemination and adoption of conservation farming techniques such as natural vegetative strips (NVS) and improved agroforestry systems.
Some innovative features of the Lantapan NRM planning and implementation process-which potentially could be extrapolated to other municipalities in the Philippines and elsewhere-include:
While the Lantapan NRM planning experience is quite recent, some important lessons are already emerging. These include:
ICRAF will take a leadership role in helping to scale-up the Lantapan NRM planning process and the Claveria Landcare approach. It will be important to link the Lantapan plan with the Ancestral Domain Management Plan, the Mt. Kitanglad National Park Management Plan, as well as with other municipalities in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental Provinces which are currently developing their own plans.
Based on the experiences in Claveria and Lantapan in developing technical and institutional innovations for NRM, collaboration will be developed with DENR in the implementation of the Philippines Strategy for Improved Watershed Resources Management. This new national strategy, finalized in August 1998, has incorporated the Claveria Landcare and the Lantapan NRM planning approaches into its key institutional elements, in order to recognize and build upon local demand and voluntary action (DENR 1998b). DENR also recognizes the urgent need for a capacity-building program to support the implementation of the new watershed strategy, and possible collaboration will be explored with ICRAF.
ICRAF has been instrumental in developing a farmer-led approach to technology development and dissemination, which has resulted in an unexpected boost in farmer adoption of soil conservation technologies and agroforestry practices at its outreach site in Claveria, Misamis Oriental Province, northern Mindanao, Philippines. The key institutional innovation for effective conservation farming technology dissemination is the Landcare approach: a process that is led by farmers and community groups, with support from local government and technical backstopping from ICRAF.
The most well-known Landcare movement originated in Australia, where it has evolved as a participatory community-based approach and grounded model designed to effect change in complex and diverse situations (Swete-Kelly 1998). Landcare is a method to rapidly and inexpensively diffuse agroforestry practices among upland farmers, based on the farmers' innate interest in learning and sharing knowledge about new technologies that earn more money and conserve natural resources (Garrity and Mercado 1998). It is a group of people, concerned about land degradation problems, who are interested in working together to do something positive for the long-term health of the land.
The core of the Landcare model is two fold: effective local community groups and partnerships with government (Campbell and Siepen 1996). This grassroots approach is generally recognized as a key to success in all community development activities. Groups are to respond to the issues that they see as locally important, solving problems in their own way. Thus, Landcare depends on self-motivated communities responding to community issues, not issues imposed by any external agency. Approaches that use well-grounded theory (where participants determine the key issues rather than these being pre-determined) are more likely to effect permanent and positive change.
Landcare groups are supported by the government and are networked to ensure ideas and initiatives are shared and disseminated. This is a partnership between local communities and the government - working together to change the way the land is used is an important feature of Landcare.
Based on the gestation and evolution of Landcare during the past several years in Claveria, the major principals and steps in developing this approach are (Garrity and Mercado 1998):
1. Select sites with good potential
This is to bring conservation farming technologies to where they are needed most -on sloping lands where soils are prone to erosion and degradation. This initial step also involves meeting with key leaders in the LGUs (municipal or province), interested farmers, and other stakeholders. Their understanding of the issues that need to be addressed, as well as their willingness to support and complement the program are crucial to the success or failure of Landcare at a given site.
2. Expose key farmers to successful technologies and organizational methods
The aim is to develop strong awareness among prospective key actors (especially innovative farmers and farmer leaders) of the opportunities to effectively address production and resource conservation objectives through new technologies. The success of these activities can be measured through the development of enthusiasm within the community. Exposure activities include cross field visits, training and participatory research.
3. Organize conservation teams at the local level
Once it is clear that there is a critical threshold of local interest in adopting the technologies and a spirit of self-help to share the knowledge within and among the villages of a municipality, then the conditions are in place to support the implementation of a municipal conservation team. The team is composed of an extension technician from Department of Agriculture (DA) or DENR, an articulate farmer experienced in the application of the technology, and an outside technical facilitator (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Bottom-up planning in Nepal
The team will initially assist individual farmers in implementing their desired conservation farming practices. Later, they will give seminars and trainings at the village level if sufficient interest arises. During these events they will respond if there is interest in organizing more formally so as to accelerate the spread of agroforestry and conservation practices.
4. Evolve Landcare farmers organization
If and when the preconditions are in place for a Landcare farmers organization, then the facilitator may assist the community in developing a more formal organization. A key ingredient of success is identifying and nurturing leadership skills among prospective farmers in vision and organization. This may involve arranging for special training in leadership and management for the farmer leaders, and exposing them to other successful Landcare organizations.
Each barangay may decide to set up its own Landcare Association chapter and barangay conservation team. A village may organize Landcare Association sub-chapters in their puroks or sitios (sub-villages). A purok conservation team usually includes a local farmer-technologist, the purok leaders, and the district kagawads (councilors). The purok-level teams are the front-liners in conservation efforts, providing direct technical assistance, training, and demonstration to farmer households. They are backstopped by conservation teams at the barangay and municipal levels.
At the municipal level, the Landcare Association is a federation of all of the barangay Landcare chapters. The municipal conservation team is part of the support structure, which also includes other organizations that can assist the chapters (e.g., DA, DENR, NGOs). See Figure 2 for the organizational setup of the Claveria Landcare Association.
The Landcare Association may opt to be registered as a People's Organization (in the legal form of a cooperative, association, or corporation). The Claveria Landcare Association (CLCA) was initially formed in March 1996, and formally registered as a PO with the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission in September 1997.
5. Attract local government support
Local government can provide crucial political and sustained financial support to the Landcare Association to assist it to meet its objectives. The municipality has its own funds that are earmarked for environmental conservation. These can be targeted for Landcare activities that enhance natural resource conservation. The municipality can be encouraged to develop a formal NRM plan-such as the one in Lantapan described in the preceding case study-which can help guide the allocation of conservation funds.
The barangays can also allocate financial resources from their regular internal revenue allotment (IRA) through the Human and Ecological Security (HES) Program, which represents one-fifth of the total development funds of the barangay. These funds can be used to organize the conservation teams and Landcare Association activities at the barangay and purok levels, and support trainings and honoraria for resource persons. The municipality can also allocate HES funds to compliment the barangay budget. For 1998, the Claveria municipal government committed 50,000 pesos (40 pesos = USD 1) to each barangay to support Landcare activities.
Figure 2: Organizational structure of Landcare in Claveria
External donor agencies can best support Landcare development by allocating resources for leadership and human resources development, communications equipment (e.g., handheld radio sets), and transportation (e.g., motorcycles).
6. Monitor and evaluate
Monitoring is necessary to assess the progress of the activity, and use outputs for strategizing activities or planning actions to make the program more dynamic and relevant to the need of the target community.
For monitoring purposes ICRAF has been keeping records of all those who have attended a training or had been assisted with establishing NVS on their farms, as well as of farm boundaries. They were also able to get funding for 75 draft animals for dispersal to Landcare members.
The greatest success of Landcare is changing the mindset of farmers, policymakers, LGUs, and landowners about how to use the land to meet their current needs while conserving resources for future generations. There are now farmers who voluntarily share their time and efforts. There are also policymakers who urge farmers to adopt conservation farming practices, and support these efforts by allocating local government funds and enacting local ordinances. These are the important success indicators of the Landcare approach that enable local people to conceive, initiate and implement plans and programs leading to the adoption of profitable and resource-conserving technologies.
Decentralization and devolution of NRM to the grassroot level enables local governments to allocate resources and provide policy support to complement farmer and community-led efforts to conserve resources for sustained production and use. The Landcare approach provides:
Landcare is emerging as a method to empower local governments and communities to effectively and inexpensively disseminate conservation farming and agroforestry practices. The experiences and lessons learned in Claveria provide a strong basis to scale-up to the regional and national levels, and to scale-out to other municipalities (see the vision for this national Landcare movement in Figure 3).
The adjacent Municipality of Malitbog, Bukidnon Province has approached the Claveria team to assist them in developing Landcare activities. Farmer cross visits and training were arranged, an ICRAF field extension staff has recently been posted to Malitbog, and the local government has formed a conservation team to help start-up Landcare activities in three pilot barangays (Saguinhon 1998). Based on specific requests, various study tours and trainings have been organized for farmers, NGOs, and LGUs interested in the Landcare approach.
The ICRAF-Lantapan team has also started applying the Landcare principles and approach to its work on decentralized NRM planning and implementation, as well as with the farmer agroforestry tree seed association in Lantapan.
As already mentioned, the new Philippines Strategy for Improved Watershed Resources Management has incorporated the Claveria Landcare and the Lantapan NRM planning approaches into its key institutional elements and operational framework. As the strategy moves into the implementation phase, this provides a good opportunity to scale-up useful Landcare principles and experiences in other parts of the Philippines. However, this scaling-up process must respect and adhere to the critical, underlying elements - such as voluntary farmer action and LGU partnership-that made Landcare successful in Claveria. Landcare should not be viewed as a technical and organizational model that can be replicated systematically in projects everywhere.
ICRAF's collaboration in research and development work related to decentralization and devolution of NRM in Southeast Asia is enriching and revealing. The processes underpinning decentralization and devolution are dynamic, crosscutting and fascinating. It is about change. It is about issues that cut across policy, institutional, technical, ecological and socioeconomic domains.
Based on some of the recent and rapidly evolving developments that are taking place at national levels as well as in local settings, some guiding principles and lessons learned may be generalized as follows.
Figure 3: Conceptual framework of scaling-up Landcare into a national movement
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1 Adapted from Fay et al. 1998.
2 The Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (SANREM) Collaborative Research Support Program is a global USAID-funded project that takes a landscape approach with a strong participatory bias.