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Beyond Stockholm: changing forestry priorities in the 1970s and 1980s

The role of regional forestry commissions
Forest policy
Tropical Forestry Action Programme
Forestry statistics and outlook studies
Community forestry
Wildlife and protected areas
Training and education

When the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission convened its first session of the 1970s, the world had changed dramatically since their last gathering. Two significant events that had occurred in the four-year interval had completely reshaped international development (including forestry) thinking and practice. These events laid the foundation for the sustainable development era that emerged in the late 1980s. The first of these was the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, which created the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Together with the severe droughts and food crises experienced at the time, the Stockholm Conference forced a shift in the dominant economic development paradigm toward emphasizing the human element and environment. The second defining event was the world economic turmoil brought on by the first oil crisis and its repercussions.

This reorientation had far-reaching implications, both for FAO’s work and for the APFC. In 1977, delegates to the Tenth Session were informed that FAO had adopted a set of new policies "in order to respond more effectively to the problems and aspirations of those who suffer from poverty, hunger and inequity." These included a greater emphasis on assisting member nations in obtaining financial resources for food and agricultural production; the establishment of a Technical Cooperation Programme which provided FAO with a new flexibility to act in response to urgent and short-term needs; and the reorientation of FAO programmes toward more practical short-term action at the country level, including more extensive training of the masses in the rural areas.

The redirection in FAO’s work meant major shifts in the activities relating to forestry. New priorities included enhancing forestry’s contribution to rural development and employment; improving the productivity, management and utilization of tropical and sub-tropical forest resources; establishing of medium and small-scale forest industries; encouraging investment in forestry; and promoting trade in tropical forest products. By the mid-1980s, escalating deforestation in tropical and sub-tropical areas revealed that a more concerted approach to forestry was needed. In response, FAO developed the Tropical Forestry Action Programme (TFAP) in collaboration with other international organizations.

The APFC’s evolution during this period was intricately linked with the above trends, not least because some of its members were among the key protagonists in the unfolding events: while the South Asian nations were at the forefront of promoting forestry’s role in rural development, their Southeast Asian neighbors experienced high economic growth, in part via forest-based industrialization fueled by demands in East Asia. The Commission itself emerged from the 1960s as an organization that was greatly weakened by the discontinuation of its subsidiary bodies. Its ability to deal with the pressing issues of the time was further hampered by the infrequency with which it met during the 1970s. The financial constraints faced by APFC members further contributed to the lowest attendance rates in the Commission’s history.

As a result, the 1970s are best described as a time during which the APFC had to content itself with taking note of the widespread changes affecting forestry in the region and beyond. The region’s great diversity may have added to the temporary passive stance, as its members ascribed different priorities to the emerging issues. At the same time, this diversity served to advance an unprecedented number of topics, many in advance of their entry into mainstream international rhetoric and practice. For instance, illegal trade in endangered species was on the APFC’s agenda years before the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Similarly, community forestry made an early appearance thanks to the Tenth Session held in Nepal. In contrast to the 1950s and 1960s, however, these issues were not delegated to sub-committees or working parties, where a more thorough analysis would have been possible.

“Forestry is no longer to be considered an isolated activity confined to remote jungles or to only supply industrial raw material, or to police reserve forests. Nor is it - or can it - be concerned solely with trees. Forestry is an important component of socio-economic development. And foresters are being called upon to discharge a broader array of functions contributing to development, recognizing the critical importance of the human factor in development, and considering the amalgam of socio-economic factors with which forestry has to interact.”

M.A. Flores Rodas, FAO Assistant Director-General of Forestry, 1981

The 1981 Session in Suva marked a long-awaited turning point. Uneasiness about the APFC’s role had been lingering since the creation of FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO) 10 years earlier and the ensuing discussions about the future of the regional forestry commissions (RFCs). Concluding that there continued to be an important place in the region for the type of forum the APFC provided, delegates decided that members would need to increase their input into the Commission’s work. Instead of leaving the entire burden to FAO’s Rome and Bangkok offices, subsidiary bodies would again be formed to take up matters of outstanding concern to APFC members.

Taking the reorientation of forestry during the 1970s as the impetus for the renewed period of activity, and the successful experience of the earlier sub-committees as an inspiration, the APFC decided to create ad hoc study groups to deal with forestry education and training. Throughout the 1980s, these two groups fulfilled an important role and continuously expanded their scope. Their periodic reviews of trends and pertinent issues, and the practical recommendations they devised, not only provided a useful direct service to the Commission’s member countries, but also laid the groundwork for a number of regional projects, such as the Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific Region (FORSPA).

The APFC continued to provide FAO and the larger international development community with useful feedback on their programs. In spite of the world recession that characterized much of the 1970s, development assistance in forestry had increased; between 1981 and 1989, FAO field projects increased from 47 to 75 and support in monetary terms increased from US$10.4 million in 1981 to US$25 million in 1989. Correspondingly, APFC member nations highlighted the need for assistance in sectoral planning to coordinate the numerous projects, the importance of better coordination of aid to the forestry sector from different donors, and the significance of achieving complementarity of the programs at the country level with regional projects. In anticipation of declining aid budgets in the late 1980s, the Commission pointed out that "projects, in addition to having clear objectives and priorities, should be carefully reviewed and evaluated so that in an increasingly difficult budgetary situation the usefulness and effectiveness of the work undertaken was clearly demonstrable."

The role of regional forestry commissions

During the 1950s and 1960s the APFC established itself as a key regional actor in the fields of forest policy review and coordination, and in facilitating the solution of technical problems. This role began to change in the mid-1960s as a result of a number of factors, including FAO’s creation of global subsidiary bodies and the ensuing discontinuation of the APFC’s own committees and working parties. The establishment of the Committee on Forestry in 1971, following the elevation of forestry to departmental status within FAO, marked the first critical watershed in the evolution of the Commission.

Until that time, the regional forestry commissions constituted the primary feedback link between FAO Headquarters and the organization’s member governments in the area of forestry. The creation of COFO as a permanent committee responsible for reviewing FAO’s work and providing advice on future orientations naturally raised questions about the roles of the RFCs. Unlike other technical committees, such as the Committee on Commodity Problems and the Committee on Fisheries, COFO was an open committee from the outset, with all member nations notifying the Director-General of their interest being permitted to participate in COFO’s sessions and work. For this reason the continued need for RFCs was even more in doubt.

Resolving the debate, the FAO Council decided in 1971 that the RFCs should be maintained. In 1974, the Council further decided that they should not become sub-committees of COFO. Among the many considerations that led to these decisions was doubtlessly the successful track record the RFCs had established over the previous two decades. An additional factor was FAO’s impending adoption of "a dimension more closely oriented towards assisting developing countries in their thrust towards individual and collective self-reliance."

“We who work for big international organizations and carry out our activities in an international setting, always run the risk of a professional deformation - precisely that of becoming too international, by which I mean losing sight of and touch with the real and ultimate protagonists: individual countries and their people. From this danger the Regional Forestry Commissions come punctually and effectively to rescue us.”

B.K. Steenberg, FAO Assistant Director-General of Forestry, 1973

The APFC had weathered its first storm but the rough seas prompted the Commission to reassess its position. At its Tenth Session in 1977, the APFC delegates took note of COFO’s recommendation that RFC Chairmen should attend COFO meetings. They also began to discuss ways and means for increasing the input of member countries into the activities of the Commission. In this context, it should be remembered that by this time the APFC no longer had any subsidiary bodies, the last two having ceased operations in 1973.

At the following session in 1981, the first order of business was the formation of a sub-committee charged with developing recommendations on expanding the role of the APFC and making it more effective. The sub-committee found that the intervals between sessions was becoming too long and that there was a lack of follow-up and continuity between sessions, resulting in insufficient dialogue among the members. The concept of creating informal study groups emerged as the preferred means to increase interaction among members, not only because "more permanent bodies faced formidable administrative measures to constitute them" but because "the work of the Commission was dynamic and the nature of problems would change with time, sometimes quite rapidly. Permanent bodies could become a liability under such circumstances."

The APFC recognized that the willingness of member countries to collaborate with FAO was of fundamental importance to the development of ideas and directives and that the entire burden for preparing for formal APFC meetings should therefore not fall on FAO’s Headquarters and Regional Office. In light of these considerations, the sub-committee recommended that the interval between sessions should be two years and never more than three years and that the meetings should be scheduled in relation to those of COFO. Issues of outstanding importance should be examined by ad hoc study groups between the sessions, with a view to finding meaningful solutions. FAO’s Regional Office in Bangkok should act as the secretariat for the study groups. Chairpersons of the study groups should be drawn from a country with a particular interest in the topic and should submit the report of the group to the subsequent session of the Commission. The sessions were then to decide to retain or dissolve the study groups as desired. The FAO office in Bangkok was also requested to coordinate exchanges of students between countries to facilitate training and promote linkages, and support visits within the sub-region on such matters as community forestry programmes.

This reassessment achieved its intended purpose, as it marked the beginning of a period of renewed activity. The two newly created ad hoc study groups on forestry education and research fulfilled a useful role between sessions. In addressing the Twelfth APFC Session in 1984, FAO’s C.H. Murray, expressed FAO’s "satisfaction at the functioning of the Commission which over the years had attracted the attention of the countries in the region at the highest technical levels. Looking back at the performance of the APFC, it was highly gratifying that several common policies were formulated and closer regional ties promoted." He particularly noted that the "reports of the ad hoc study groups on forestry education and research, which had functioned between the Eleventh and Twelfth Sessions were an important contribution reflecting the collective self-reliance of the forestry services of this region."

Encouraged by these comments, the Commission recommended that the ad hoc groups on forestry research and forestry education be expanded to include dissemination of research information and training of forest workers. Three years later, the APFC delegates suggested that the ad hoc study groups be further strengthened and meetings of directors of forest research institutes and deans of forestry faculties be held during the interval between APFC sessions to enable greater interaction.

Forest policy

The APFC’s recommendations regarding the formulation and implementation of forest policy during the 1970s and 1980s reflected the reorientation of forest policies that resulted from the events during these two decades. Most prominently, the 1972 Stockholm Conference and the severe food crisis of the early 1970s created a shift toward the human element in forestry development. At the same time, economic turmoil resulting from the oil shocks and the disruption of the international monetary system helped to maintain the momentum of production and trade-oriented policy measures. As in its previous activities, the diversity among APFC members ensured that a wide variety of traditional and new issues found a place on the agenda.

The most significant feature in policy formulation was the incorporation of environmental considerations. Already at the Ninth Session in 1973, APFC members highlighted a wide range of environmental concerns in their country reports. While shifting cultivation continued to be of grave concern in most places, countries with highly developed wood-based industries paid increased attention to environmental pollution. Lack of sufficient experience prevented many member countries from formulating sound environmental control programmes, however, and the Commission requested FAO to prepare and distribute guidelines. The Commission also recommended that governments require forest industries to operate effective pollution control measures as a regular component of plant construction and operation. Finally, recreational demands on the forests were also reported to be on the increase, often coming into competition with production forestry.

Shifting cultivation continued to be seen as the main culprit of deforestation but the APFC now also acknowledged it as a social and agricultural problem and extremely complex. In his address to the 1973 Session, the FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Far East, Soesilo H. Prakoso, supplied this forceful argument:

"No legislative measures, however strong they may be, will be adequate to stop shifting cultivation and the expanding encroachment of agricultural settlers upon forest lands, because for these poor people it is a matter of life and death. A forest policy based on confrontation with these peasants and shifting cultivators would be doomed to failure. Such a policy would be dangerous because it would arouse hostile attitude of the rural dwellers, which would lead to social unrest. It would therefore be more appropriate to give high priority to forestry development in these problem areas based upon policies and programmes which are not merely motivated by narrow and short-term economic considerations, but which above all are weighed in a wider socio-economic context and perspective, and take into full account the immediate welfare of the neighboring rural communities and the need for their full participation."
Almost ten years later, the Commission acknowledged the continued alarming rate of deforestation, mainly from production forests, with the major factors being shifting cultivation, heavy fuelwood cuttings and agricultural expansion programmes. It reaffirmed the need for proper integration of forestry and agriculture based on scientific land use and capability studies. Regional and international concerns about deforestation had grown so strong had the APFC vigorously supported the idea of a Regional Convention on Minimum Forest Cover and Endangered Forest Habitat and requested FAO to initiate appropriate action in this respect.

At the next session in 1984, deforestation again constituted a key element of FAO’s address to the delegates. C.H. Murray stressed that unless steps to reverse the process were taken, the combined effects of population and economic growth, and the resultant expansion of local demand for forest products, would result in aggravated local shortages and the critical problem of scarcity of fuelwood in less forested areas would arise. He argued that the solution to the problem of excessive deforestation lay very largely outside forestry. Therefore, "evolving forest management systems that could support people as well as trees and produce more than just wood and fibre was essential." Community or farm-level forestry was seen to hold the key to meeting the dominant need of people for forestry goods and services. For community forestry to succeed, the APFC increasingly acknowledged, the full participation and involvement of the people, and the commitment and effective support of governments, was required.

An issue related to deforestation the APFC began to deal with in the 1970s was growing public criticism of logging in tropical forests. On one hand, the Commission recognized that instances of careless logging or road construction activities were occurring, that many mistakes were being made in negotiating, preparing and implementing long-term contracts for the utilization of publicly-owned or managed forest, and that attention needed to be directed toward the environmental impacts of the utilization of forests. On the other hand, APFC delegates felt that demands for stopping harvesting of forest areas stemmed from "a lack of public appreciation that environmental considerations are an integral part of forest management." To address the problem, the Commission urged forest services to undertake more aggressive public education campaigns and adopt management and inspection programs that would limit the occurrence of disruptive forest harvesting activities.

The more common way in which APFC members strove to deal with deforestation was through plantation and reforestation programs. At the 1981, 1984 and 1987 Sessions, plantation forestry development was stressed as one of the most salient policy features, "particularly through the involvement of rural communities and private enterprises." The APFC nonetheless considered these programs in many developing countries of the region highly insufficient to compensate for the rapid depletion of forest resources.

In defense of the economically disadvantaged APFC members, the Commission also pointed out that one of the major constraints was the lack of investment funds (and of bargaining strength and skills with foreign/multilateral corporations) and stressed the need for greater assistance from international funding agencies. Recognizing the limitations of existing forest legislation, the Commission further suggested that countries examine all laws relating to planting and harvesting of trees, leasing of land, usufruct rights, etc. and make suitable changes "to motivate the poor, local communities and the private sector to undertake afforestation."

Issues surrounding people’s participation, motivation and its implications were also discussed with increasing frequency. This trend was reinforced by a number of landmark events, including the World Conference on Agrarian Reforms and Rural Development organized in 1978 by FAO and the 8th World Forestry Congress, held in 1978 in Jakarta around the theme "Forests and People."

Particularly in response to the Jakarta Declaration on Forests and People, the APFC acknowledged that "there is still a gap in communications between the forestry profession on the one side and people and people’s representatives on the other in many countries and this hampered the development of the sector considerably." The Commission stressed again the need for training and education, as well as "the principle that foresters should learn about and understand the institutions that have an effect on forestry and how they could influence them to achieve forestry sector goals, which themselves should reflect society’s goals."

That foresters and forestry institutions needed to evolve in order to respond to their broadened mandates became a key feature after forest policies had become adapted to the new situation. At the Eleventh APFC Session, many delegates acknowledged that with the changing situations and emphasis on integrated forest management, the management needs had undergone changes which the developing countries had not been able to properly assess and/or monitor; the Commission urged FAO to take suitable measures to assist the member countries of the region in this regard.

Three years later, the APFC reiterated that intensified and changing demands upon forests and the new and increasingly complex objectives for the forestry sector required appropriate institutional responses and policy orientation. The Commission strongly expressed the view that legal enactments were meant to facilitate development and not to create constraints. Aware of the fact that misuse of legal tools was often related to inadequate institutional capabilities, delegates underscored the need to promote the involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local organizations in forestry with appropriate horizontal and vertical linkages for maximizing benefits, and to stimulate the participation of people in making decisions affecting them and in sharing benefits.

While the basic integrity of forestry ministries or departments was strongly supported, the commission observed in 1987 that in view of the diverse nature of social, political and cultural features that characterized the different countries in the region, institutions and institutional arrangements should be based on the fundamental concept of appropriateness to the countries concerned. It also considered it preferable that existing institutions be adapted and improved to meet the changes affecting societies rather than establishing new institutions. To this end "they should be flexible, subject to periodic evaluation and coordinate more effectively with institutions outside the forestry sector."

The increased emphasis on the human element in forestry development was one decisive element in the reorientation of APFC members’ forest policies during the 1970s and 1980s. Another element was the continued focus on forest industries and, increasingly on trade. Throughout these two decades, the APFC urged its member countries to promote and accelerate the establishment of domestic processing industries. In 1977, for instance, it insisted that in countries where priority developments had been provisionally identified, they should be vigorously pursued, with a view to the early establishment of pulp and paper mills where more detailed studies indicated them to be viable and desirable. It also endorsed the initiative taken at UNCTAD IV on the establishment of an Integrated Programme for Commodities, which included tropical forest products. Four years later, progress in processing was acknowledged but its pace was considered too slow.

The importance of trade was highlighted at the APFC’s Twelfth Session in 1984. The Commission noted the recent increase in exports of processed products from developing countries and affirmed that there was a need to look into the emerging structural changes in the timber trade. It also suggested a review of the planning and operational levels of production and marketing, with a view to capturing more benefits, such as employment, income and added value, in the producing countries.

In the meantime, six years of protracted negotiations had led to the signing of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) in November 1983 and the establishment of ITTO. The initiative had begun with a resolution that Japan (the world's largest importer of tropical timber) proposed at UNCTAD in 1977. The initial aim was to secure wood supplies in the face of increasing deforestation. By the time the agreement was signed, however, the environmental role of tropical forests came to feature prominently and the final wording of the agreement included "sustainable utilization and conservation of tropical forests and their resources, and maintaining the ecological balance in the regions concerned" among the objectives of ITTO. The ITTO has since been an important conduit for policy dialogue and project funding among APFC members and beyond. As such, it has been able to support APFC members in many of their priority issues, particularly in forest industry and trade development.

Finally, there was one issue in which two of the three main elements of forest policies described in this section, human development and industry/trade promotion, came together. This issue was employment, which was the subject of much discussion at APFC sessions during the 1980s. At its Twelfth Session, for instance, the APFC pointed out that activities based on both wood and non-wood forest resources made up an important part of non-farm and rural employment and income. It noted that increasing attention was paid by countries and international agencies to maximize employment and improve working conditions by disaggregating certain aspects of production and by developing subsidiary and auxiliary industries. The "scope and potential of household and small-scale enterprises, including those of manufacturing, craft and artisanal products, to generate employment and income and their advantages in certain situations" were specially highlighted.

Tropical Forestry Action Programme

A key initiative in forest policy of the 1980s was the Tropical Forestry Action Programme (TFAP), which emerged in the mid-1980s in response to growing concerns about rapid deforestation in the tropics. Two separate initiatives, one sponsored by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Bank, and UNDP and the other by FAO, were brought together in 1987 at a high-level meeting in Italy (Bellagio I).

The resulting summary document The Tropical Forestry Action Plan was based on the premise that tropical deforestation could be reduced through a new, coordinated approach to tropical forest resource management. The TFAP consisted of a series of strategies and action areas that could serve as the basis for formulating individual country evaluations to facilitate tropical forest management and coordinate foreign assistance. It focused on five closely inter-related areas for priority action: forestry in land use, forest-based industrial development, fuelwood and energy, conservation of tropical forest ecosystems, and institutions.

The TFAP developed during a period of falling international development funds and was therefore enthusiastically welcomed by developing countries. At its Thirteenth Session, held only a few months before the Bellagio I meeting, the APFC unanimously endorsed the TFAP and recommended that despite its global nature, the initiative be adapted to reflect regional and sub-regional needs, conditions and priorities for its effective implementation. In addition, APFC member countries pointed out that prior to the TFAP exercise in any of the Asia-Pacific countries there might already have been plans for forest development. In order to take advantage of the groundwork already done, as well as the views expressed in regard to concepts, objectives, scope and implementation arrangements, there was a need to take these plans into account in TFAP preparations.

By 1990, TFAPs had been started or proposed in Fiji, Laos, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vietnam. Forestry Master Plans (supported by the Asian Development Bank and bilateral donors) had been completed or were in preparation in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The APFC suggested that Master Plans and TFAPs be harmonized since they both had the same goals in view. The Commission continued to strongly support TFAP, characterizing it as an "unprecedented effort to stimulate investment to achieve sustainable development of tropical forest resources"; however, the APFC was concerned that the follow-up was rather "meager" in many countries.

As a reminder of the TFAP’s original purpose, the APFC urged governments and donors to make available such resources, funding and manpower as would help governments make a significant impact on deforestation. The Commission felt strongly that one of the important requisites for formulating and implementing the TFAP was the strengthening, or where necessary the creation, of national forestry planning capabilities. To this end, international agencies should explore the possibility of funding and implementing the needed training programmes. The APFC also argued that the lessons learnt and expertise available should provide the foundation for collaborative action at the regional and sub-regional levels. Thus the Commission recommended that FAO explore the possibility of initiating sub-regional TFAP exercises.

Forestry statistics and outlook studies

In marked contrast to the first regional study on timber trends and prospects, the repeat exercise (or revision) that FAO initiated in the early 1970s did not nearly attract the same level of attention as the 1961 study. Nor did it prompt a similar high-level reaction from APFC member countries. Nevertheless, the member countries were anxious to learn about the future of their forest sectors as analyzed by the world’s foremost technical organization in the field. When the Commission reviewed progress at is Ninth Session in 1973, the delegates felt that in view of the attention given to the redefinition of forest policies in the region, the study should be completed as soon as possible.

The report Development and forest resources in the Asia and Far East region was published in 1976. When the APFC next met in 1977, some of the delegates felt that the assumptions on supply factors, such as operable forests and sustainable yield of commercial species, were too optimistic. They pointed out that the sustainable yield of commercial species and the intensity of logging and utilization practices were most influenced by the acceptability of timber species in the market, the pattern of end-product consumption, marketing strategies, prices, etc. In fact, the utilization of mixed tropical hardwood for pulp and paper, and marketing of tropical wood and wood products, assumed more important places on the agenda for that session. The Commission recognized that the inadequacy of the data on resources, production, trade, industry, employment and other critical elements acted as a serious constraint in attempting such outlook studies at both the regional and national levels. It recommended that countries give more attention to overcoming the deficiencies in information needed for realistic planning.

The diminishing attention given to the second outlook study was in part a reflection of the changing way in which such studies were interpreted. The Stockholm Conference and the creation of UNEP had provoked a significant shift in international attitudes relating to forests, particularly in the tropics. As a result, projected wood deficits no longer served exclusively as a justification for increased harvesting, although they reaffirmed the need for plantations. For many observers, the present and projected wood deficits meant the loss in environmental services entailed by the decline in forest resources in the region. Reflecting these growing concerns, the 1976 study for the first time made provisions on the supply side for the growth of environmental demands on forests.

Balance between roundwood equivalent of consumption and sustainable supply

Source: FAO, 1976 (1991 figures are projections)
With the advent of remote sensing, forestry statistics detailing the extent of deforestation moved even further into the spotlight of regional and international attention. When APFC member nations reported a general increase in inventory exercises including using remote sensing in 1984, the finding considered most relevant was that deforestation rates were unchanged when compared with the period before 1980.

Community forestry

One of the logical results of the reorientation of international forestry thinking and practice that started in the late 1960s was that small-scale forestry activities were given increased attention. The growing relevance of social, farm-level and community forestry to countries in the Asia-Pacific was in fact underscored at the 1976 FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Far East, when countries expressed their particular concern for this aspect of development. FAO’s Assistant Director-General of Forestry, K.F.S. King, reiterated this desire to members of the APFC in his opening address to the Tenth Session the following year:

"With this region to the forefront, foresters now realize that one of their principal tasks, if not the principal task, must be the to promote the contribution that forests can make at the community level to providing basic needs, to diversifying the pattern of cash crops, to providing employment, to using land more productively, and to maintaining and enhancing the quality of the environment."
Held in Kathmandu in 1977, the Tenth Session featured community forestry as the first and most prominent item on the agenda. The APFC recognized that the development of forestry at the community level entailed "formidable institutional, management and political problems" and that "necessary changes could generally only be effected with active participation of the people involved." Motivating the people in turn required a full understanding of their situation, problems and aspirations and ability to tailor programs of the individual community, as well as the political will and technical resources to provide the necessary support, services, organization and management.

As a significant turning point, in contrast to most issues discussed by the APFC in the past, delegates acknowledged that the challenges of community forestry called for political and institutional problem-solving skills, rather than technical ones. Four years later, meeting in Fiji, the Commission again highlighted the view that the most important requisites for the success of forestry in rural development were strong commitment by government, political will to take appropriate measures, and participation of rural people.

The Commission further pointed out that community forestry programmes would require an extensive revision of forestry education and training and recommended that countries and FAO take this into account in reassessing training needs. In response, FAO initiated the establishment of an ad hoc Advisory Panel on Forestry for Community Development, in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA), to develop guidelines for forestry projects that would address these needs. Further support came from the International Council for Research on Agro-Forestry (ICRAF), which was established at that time.

One of the challenges that led to the increased emphasis on community forestry, social forestry, and farm forestry was the perception of existing and emerging fuelwood shortages in different parts of the region in the early 1980s, which in many areas was aggravating the difficulties of economically disadvantaged rural communities. At its 1981 Session, the APFC expressed support to the action programs suggested by the Technical Panel on Fuelwood and Charcoal of the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, particularly calls for intensifying the productivity of existing fuelwood resources; creating new fuelwood resources; organizing the distribution of fuelwood; improving conversion technologies; promoting improved wood burning stoves; and substituting wood fuels with traditional or commercial fuels. The Commission felt that subsidized supply of alternate fuel to developing countries that are poor in rural energy resources could be another element of the action programme.

In their progress reports submitted to the Twelfth Session in 1984, APFC member countries universally recognized the value of introducing trees on farm lands as a means for increasing firewood, small timber and fodder resources for local communities. The Commission also noted with interest the various national programs being implemented through government, private and cooperative efforts and pointed out that such efforts should address both the subsistence and development needs of society, while contributing to environmental stability. The Commission emphasized that policies for wood energy development should be integrated with the broader framework of forestry and energy policies with adequate regard to considerations of social needs and investment criteria. The Commission stressed the need for regional cooperation and supported the establishment of a regional cooperation program in support of wood energy development.

The resulting Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia (RWEDP) has become one of the longest-standing FAO programs in the Asia-Pacific region. It started in 1984 and is presently in its third phase, linking 16 countries. It has worked to establish and strengthen capabilities to assess wood energy situations, plan wood energy development strategies, and implement wood energy supply and utilization programmes.

Wildlife and protected areas

When the Australian Minister for Primary Industries, Hon. K. S. Wriedt, addressed the Ninth APFC Session in Canberra in 1973, he said he was "pleased to note that you are concerning yourselves not only with trees and how to use them, but with the animals that live in the forest and, perhaps most importantly of all, with the people who work in them." Following FAO’s decision in 1959 to expand its responsibilities by including wildlife management, the APFC in 1962 asked its member countries to prepare national reviews as the basis for an extended discussion at its Eighth Session in 1969.

The item on the agenda of the 1969 APFC Session was "Impact of national parks and wildlife on developing economies." Recognizing the growing public interest in the "socio-economic value of wildlife, unique vegetation and physiographic types," the Commission recommended that member governments give strong support to the conservation of such resources, especially "vanishing species," and to the establishment of special protected areas, such as national parks.

In insightful anticipation of the international legal machinery that would soon be established, the Commission further requested governments to do all in their power to control and abolish the trade in protected animals, including rare species, and their products. Aware of the confusion in terminology, the APFC requested FAO to make available a clear terminology pertaining to national parks and wildlife management.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), signed in 1973, added further relevance to wildlife management in the Asia-Pacific region. At its Ninth Session in 1973, the APFC noted that most of the member countries were, or would soon become, signatories to CITES. Countries were recommended to review their legislation to determine whether revisions were necessary to comply with CITES. Several delegates stressed the critical importance of regional cooperation and felt a regional wildlife convention would be a desirable objective.

While acknowledging the region’s progress on national parks and recreation, the Commission considered that problems relating to maintenance and development of the wildlife resource were most urgent. In deciding to concentrate on these problems in the work programme immediately ahead, the Commission stressed the importance of involving those agencies sharing (with the region’s forest departments) responsibility of the wildlife sector.

Many delegates stressed the need for information exchange on national parks and wildlife issues. The Commission therefore recommended that FAO develop, in cooperation with the member countries, a mail-based system of information exchange. It also requested member countries to compile all basic available information on their wildlife to serve as a basis for the preparation by FAO of an analytical review of the situation in the region. Finally it requested FAO to arrange a regional consultation on wildlife. One of the key FAO responses to these recommendations was the launching in 1974 of Tigerpaper - a quarterly bulletin which to this day continues to serve as the prime medium for the sharing of information and experiences in the areas of wildlife and protected area management in the Asia-Pacific region.

The APFC expressed satisfaction with the working relationships FAO had established with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and various wildlife-oriented foundations. Concerns were raised, however, about the numerous offers of assistance (usually in small amounts) being advanced by various diverse non-governmental groups. Some APFC members felt these small initiatives were difficult to coordinate and administer, and expressed the hope that FAO would help channel and direct such assistance in a more coordinated manner.

As APFC members greatly increased the number of protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries, the Commission continued to review progress and make suggestions for improvement, often in advance of similar calls by the international community. Already in the early 1980s, for example, the Commission emphasized that national parks and wildlife sanctuary systems should not only be of sufficient extent, but should also represent all the major biogeographic environments. The Commission expressed its grave concern at the extinction rate not only of animals, but also of plants, causing the loss of genetic resources.

On the management side, the APFC observed that the administrative systems of some countries appeared to hinder the harmonious management of forests, national parks and wildlife. The Commission expressed the view that all three could be advantageously administered under a single agency or organization. Therefore, long before the world gathered for UNCED in 1992, the APFC had raised the awareness of its members on several of the key issues related to biological diversity, wildlife conservation, and integrated resource management.

Training and education

The activities of the APFC related to forestry training and education from the 1970s and 1980s primarily reflected the changing approaches to forestry brought about by the Stockholm Conference and the greater emphasis of forestry’s role in rural development.

The need to overcome the shortage of trained forestry personnel was one of the key items on the APFC’s agenda at its Ninth and Tenth Sessions in 1973 and 1977. While delegates in 1973 noted satisfactory progress in the establishment of training facilities (in many cases with FAO/UNDP help), they observed that the demands placed on training institutions were straining resources and the supply of vocationally trained workers was felt to be inadequate. The APFC stressed the need for a review of forestry curricula with a view toward adapting to new conditions, for continuing education to update working foresters’ skills, for better public relations and extension programmes and for better coordination with other government agencies, particularly with agricultural extension services.

“The objectives of forestry education are as much the concern of employers as of universities and other parties interested in the educational process.”

APFC, 1973

In 1977, the newfound focus on forestry’s role in rural development and the corresponding emphasis on extension programs were highlighted when APFC delegates argued that "forestry development in the broadest sense calls for an approach to people which emphasizes education and training, demonstration and leadership." It added that for many countries of the region, "forestry development philosophies and policies must be reoriented in order to support government initiatives and supplement action programmes that will contribute to the national well-being and, in particular, to rural community development." The Commission emphasized the need to develop managerial capabilities of forest administrations and the skills of foresters in the area of behavioral sciences and underlined the importance of vocational training, training of forest workers and forestry extension and information activities.

When the APFC decided in 1981 that it could not successfully carry out its mandate without the support of subsidiary bodies, education and training was one of the two issues that was taken up by a newly established study group, in spite of the existence of the global FAO Advisory Committee on Forestry Education. The activities of the APFC ad hoc Study Group on Forestry Education permitted a much closer look at prevailing trends and constraints.

At its Twelfth Session in 1987, the Study Group drew attention to the main problems facing forestry education in the region, which included the great variability in the quality of teaching and teaching facilities among institutions offering professional education; general insufficiency and imbalance of personnel in professional, technical and vocational levels; lack of linkages among education/training programs and development needs at the grassroots levels; and the need for timely action to cater for projected manpower requirements for the year 2000 and beyond.


Research had long been one of the more neglected areas of forestry in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region prior to the establishment of the APFC. The APFC therefore made extensive efforts during its early years to optimize the utilization of limited research funds and facilities by guiding and coordinating research activities with a view to avoiding duplication. The reorientation of forest policies that occurred in the early 1970s reinforced the need for the APFC to play this role. In this context, the focus on forestry for development made it necessary to combine research and training through forestry extension programs.

Some of the traditional topics of forestry research were already being de-emphasized by the early 1970s. With regard to research on the utilization of lesser known species, for example, the APFC at its Ninth Session in Canberra in 1973 pointed out that "the problem was one the delegates should ask of themselves in their own situations, since, from the research point of view, lack of technical knowledge of the properties and use possibilities of species was no longer a major aspect of the problem." Marketing was considered to be the main obstacle. Emphasis on the marketing aspects of the problem was therefore seen as a more urgent activity than expanded programs of research on wood properties.

“Forestry extension needs to be evolved indigenously, reflecting local cultures and needs and using lessons from elsewhere only to the extent that they are suitable and relevant to local situations.”

APFC, 1984

The need for a reorientation of research to cover biological and social sciences was increasingly recognized during the early 1980s. At the Seventeenth IUFRO World Congress in 1981, the World Bank and FAO jointly presented an assessment titled Forestry Research Needs in Developing Countries: Time for a Reappraisal, which gave rise to numerous research-related initiatives. Among these were IUFRO’s Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC), which was established in 1983, and the Forestry Research Directors’ Meeting sponsored by the East-West Centre in March 1982.

The most significant initiative of the APFC in the area of forestry research was the establishment of the APFC ad hoc Study Group on Forestry Research in 1981. The study group prepared two major reports, the first in March 1984 and the second in April 1987. Both reports stressed the need to expand research facilities and activities and develop effective linkages and feedback systems between researchers and practitioners. They also took particular note of the non-traditional approaches to forestry extension highlighted by some of the countries and recommended that forestry extension be adapted to the socio-cultural environment and be based on bottom-up and participatory approaches.

Finally, the reports revealed the trend in some countries in the region toward a "user pays" approach in funding research that was said to lead to improved discipline and accountability by research institutions. In 1990, the APFC again took note of privatization of forestry research ("sponsored projects") and suggested that this be pursued in order to bring about a higher degree of financial accountability and research results. The Commission recommended that "client driven" research should be promoted to ensure that forestry research programmes were clearly "need oriented."

To help improve the effectiveness of research, the APFC endorsed a three-pronged strategy: strengthening of national research institutions; making effective use of already existing research capability; and systematic "twinning" between existing institutions and those national agencies working in the priority fields. The APFC suggested that appropriate institutional mechanisms be devised at the national and regional levels to promote collective regional self-reliance and technical cooperation among developing countries. Recognizing the value of sharing problems, concerns and approaches, the Commission urged FAO to organize separate regional meetings for those engaged in forestry research and education.

The work of the APFC ad hoc Study Group on Forestry Research during the 1980s laid the groundwork for one of the most significant regional undertakings relating to forestry research. In 1990, the Commission unanimously endorsed the establishment of the Informal Network of Forestry Research Managers (INFORM) and a proposal for a new regional project, "Forestry Research Support Programme for the Asia-Pacific Region" (FORSPA).

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