The virtual cases present hypothetical, community forestry conflict situations that highlight the main topics of discussion in the e-conference. Hypothetical cases provided an opportunity for conferees to respond to the situations in what they considered to be the ideal way. These cases were structured to provide the opportunity for conferees to play with different ideas, practise analysing conflict situations, design conflict management approaches, exchange experiences on the topic and have some fun. The contributions to the virtual cases fed into the plenary discussions bringing to light some of information that would be necessary, and the tools and approaches that would be useful. The objective was to capture some of the field perspectives regarding conflict management and identify the constraints and opportunities in field situations that influence the management of conflicts.
Before presenting the virtual cases, the moderator, Jon Anderson (Forestry Extension Officer at FAO), presented interesting questions to consider:
A logging company and local dwellers in a humid forest will facilitate the discussions on the virtual cases.
You are a forestry agent for an NGO in a dry zone. Village elders are upset and have recently come to you for help. They say that local government forestry agents prevent them from cutting wood in a nearby protected area that they `traditionally' used. In addition, they say that forestry agents let traders from a nearby town come and cut wood there to sell in town. When they complained to the forestry agents, the agents said that, according to the forestry code, they have no rights to the forest. When you talk to local forestry officials they state that there is no problem -- that it is very clear: the people from town have permits and the villagers don't, although the villagers are free to request them. The villagers say that fuelwood cutters from town are not concerned with good harvesting techniques and are over-exploiting the forest. Yesterday the villagers seized one of the fuelwood cutters' trucks and say that they will not release it until their rights are recognized. They ask you to tell the local forestry department officials.
What would you do?
You are a government forestry extension agent working on the management of three national (gazetted) forests. You have proposed joint forest management with the local people. This works well for two years, until you are summoned by the chiefs of three villages. They say that they no longer have enough agricultural land and demand that the parts of their land taken to create the classified forest be returned to them. You research the history of the classification and find out that some village lands were taken 50 years ago. It appears that the previous village chiefs `agreed' to give up this land and that no villages were actually moved to create the forest. When you tell the chiefs this, they say that either they get the land back or they will stop activities in the forest. You state that you have no legal authority to change the status of the forest land. Over the next few days only a few women show up for the joint management activities, and then they stop. When you meet some of the women at the weekly market, you ask them why they have stopped coming. They tell you that, while they need the wood and don't want the forest to be declassified because it means that wood would be harder to find, they have to stop.
Your joint forest management, with its benefits for the local communities and the forest, comes to an abrupt halt. What do you do?
You are providing agroforestry extension advice to farmers' organizations working on newly established irrigated perimeters along a river in a dry part of the country. The proposed windbreaks and living fences, after some initial reluctance, are taking off. One day you visit a `model farmer's' plot and find the farmer in bed and the field destroyed. The farmer says that a herder led his herd through the field on his way to the river and that the field was destroyed. When the farmer tried to stop the herder, he hit him with his stick. The herder has continued on his grazing route, but before he left he said that as long as he was alive and had cattle he would bring them there to drink the way his ancestors had.
You contact the local head of the herder's association and he confirms that the irrigated perimeters are blocking a traditional herder's route. While you are there, an angry mob of farmers shows up.
What do you do?
You are the village chief's younger brother. You are part of an informal group that takes care of the sacred forests in your village since time immemorial. Community rules prohibit cutting, grazing, fires and agriculture there. However, non-destructive, non-wood gathering is allowed. The group also takes care of other areas of woodland. In these areas rules are more relaxed. Several species of rare plants exist there, some of which provide medicinal products of importance to the community.
Representatives of an international NGO have come and stated that they want to help with natural resource management. They do a PRA. They say that the PRA reveals that the villagers want the sacred forests to be managed for biological diversity by total protection and that the other wooded areas be managed for income generation through fuelwood cutting. This will be done by dividing the area into five blocks and clear-cutting one block a year. The NGO will provide a health clinic and donkey carts to transport the wood. They will assure that you have permits from the forest service. The representatives of the NGO says that this is your management scheme and, therefore, you are naturally in agreement.
You feel a little uneasy about this system. The management of the sacred forest means that some products will be less available. The fuelwood management scheme means that some of the needed rare medicinal plants will be cut for fuelwood. You decide to go and see the government forest service agent, aware that she knows the forest and its uses very well. She says she knows nothing about the NGO's activities and was never involved. Furthermore she doesn't want to get involved at this stage implying that you went `behind her back'.
You drag your feet on implementing the NGO's recommendations. The NGO representative visits you. She is angry at the slow progress and that you went to see the government forester, who she says only wants to impose regulations on the village. She says the NGO is reconsidering its activities in the village.
What do you do?
A group of loggers are high grading a remote humid forest. The logging roads and other activities are causing some erosion. Animals are migrating from the area and game is becoming scarce. The residual stands are incurring significant damage through the selective logging practices. The logging company is bringing in labourers from a town miles away. The local forest dwellers are finding it harder to survive in what they consider to be their territory.
One night, they sneak into the logging camp and set a fire. As a representative from the closest legal office, you offer to help mediate the situation. The parties state that mediation is not needed, but you can attend as an observer. The next day, the head of the camp comes and negotiates with the chief of the local forest dwellers. Because the livelihood of the forest dwellers is being threatened, the camp head agrees to hire 50 locals as additional workers, pay them 10 percent over minimum wage and train them. However, the states that to fund this activity the logging rhythm must increase by 50 percent. The forest dwellers agree. There are smiles and handshakes all around.
You must make a report to your supervisor. What do you say?