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Chapter IV: The Concept of Forest Management - Evolution, Principles and Technical Requirements

1. The role and the meaning of forest management
2. Management - the development of different approaches
3. The principles of sustainable management
4. Technical requirements
5. Final general remarks

This chapter deals with the management of one particular forest and not the sustainable development of all the forests and forest stands in a specific country. This latter aspect is dealt with in Part Four, Case Study 4: Niger’s experience with forest management, where an attempt has been made to achieve the main aim of simplifying methods and procedures in order to cut costs down and make it possible to guarantee forest management in the short term (ten years, for example).

1. The role and the meaning of forest management

In the introduction, it was noted that overextraction of wood resources, coupled with clearing for agricultural purposes, unrestricted burning and sometimes overgrazing, creates disorder, which is aggravated by a counterproductive and hazardous use of the resource particularly in savanna and dry deciduous forest areas. The main purpose of forest management is to prevent or stop this confusion and mess. This is expressed more clearly in the Spanish expression for it, ordenación de montes, which suggests the need to introduce ‘order’. In Latin America the term manejo is more common. This word covers the idea of manipulation and management, and is closer to the English term.

In view of the need to take emergency action in a situation in which the environment is fragile and challenged, in order to re-establish a proper sustainable balance between resource and use, it is essential to take action in full knowledge of the facts (causes and effects). Consequently, forest management must be objective and scientific. However, in other contexts, which have emerged and more recently because of a lack of resources, skill or will, this has not been done, as the following descriptions of the practices adopted in Africa and India reveal.

2. Management - the development of different approaches

In Africa, before national independence, forest management was based on rules used in the temperate countries by the European forestry schools, but with limited and partial experience and familiarity with an environment which was certainly more complex and more fragile than those in the countries of the colonial powers. Between 1940 and 1955, to produce the fuel which was vital for the steam trains running along the Dakar-Bamako line, 18.000 ha were harvested using the simple coppice system. Blocks of 100 ha (4 km along the railway line, 250 m in depth) were simply clear-cut, with a yield of 35 stacked m3 of timber per ha. The management was certainly very rudimentary, but not totally non-existent. However it very quickly became clear that the forestry regeneration capacity had been overestimated and that the side-effects caused by the movement of the population towards the railway line had been underestimated.

In southern African stands, mainly in the Baikiaea plurijuga or Pterocarpus angolensis and Marquesia macroura forests, the coppice-with-standards system was commonly used at the time, by the British or the Belgian foresters for timber extraction. Other forests were also harvested because of their proximity to a mine (copper in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo). But in all cases the overall regeneration capacity of the local ecosystems were overestimated.

After independence, due to a shortage of resources and properly trained personnel, these countries found it extremely difficult to protect their forests. Following a steadily increasing human pressure, even the reserved forests could no longer be controlled. The natural forests tree stands were open to all, with the result that fuelwood became a commodity with low stumpage value.

With the increase in the demand for fuelwood, absence of control over the forests, and the rapid extension of agricultural land (encouraged by development companies and facilitated by technological progress) deforestation increased during this period. In reality, no African dry forest has ever been properly managed. In the best cases the management system proposed has been only partially implemented, and finally given up altogether. For example, the management plan for the Koumpentoum Forest (Senegal) running along the Dakar-Bamako railway line was never implemented because of a lack of administrative and technical resources, but above all because the neighbouring communities were not involved.

After the 1970s, because of the shortage of fuelwood in the large towns and the difficulties of meeting the needs solely from the available natural forests, reforestation programmes were developed. These were on very large areas covering thousands of hectares, mainly using mechanical implements for soil preparation, and even destroying the degraded natural forests. The rural people were generally kept out of these projects which eventually failed, while throughout this period the protected forests and other natural stands were harvested without any supervision and with impunity. Later on, at the beginning of the 1980s, the farming systems were analysed in greater detail which made it possible to introduce agroforestry techniques.

Since the mid-1980s, the need to take account of land tenure problems and the issue relating to the multiplicity of agents and of land uses (which also concern forest lands) has caused forest management to move in the direction of the decentralized management of natural resources for the benefit of the occupants of the lands, particularly due to the new regulatory framework providing indications for rational harvesting and encouraging fuelwood marketing by the better organized village populations.

In India, before British colonization, shifting cultivation was the standard practice. The rural people had numerous links with the forests; many village communities relied for their subsistence on wild food resources, particularly at the beginning of the monsoon seasons (roots, bulbs, leaves, fruit, mushrooms, insects) which they collected in the forests. Conversely the peasants cultivating the land had to pay rent to the Indian princes and leaders, which the British administration promptly took over for its own benefit.

British colonization initially encouraged deforestation in order to extend the farmlands and create large coffee or tea estates. This was further extended with the development of the railway system (which required fuel for the steam trains and wooden sleepers). The teak trade (Tectona grandis) gave a boost to the appropriation of the forests to the detriment of the local people.

“In 1865, the British introduced the first Indian Forest Act.... This marked the beginning of the scientific management of land and forests. This Act made it easier for the government to acquire forests.... The rural people were not permitted to settle in State-owned forests but they could harvest them.” (Delouche, 1992)

Around 1880, some European foresters became aware of the need to protect the forests. In 1906 the Imperial Forest Research Institute was established. Unfortunately, by encouraging the rapid degradation of the forests, the two world wars curtailed the effects of these initial forest management efforts.

As early as 1952, following independence in 1947, India introduced a new forestry policy: “The role of forests is to provide raw materials for the timber industries. The demands of the village communities around the edges of the forests had to yield to the national interest.” (Delouche, 1992)

These restrictive laws meant that the local communities were unable to control their own way of life. Deprived of their responsibilities and having to survive on a day-to-day basis, village communities increasingly destroyed the plant cover.

After 1952, a reforestation policy was introduced following the policy of forest reserves’ establishment and management of productive forests (sandalwood, teak, etc.) which followed three main paths as time passed: industrial plantation, environmental protection and social forestry. The latter only took off in the fifth, five-year plan (1974-1979). The rights of use were changed, and social forestry was extended to all non-cultivated lands. Little by little the development of plantations on degraded or underutilized lands began to expand.

Between 1972 and 1984 foresters noticed that mixed management systems were emerging in very specific regions. At Arabari and Purulia (West Bengal) the head of the forestry district suggested that “the local communities should take over some of the duties to protect the forest against damage of fire and other forest products. He offered the villagers jobs in the plantations in exchange for a commitment to completely give up grazing and felling. The agreement had to be changed subsequently because of lack of funds, and the villagers were promised 25 percent of the sal timber (Shorea robusta) timber and rights over all the non-wood forest products. This agreement was welcomed by the villagers who then stopped grazing their livestock and felling the trees and began to protect the forest from outside incursions. Although these agreements were successful in a ten-year period, they were only isolated cases.” (Poffenberger and Singh, 1992)

“The problem today is to find out whether rural people will manage to restrain in extracting resources from of their environment. Experience would seem to indicate the contrary, which makes it necessary to close off certain fragile or degraded forest zones. Moreover the shortage of fodder could become more dangerous than the shortage of fuelwood. There are two different approaches to silviculture: the first aims at the local development for and by the rural communities themselves, and the second endeavours to incorporate the rural people into the market economy.” (Delouche, 1992)

The depletion of forest resources has inevitably made the rural communities that depend on them to become increasingly vulnerable. The government has not been able to meet the needs of the rural people. Forest management systems currently being applied in India are not sustainable without the participation of the people. However, the national guidelines established in 1 June 1990 encourage development in this direction.

In short, the forest can be viewed in two ways: firstly as a natural ecosystem, and secondly as an area with many socio-economic functions and where a large number of activities are performed. In the narrow, if not conventional sense, forest management was limited purely to strictly forestry aspects, and very often this was done with a single-issue focus, such as timber production.

At the same time, it failed to take into account, as a central issue, the practices and customs of the local people, which are also factors of complexity. Perhaps the forest managers felt that the natural environment was able to withstand the problems more than the human environment and that it was therefore possible to model the behaviour of the natural environment through regulations and taxes. This attitude led to a great effort to describe the natural environment (geographical, climatic, floristic, pedological, ecological features) and its dynamics (potential, evolution, growth), as well as the context, while social data was rarely gathered.

This being so, the management plan prescribed silviculture, the period of revolution, logging intensities and spacing, expected output, etc., and then laid down ways for monitoring the management measures and revising them as time passed.

This rigorous and traditional approach emphasizing production was never applied in practice in the tropics because there were two main circumstances which made both the practical guidelines and the theory non-viable:

- the steep population growth in most of the countries concerned, and the consequences of the pressures on the lands and deforestation; and

- the relentless increase of demand in these same countries for forest products (particularly wood).

Consequently, the conditions for designing modern tropical forest management plans must necessarily aim at reasonably meeting the people’s demand for land and forest products. Furthermore, knowledge of the forest ecosystem, its evolution, its potential and harvesting alternatives would be pointless if it did not thoroughly analyse and understand the related agricultural, political and social elements.

The emerging concept is that of integrated management which must be seen to be sustainable. And it is the notion of sustainable management that will be dealt with next.

3. The principles of sustainable management

The purpose of this chapter is to recall a few basic ideas in order to better understand the benefits and the constraints of sustainable management.

The notion of sustainable management has been coined by reference to sustainable development, which was popularized in the Brundtland report (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1977). This notion means that when a production activity is performed using a stock of renewable natural resources which can be irreversibly destroyed, it must be restricted to the regeneration capacity of that resource, to avoid jeopardizing its vitality.

The definition which was drawn up by the FAO Committee on Forestry Development in the Tropics (10th Session, December 1992) described sustainable development in the following terms:

- “Management consists in planning and implementing activities meant to ensure the conservation and utilization of a forest, according to objectives to be achieved (among which, wood production) under a given physical, and socio-economic context.

- “To achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to manage and preserve natural resources, in order to meet the needs of present and future generations. In regard with forest ecosystems, the objective is to preserve lands, water, plant and animal heritage, and improve them through appropriate technical, economical and social means that are friendly to the environment.”

This definition must be taken in conjunction with two commentaries by FAO to strike a compromise between interests that may appear to be contradictory, namely harvesting and protection:
- “Foresters must consider forests not just as a growing stock, but also as a complex ecological system which should be sustainably managed.

- “It must be accepted from the start that utilization of a given forest ecosystem implies some change in its structure and composition; and that sustainability cannot mean the identical reproduction of the ecosystem in its original state. The same applies to the conservation of the genetic diversity of a given forest - i.e. the species, as well as their intra-specific variability - which cannot be as fully maintained as before. In particular, some degree of simplification in species composition has to be accepted though it should be kept to a minimum.”

It follows from this that sustainable forest management implies that the forest must be utilized and developed, and that the various economic agents involved earn a return on it. Considering that development essentially means extracting fuelwood in dry zones, there is a double principle involved:
- Firstly, harvesting performed compatibly with resource renewal is the main way of enhancing the ecosystem and protecting it against other destructive uses. The possibility to secure resource in the long term is also a decisive argument for governments to put into place policies (sustainable policies) for forest management.

- Secondly, the need to harvest forests for development within the framework of sustainable forest management entails the need for all the users or economic agents that depend on it to reach a compromise. The most important non-technical condition for success is that the forest resources and their conservation must be exploited in a way that attracts the broad consensus of the small farmers, traders, government representatives and the silviculturalists/forest managers.

This notion of compromise is essential, but it would seem more appropriate to speak firstly of a contractual agreement which is much broader in scope than an informal agreement. In the dry tropical zones the most widespread form of forest management is the system under which all the resources are exploited in the same area by different people, at specific periods, following particular rules. There is a juxtaposition of rights and practices relating to the same area, which raises once again the relevance of zoning. Negotiation implies acceptance of the contracts by all (see Part Four, Case Study 4).

It is noted, however, that forest management is not only concerned with productive forests, and in some cases watersheds protection or quite simply tourism could offer sufficient justification for it.

This is why it is indispensable for forest managers to incorporate the notion of the exploitation of forest resources into a more general land-use plan. It is also recalled that the incorporation of forests into a stable land tenure system is essential for sustainable forest management.

Furthermore, management is the local implementation of a more comprehensive policy, and that the harmonization of these two levels of intervention is essential. Local investment in people and resources is also essential. One can therefore consider that sustainable and integrated management requires the forestry agents to return to the field, and may perhaps also involve putting into place a genuine regional policy (decentralization).

4. Technical requirements

This section deals mainly with forest management techniques for wood production (fuelwood in particular), which is merely one of the many possibilities of making good use of the savanna and dry closed forest ecosystems. Furthermore, harvesting wood products is not incompatible with the traditional harvesting of non-wood products (fruit, game, grazing, etc.).

The theoretical implementation of forest management involves four stages:

- gathering information on and describing the present situation;
- defining objectives, tools and resources;
- negotiating and drafting a management plan; and
- implementing the plan, monitoring and supervision.
a) gathering information on and describing the present situation

This is a preliminary and indispensable phase, involving the inventory of all the elements which can play a part in the design of the management plan. This first stage comprises two main levels of information:

* The human environment, by stressing the identification of uses and customs which are traditionally reserved for the resources in the ecosystems involved (livestock, fuelwood extracted from the forests, other forest products, hunting, tourism, etc.) and the ways of appropriating these resources. The evaluation of local requirements must be carried out simultaneously with the evaluation of national requirements in an economic context in which the commercial and forestry policy components are clearly defined. This therefore relates to social, political and cultural factors on the one hand, and economic and financial factors on the other.

The existence of such exercises as the National Forestry Action Plan (NFAP) or the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) facilitates this task, and above all makes it possible to set forest management within a solid context which guarantees continuity, of which the best assurance comes from the existence and application of and compliance with a national (or regional) territorial development/management plan. The tools and the techniques used for this evaluation of the human environment are set out in the section dealing with the contribution of the human sciences (socio-economics, anthropology) which have taken off over the past ten years in the area of silvo-pastoral management. The legal instruments (taxation, etc.) are examined in the case studies (Part Four, Case Study 4).

* The diagnosis of the ecosystem, emphasizing the description of the forest area to be placed under management. This level of information is the one which forest managers have traditionally carried out to become acquainted with the physical, biological and ecological factors. The main purpose is to evaluate the wood and non-wood resources by designing inventories, the nature and relevance of which are detailed in Chapter VI, dealing with evaluation tools. The resource must be set in terms of space and time, which involves cartography, delimitation of the areas, and drafting a set of references which may take the form of a database, containing all the available physical details (climatic, edaphic, phytogeographic, etc.) as well as the dynamic information (productivity) on the forest ecosystem and the peri-forest zone.

This diagnosis must be completed by evaluating the ecological data and their possible evolution in relation to the various human intervention scenarios. The important thing is to have a full set of information to use for maintaining the biological diversity of the gene pool, the soil, and water and environmental quality. Some tools are indicated in Chapters V and VII.

b) Defining objectives, tools and resources

The data collected in the previous phase must also include the various roles of the forest under management; it is essential to choose and rank these roles, by negotiation with all the economic agents involved in forest management. These negotiations will lead to the definition of a final objective, which will be complex and multifaceted, and which must not simply be the sum total of private interests, but must be the result of a compromise which justifies and conditions the management plan. The final objective may also contain some antagonistic elements (for example, wood harvesting and/or transhumance and/or conservation). This has always been resolved in the past by splitting up the area into zones having different objectives. However, it should be noted that this technique is very unsuitable for dealing with and settling questions of rights of use because of their overlapping both in time and space.

Once the objectives are clearly defined, it is necessary to specify the facilities and the tools to be used to achieve them:

- spatial zoning (plot layout);
- silvicultural techniques and parameters (rotation, volume and cutting units, etc.);
- protective measures (delimitation, forest wardens);
- range lands (silvo-pastoralism);
- gathering non-wood products; and
- contracts binding on all the parties (specifications, taxation, etc.).
The tools and the techniques to be used to achieve the multiple objectives that may be envisaged are mostly discussed below (they constitute the main part of this paper).

c) Negotiating and drafting a management plan

This is the result of everything mentioned above, which is set out in a comprehensive document summing up every aspect. Today, the quality of the drafting and its operational viability can be substantially improved by setting up databases connected to a Geographic Information System (GIS), but any shortcomings here should not be an obstacle to implementing a less complete plan.

In the course of preparation, the technical options must be set out and justified in order to conduct real negotiations. For example, with regard to the cutting units, since the rate of wood extraction must be consistent with the forest stand production potential, needs must be quantified and limited in time, because it is not the resource which must adapt to change, but the reverse.

Another example is the companion silvicultural measures, before or after harvesting in order to stimulate the growth of the most valuable trees, may be justified, and be economically viable, but they may prove impossible to implement because of a lack of cash, know-how or human resources. Sound management made up of logging and prescribed burning operations may itself be a sufficient basis for adequate silviculture.

The negotiation of the management plans is illustrated in the case studies (Part Four, Case Study 1: Burkina Faso, and 3: Madagascar).

Remarks: technical tools such as plantations or agroforestry systems are practical options for management but they are not examined in this study because they fall outside its scope.

In the same way, the general methodology for drafting a management plan is not detailed in this study. Readers are referred to the specialized bibliography dealing with these aspects (Kaboré, 1989; Dubourdieu, 1989; Soulères, 1990 and 1991; Peltier, 1991; Adams and Taieb, 1994).

d) Implementing the plan, monitoring and supervision

The implementation of the management plan is, in principle, the responsibility of the forest management service, whose main role is to ensure that the persons implementing the plan and the beneficiaries comply with the rules that are laid down in it.

The distribution of tasks and the obligations must be in accordance with the (negotiated) specifications which are detailed in the management plan and used as the basis for the specifications and the contracts binding on all the parties involved.

Like every management decision, a forest management plan is only useful if the monitoring and supervision are carried out in the field, for whole operation depends on this fundamental stage. The supervision must include a rolling evaluation, involving the analysis of the relevance of the plan to the development of the environment (rural markets, product marketing channels, the state of the stands, the evolution of the neighbouring population, etc.) which must make it possible to adapt the management plan as new data is acquired. Management is not unchanging. It is something which must be revised as the conditions and the constraints linked to the application of the plan change.

Supervisory tasks must be simple and realistic, geared to the resources (which are often too few) allocated to the forestry services. For example, it is easier to count the number of steres of stacked wood than it is to count the number of stems that are felled or cut back (the case studies, in Part Four, provide a number of eloquent examples which illustrate this).

One way may be to design reliable indicators to be used, on the basis of simple parameters, to validate the management plan and its application. FAO has just embarked on a programme of activities to identify the best criteria and indicators for sustainable and integrated management for the dry zones (see Chapter X).

5. Final general remarks

A solid management plan does not, however, solve all the problems linked to the forest, which can only be effective if the human, political and economic context is favourable. For example, it is essential for the services responsible for preparing, applying and evaluating the plan to be able to do so with sustainable resources in terms of manpower (with skilled and willing workers) and material/equipment (vehicles, computers, documentation, etc.) because the survival of a natural ecosystem depends primarily on the sustainability of its financing.

Decision-makers can no longer hide behind the excuse of a lack of technical and scientific know-how to put off the implementation of forestry management plans. Experience gained over the past few years is sufficient to be able to offer tools and suggest procedures which are necessary for implementing realistic and feasible forest management plans.

As Palmer and Synnot have suggested (1992) forest management involves both natural resource management and corporate management. In fact, like any field project, it must use human, financial and physical resources in order to attain its objectives. This is not self-evident because up to now, management projects have rarely been abandoned as a result of technical or ecological factors but because of a lack of corporate management (for planning, organization, manpower management, supervision, etc.) and for social, political and economic reasons.

Negotiations make it possible to open all feasible options, and to think in terms of a wide range of alternatives. Over the past few years, particularly in West Africa and Madagascar, the notion of ‘patrimonial negotiation’ has been adopted. This is based on the joint definition of long-term objectives for the various parties involved. The long-term choice is based on the fact that the same area or the same resource can be managed according to different strategies and rationales by the individuals and the groups, whose knowledge, representations and powers differ, or even clash, in the immediate future or in the short term. The patrimonial negotiation approach involves making a compromise possible (one speaks of a paradoxical compromise) and makes it possible to specify conflicts and give pride of place to negotiating common objectives which are initially drafted on a long-term basis, and then are clarified in terms of the medium and short term. Patrimonial negotiation presupposes that it will be performed through patrimonial negotiators or mediators, who are experienced in and trained to use the specific techniques for this type of negotiation.

Patrimonial negotiation presupposes that everyone is equal, and therefore autonomous, without any dependency between them. This raises the whole issue of autonomous negotiating powers by rural communities in dealings with government (Le Roy et al., 1996).

This type of negotiation excludes any pre-packaged solutions or techniques. The real autonomy of the local agents and the drafting of contractual procedures to transfer the long-term local management powers to the rural communities form the basis of patrimonial negotiation.

Allowing the management of all the forest stands in a country is both a technical and an economic challenge. Niger’s example shows that the costs of management can be held down to below US$10 per ha, by simplifying the methods and procedures, and reducing costs (Part Four, Case Study 4).

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