Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1. Purpose of the guidelines

Over the past decade, national and international initiatives concerned with the development and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management involving Asian countries largely focused on boreal, temperate and tropical moist forests. The seventeenth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission in 1998, therefore, recognized the need for an initiative for Asian countries with substantial areas of dry forests for the development of criteria and indicators specifically oriented towards the unique demands and features of dry forest management. A workshop in Bhopal, India in 1999, organized jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USDA/FS) and the Indian Institute for Forest Management (IFFM) gave rise to the "Regional Initiative for the Development and Implementation of National-level Criteria and Indicators for the Sustainable Management of Dry Forests in Asia" (also called the "Dry Zone Asia Process"). Participating countries in this initiative include Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Thus far, the initiative has developed a "reference set" of criteria and indicators for use at the national level, comprising eight criteria and 49 associated indicators. This "reference set" provides the basis for further refinement and improvement to fit national ecological, economic and sociocultural conditions. With regard to the implementation of the criteria and indicators for dry forests in Asia, it was recommended that participating countries should exchange relevant information and methodologies and cooperate with national institutions to conduct more research and testing.

In pursuance of the workshop's recommendations on methodology for criteria and indicators' implementation, the present practical guide is a comprehensive instruction on the process of collecting and assembling national-level information and its reporting. The guidelines will assist countries in Asia participating in the Dry Zone Process to develop their own systems for the assessment, monitoring and reporting on national-level criteria and indicators. The guidelines provide tools or detailed information on:

In addition, the guide describes an overall format for reporting the progress made towards sustainable management of dry forests and the provisions that need to be in place in order to ensure successful implementation of the assessment system. These provisions include institutional arrangements, preparations for assessments and training needs.

1.2. The dry forests in Asia

Forests in Asia account for 14 percent of the world forest area. According to FAO's global ecological zoning, the largest proportion of Asia's forests (47 percent) is in the tropical zone. Tropical and subtropical dry forests in Asia account for 21 percent of the world's dry forests. Twenty-three percent of the world's tropical dry forests are located in Asia, while Asia's subtropical dry forests account for 11 percent of the world's subtropical dry forests. Table 1 provides area statistics of dry forests in the member countries of the Dry Zone Asia Process (Prasad 1999; FAO 2000).

Table 1. Extent of dry forests in member countries of the Dry Zone Asia Process


Total land area* (000 ha)

Extent of forests

Dry forest as % of total forest area**

Area* (000 ha)

% of total land area*



1 334




4 701

3 016




932 743

163 480




297 319

64 113




156 650

10 645




65 755





14 300

3 900




77 087

2 361



Sri Lanka

6 463

1 940




51 089

14 762



*FAO 2001; **unpublished

India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have about 70 percent of their forests categorized as dry zone forests. In Nepal and Thailand dry forests cover about 50 percent of the total forest area. Bangladesh, Bhutan and China have 11, 15 and 5 percent of dry forests, respectively. Apart from natural forests, the Asian region accounts for 62 percent of the world's plantation forests. With regard to the extent of plantation area, India and China are among the leading nations with a substantial proportion of their forest plantations situated in the dry forest zone.

The dry forests of Asia occur in areas with rainfall ranging from 500 to 1 000 mm per year. The forests, which represent a repository of rich biodiversity, are relatively open and the dominant forest type is deciduous. Many of these forests are fragile and unsustainable harvests, even if of light intensity, can lead to severe degradation, weed infestation and increased susceptibility to fire and insect damage. Large areas have degenerated to grasslands and open scrub forests. Dry forests in these areas often merge into arid or even desert margin zones where natural tree cover becomes increasingly sparse.

The main problem in implementing forest management schemes in the dry forests is the intensity of land use. People living in and around the forests depend heavily on the forest for the collection of food, fodder, medicines, fuel and a wide range of other products and services. Forests are of critical importance to the livelihoods of these communities. Considering the fragility of the dry forest areas and recognizing that the "policing approach" of conservation and protection has not succeeded, greater emphasis is given to people's participation in forest management. In the last decade the majority of Asian countries has experimented with collaborative or co-management programmes to various degrees involving the local communities.

More recently, collaborative forest management has been introduced on a larger scale in almost all the member countries of the Dry Zone Asia Process. This is reflected in the national forest policies of these countries emphasizing devolution of forest management by involving people's active participation. Collaborative management has been termed variously as joint forest management in India, community forest management in Nepal and participatory management in other countries. This broadly defines the practice as sharing of products, responsibilities, control and decision-making authority over forest land between governmental forest departments and local user groups, based on a formal agreement. Experience has shown that participatory forest management is capable of reversing the trend of forest degradation. Therefore, the various approaches of participatory management have come to be recognized as an important strategy for attaining the objectives of sustainable forest management.

1.3. National-level criteria and indicators for sustainable management of dry forests in Asia

During the first workshop of the "Regional Initiative of Dry Forests in Asia" held in Bhopal in 1999 a consensus on a "reference set" of criteria and indicators including eight criteria and 49 indicators was achieved (FAO 2000). The objectives of developing these criteria and indicators were:

The "reference set" of criteria and indicators of the Dry Zone Asia Process includes the following criteria:

The complete list of this "reference set" including the indicators is provided in Appendix 1.

In the process of developing a system for the assessment, reporting and monitoring of the criteria and indicators for the dry forests of Asia each individual indicator was revisited and evaluated with regard to its practicability and ease of assessment. This evaluation revealed that in some cases slight refinements of indicators were necessary in order to make them more appropriate for an efficient implementation process. The refined formulations and justifications for the proposed amendments are given in the various chapters dealing with the assessment of the respective indicators.

1.4. The contents of the practical guide and its use

The contents of this practical guide provide a comprehensive description of the assessment system ranging from the theoretical base to practical implementation.

In Chapter 2 the system for the assessment, reporting and monitoring of national-level criteria and indicators for dry forests in Asia is presented. The system is implemented at the indicator level and thus includes for each individual indicator (a) a procedure for the actual assessment; (b) a format for reporting the results; and (c) a format for monitoring. The components of the system are explained with the help of examples. Assessment system developers can use this chapter to familiarize themselves and others with the method used for the actual assessment and the formats proposed for reporting and monitoring.

Chapter 3 of the guide describes how the assessment, reporting and monitoring systems can be applied to the "reference set" of criteria and indicators for dry forests in Asia. For each individual indicator the entire process of assessment including the types of verifiable evidence, periodicity of measurement and measurement units are outlined. Since this practical guide is intended to assist in the development of national assessment systems on dry forest management in Asia, it is beyond this document to present a final assessment system for direct application that fits the local conditions in all 10 member countries of the Dry Zone Asia Initiative. Instead, the assessment system developer will find typical aspects related to dry forest management in Asia that need to be addressed within the context of a certain indicator. The examples of formulations of parameters and assessment procedures provided in this chapter serve to stimulate discussions among the developers, so that they arrive at their own locally adapted set of assessment parameters within the framework of the "reference set" of criteria and indicators for dry forests in Asia.

One of the aims of assessing and monitoring national-level criteria and indicators is to produce, from time to time, a report on the overall progress made towards sustainable management of dry forests. Chapter 4 provides a reporting format that includes (a) background information about the assessment; (b) an overall synthesis of the progress made towards sustainable management; (c) reporting on detailed monitoring results; and (d) reporting on the assessment results. The reporting format is structured according to the information needs of the various clients such as politicians, managers, NGOs and professionals in the field of natural resource management.

Finally, Chapter 5 outlines some additional provisions that need to be in place, in order to ensure successful application of the assessment, reporting and monitoring system. These provisions include institutional arrangements, preparations for the assessment and training needs.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page