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18. Myanmar

Country data

Total land area 1996 (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/% of total land


Natural forests 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change (%)


Population 1997 (millions)/Annual Growth Rate 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1997 (%)


Source of data: FAO - State of the World's Forest 1999

General information

Myanmar is rich in culture, traditions and natural resources. The country is endowed with substantial arable land, an expanse of unexploited marine life, potential extensive tracks of mineral resources (tin, tungsten, lead, zinc, copper, silver, and gems) and commercially viable gas deposits. In addition, the country is the world's prime supplier of natural teak (Tectona grandis), which is one of the pillars of the country's economy and will remain so, if managed soundly, for years to come. The revenue generated from teak constitutes the largest portion of the forestry sector's earning. The plentiful rivers and streamlets will be targeted for immense development of irrigation systems, industry, and hydropower.

The rural population is heavily dependent on forest resources for fuel, food and timber. Degraded forests account for 7.5% of the total forest area. The underlying causes of forest degradation include: socio-economic problems, scarcity of land in densely populated areas, illegal agriculture expansion, shifting cultivation, low agricultural output, improper land use, illegal fuel wood extraction, and improper practice of forest management.

Export earnings by the sector was 21.63% of the total exports in 1994/95, 19.25% in 1995/96, 18.32% in 1996/97, and 13.91% in 1997/98. The sector failed to sustain the 1994/95-export level earning due to scaling down of the annual allowable cut of teak from 609.000 m3 to 409,060 m3 to ensure its sustainable production. However, production of non-teak hardwoods has been gradually increased.

Myanmar still remains highly reliant on agriculture. In its economic policies, agriculture constitutes the pillar and base for the development in other sectors. Expansion of agriculture and irrigation has had direct and strong effects on the forestry sector. Timber concessions were stopped by the end of 1993. To promote the market economy, the Government formed the Privatisation Commission on 9 January 1995, to oversee and ensure the successful implementation of the privatisation process.

In line with reorienting the policy toward an appropriate market-oriented economy system, the Government adopted the following four objectives:

· Development of agriculture as the base and all-round development of other sectors of the economy;

· Proper evolution of the market-oriented economic system;

· Development of the economy, inviting participation in terms of technical know-how and investment from sources inside the country and abroad; and

· The initiative to shape the national economy must be kept in the hands of the State and the nation's people.

According to the official statistics, the total area of plantations was 621,318 ha in 1997, of which 54% are commercial and industrial wood species, 29% local supply plantations, while the rest are watershed protected species. It was increased to 694,192 ha, or an increase of 72,874 ha in two years. The annual planting programme is now fixed at around 40,500 ha per year, of which teak plantation's comprise 8,100 ha on a 40-year rotation. Special emphasis is being given to the greening programme in the dry zone. The objectives are to reforest and prevent desertification and to meet the critical fuel wood needs of the rural people. The annual planting area was around 6,900 ha in 1995-97 and increased to 14,100 ha in 1998.

Initial adoption of a market economy was announced in September 1988. As a result, many private timber companies became involved in timber industries. However, for teak timber, the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) has a monopoly in its harvesting, processing, and export. Common problems for private companies are shortages of power supply, spare parts, and diesel oil.

The country's import of forestry products is almost nil, except for a small quantity of paper products and some infrastructure inputs. The export earnings were 25.479% of the national total in 1995-96, and teak and other hardwood timber are the most important products. Therefore, forest management is focused on the sustainable management of natural teak-bearing forest.

The Forest Department is the main arm of the Government for forestry sector policy and programme implementation. Lately, the Forestry Department has been re-structured with the addition of five new directorates, i.e. the Watershed Conservation and Management Directorate, the Extension Directorate, the Inspection Directorate, the Directorate of Training and Research Development, and the Directorate of Zoological Gardens. In June 1997, the Dry Zone Greening Department was newly created to speed up greening and environmental restoration activities in the dry zone.

Land use, policy and planning

In 1999, The Forest Department conducted a forest resources assessment using a remote sensing and geographical information system. It revealed that the forest cover was 52.3%. The area under closed forests had decreased from 43.34% in 1989 to 37.4% in 1999.

Improved access to the forest areas as a result of development schemes makes the control of trafficking of high-valued timber and forest products more difficult. External factors such as population growth, increased need for food, shifting cultivation, illegal cutting and development activities constitute the main causes of forest degradation and depletion.

The status of the Permanent Forest Estate in 1999 is shown in Table 1. According to the Forest Policy, 1995, it is mandated to increase the area of Reserved Forests and Protected Public Forests up to 30% and the area under the Protected Area System up to 5% of the total area, scheduled to be achieved by the year 2010.

Table 1: Permanent forest estate in 1999/2000


Area (mill ha)

% total area







Total PFE



Note: RF= Reserved Forest;
PPF= Protected Public Forests
PAS= Protected Areas System

In 1996, the Forest Department launched a special operation to update and reformulate the old Working Plans in line with the modern sustainable forest management (SFM) concept. The new district forest management plans place the emphasis on all forest products and services, including non-wood forest products, biodiversity conservation and the socio-economic well-being of the local people. The plans are based on the district level. The designation of 62 districts throughout the country has been completed.

The preliminary work of launching the National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP) started in mid-March 1995, by formulating an Issues Paper as the basis for the NFAP exercise. A proposal to designate the Ministry of Forestry as the National Lead Institution and for the establishment of the Steering Committee was approved by the Cabinet.

The final issues paper was adopted by the government in September 1995. The main aim was to explore possible funding support of the remaining NFAP process. However, no response has been received to date. In October 1995, the Forest Policy was promulgated in which the conservation aspects of forest resources and biodiversity are highlighted. It is stipulated that the area of reserved forests has to be increased to 30% from the present status of 14.8%, and the Protected Area System (PAS) to 5% from 1.72% in order to permanently dedicate enough land to forestry. Two important laws were promulgated, i.e. the Forest Law in 1992 and the Protection of Wildlife, Wild Plants and Natural Areas Law in 1994.

At the beginning of 1998, a “Co-ordination and Monitoring Committee” was formed to facilitate the National Forest Programme (NFP) exercise. The NFP was titled “National Forest Master Plan” and it was composed of 19 chapters. At present, the drafts of all chapters are completed and the NFP document will be finalised soon.

The Dry Zone Greening Department was established in 1997 to undertake environmental conservation and greening activities in the central dry zone of Myanmar. The integrated plan for the period 2001/02 to 2030/31 has been prepared.

Legislation on Forestry and Wildlife Conservation has turned away from the old concept of protecting only animals. It has now adopted a holistic approach by conserving habitats, which is pivotal to the conservation of wildlife. The new Forest Law emphasises the importance of people's awareness and participation in the conservation and sustainable utilisation of forest resources, as well as the collection and updating of the resource information, planning, continuous monitoring of all forest operations, and of ecological balance and environmental stability.

NGOs such as Farmer's and Women's Income Generation Groups (FIGG) are being formed. This initiative aims at raising off-farm incomes and helping sustainable forest management with positive effects on the social well-being.

In order to promote and facilitate community participation in managing the forests, the “Community Forestry Instructions” were issued in late 1995, focusing on the management of forests by rural communities through the protection of natural vegetation, establishment of forest nurseries, and forest plantations so as to enable them to fulfil their own basic needs for fuel wood and small timber. It also focuses on the flow of benefits to the communities participating in forest management activities.

Professional forestry education formerly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education has been transferred to the Forestry Institute, under the Ministry of Forestry. Sub-professional level training is given at the Myanmar Naing-Ngan Forest School in Pyin-Oo-Lwin, while in-service training, (refresher courses, training on basic principles, awareness in forest protection and agroforestry for rural communities, etc.), are conducted at the Central Forestry Development Training Centre.

Criteria and indicators for SFM (C&I for SFM)

The development of C&I for SFM at national and forest management unit (FMU) levels was completed in October 1999. The C&I for SFM contains 7 criteria at both national and FMU levels, 78 indicators and 257 required activities at the national level, and 73 indicators and 217 activities at the FMU level.

At present, the Forest Department will test the C&I in the field. Revision and improvements of the C&I will be made afterwards as appropriate. In addition, the Forest Department has been undertaking an assessment of the application of the C&I in a FMU.

Model forest

Myanmar has established two model forests, namely Oktwin and Pauk Khaung Model Forests in Bago Yoma Region. Natural teak forests grow extensively in this Region. Japan International Forestry Promotion and Co-operation Centre (JIFPRO) and JOFCA, both NGOs, have been co-operating with the Forestry Department in managing these model forests.

Myanmar is a member of the Regional Project entitled “Implementation of the Model Forest Approach for SFM in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Philippines, China, and Thailand are also members of this Regional Project.

Timber certification

The Timber Certification Committee (TCC) was formed in August 1998. A preliminary check list for forest management certification was formulated in late 1999. Two workshops on C&I and timber certification were organised by the Forestry Department and JOFCA in 1999 and 2000.

The TCC started to establish links with other timber certification bodies on a bilateral basis in mid 1998. The TCC seeks assistance and co-operation from the National Timber Certification Council (MTCC) of Malaysia and the Ecolabelling Institute (LEI) of Indonesia.

Forest harvesting and utilisation

The Forestry Department regulates the annual allowable cuts (AACs) for teak and other hardwoods. To update the AACs, the Forestry Department conducts a national forest inventory every year. The total AAC for the year 2000 is presented in Table 2.

Table 2: AAC for teak and other hardwoods in 2000


No. of trees








Note: OH= other hardwoods

Elephant skidding is extensively used in forestry operations. The country has about 6,000 domestic elephants and about 5,000 in the wild. In some areas, where the slope of the terrain is low, water buffaloes are also used for skidding. The Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) has been using about 600 buffaloes for skidding under contract.

The obvious benefits of using animals for skidding are the low impacts on the soil surface. The Myanmar Selective System will remain as the prime management system with animal logging being practised.

There are 96 state-owned sawmills, of which 8 are for export products. The private sector owns 459 sawmills of small to medium capacity and 1,224 re-cutting mills. There are 6 plywood factories, 4 managed by MTE, one under a joint venture between MTE, Daewoo and Sam Won, and a private company owns one factory.Table 3: Production and export of teak and other hardwoods

Fiscal year

Production (Hoppus ton)

Export of logs (Hoppus ton)


Other hard woods


Other hard woods
















The local people and the private sector have carried out harvesting of non-wood forest products (NWFPs), following the regulations and procedures prescribed by the Forest Department. Among the important NWFPs are bamboo, cane, cutch, bark, plant fibre, nipa palm, and honey.

Five-year plan

Currently, the country is in the second year of its Five Year Short-term Plan (1996/97 - 2000/01). This Five Year Plan is a follow-up to the earlier Short-term Four Year Plan (1992/92 - 1995/96). The priorities of the current short-term plan are: a) agriculture, b) livestock and fishery, c) production of crude oil, national gas, gems and jades, d) transportation and energy, e) value added and agro-based industries, and f) export of goods and services.

The salient features of the plan for the forestry sector can construed as to:

· systematically extend and conserve reserved forest areas;

· decrease teak production from 2.6 to 2.5 lakh cu.ton;

· increase hardwood production from 11.1 to 14.4 lakh cu.ton;

· increase charcoal production from 2.8 to 3.6 lakh cu.ton;

· increase bamboo production from 953.4 to 1087.6 million pieces;

· increase the total value of forest products exports from 1,131 million kyats in 1995-96 to 1,344 million kyats by 2000-01;

· place emphasis on wood lots plantation and conservation of mangroves and watersheds;

· explore fuel wood resources alternatives;

· promote forest-based eco-tourism; and

· promote and support the production of value-added products.


In regard to forestry research, the Myanmar Academy for Agriculture, Forestry, Livestock and Fishery organised a research conference in April 2000, in which 12 forestry research papers were presented. The main problems facing forestry research at the Forestry Research Institute are as follows:

· There have been a large number of disconnected projects; thus a programme approach needs to be initiated.

· The lack of qualified researchers; thus training abroad needs to be intensified.

· Inadequate financial resources.

The issuance of Community Forestry Instructions in 1995 was a major break through in the history of Myanmar forestry. It aims at decentralisation in forest management, addressing the basic needs of the local people through participatory approach and environmental conservation.

A forestry extension division was established within the Forestry Department in 1995. A “Forest Bulletin” has been published every two months since 1998. The public media, such as radio, television, and exhibition have also been used for extension purposes.

There are four state-education and training institutions for forestry in the country as follows:

· Institute of Forestry at Yesin;

· Myanmar Forest Scholl at Pyin Oo Lwin;

· Central Forestry Development Training Centre at Hmawbi; and

· MTE training schools 1,2, and 3.

Collaboration with partners

In the field of forestry, the Myanmar Government is the member of the following on-going regional programmes/projects:

· GCP/RAS/154/NET: Regional Wood Energy Development Programme for Asia;

· GCP/RAS/177/JPN: Regional Project on Assistance for the Implementation of the Model Forest Approach for Sustainable Forest Management in the Asia-Pacific Region;

· GCP/RAS/163/NET: Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and Pacific (FORSPA); and

· GCP/RAS/173/EC: Information and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management: Linking National and International Efforts in South Asia and South East Asia.

The Forest Department also gets assistance from UNDP and FAO in the form of Human Development Initiatives Projects. Moreover, the Myanmar Government was a member of two recently-completed regional projects. The salient important results of support from these two projects on forestry development in Myanmar were as follows:

· GCP/RAS/142/JPN: Strengthening Re-afforestation Programmes in Asia (STRAP) A national workshop was held in November-December 1995. Four zonal working groups on mangrove, teak, hilly, and dry zones were formed to deliberate and make recommendations on policy, problems and constraints, people's participation, technical matters, and suggested problem resolution on re-afforestation programmes.

· GCP/RAS/137/JPN: Forestry Planning and Policy Assistance in Asia and the Pacific Region. This project assisted the Government in the formulation of a National Forest Policy, 1995.

As a follow up to the recommendation made at the 17th APFC meeting held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, February 1998, the Government crafted the National Code of Forest Harvesting Practices. FAO provided assistance to facilitate the formulation of the Code. The document was printed in early 2000.

Myanmar is the Headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Regional TEAKNET. FAO Regional Projects were instrumental in the formation of the TEAKNET. The objective of the TEAKNET is to strengthen interaction among all those concerned with the conservation and sustainable management of teak-bearing forests and plantations through sharing of information and promoting collaborative efforts to deal with common problems. The aims of TEAKNET are to:

· facilitate the exchange of technology and information on tree improvement, silviculture, management, harvesting, processing, and trade of teak;

· assist in the exchange of genetic material and plant, wood samples, and to standardise trials and methods; and

· promote collaborative studies on critical areas that are of common interest to member countries or institutes.

The Second TEAKNET Steering Committee Meeting was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, 14-15 December 1997. The need for information about teak was emphasised by the members from the private sector. The meeting discussed issues on co-ordination with other teak related groups e.g. Teak 2000, APAFRI, etc. The venue of the Third Regional Seminar on Teak will be held in Indonesia.

With regard to human resource development, Myanmar has had the opportunity to participate in several seminars, workshops, training, and study tours.

Following the establishment of the Community Forestry Institutions, about 15,000 ha community-owned forest plantations had been established throughout the country by 1999. A nation wide tree-planting programme is implemented annually; school children, local communities, and NGOs take part in this programme; and about 15 million tree seedlings are planted every year.

The Forestry Department and UNDP/FAO are implementing three projects as follows:

a) Environmentally sustainable food security and micro-income opportunities in the dry zone, Phase III - MYA/99/006;

b) Environmentally sustainable food security and micro income opportunities in critical watersheds of Shan State -MYA/99/007;

c) Environmentally sustainable food security and micro income opportunity in the Ayeyarwady (mangrove) delta, Phase III -. MYA/96/008.

These projects are designed to increase food production and income generation for the rural poor through environmental conservation and management.

Focal point
U Kyaw Tint
Director General
Forest Department
Ministry of Forestry
Bayintnaung Road, West Gyogon
Insein, Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: 095-01-681754
Fax: 095-01-664336


Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength
(Eric Hoffer)

Politeness and courtesy are signs of being cultured
(Shiv Khera - You can win)

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