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In Search of Excellence: exemplary forest management in Asia and the Pacific

P.B. Durst and C. Brown

Patrick B. Durst is Senior Forestry Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.
Chris Brown is a Forest Policy and Information Consultant to the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.

The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) launched its In Search of Excellence initiative in November 2001. Interested individuals across the region were invited to nominate forests in Asia and the Pacific that they perceived to be well managed, and were further asked to elaborate on the specific aspects of the management of those forests that they considered to be most exemplary. A key objective of the initiative is to highlight the many positive forest management efforts in the region, which unfortunately are often overshadowed by the plethora of negative news about forests. The best practices associated with these successful management experiences – particularly the common elements of success – will be identified and widely promoted to encourage their broader application.

In Search of Excellence aims to identify:

• examples of good forest management across a broad range of forest ecotypes from many countries in the region, and covering a variety of management objectives, different ownership structures and both large and small forest areas;
• forest management practices that show promise for the future and for other areas;
• people’s perceptions of what constitutes good forest management.

The initiative is being carried out by FAO and the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC) in partnership with APFC member countries.

The invitation to nominate forests was widely announced via Web sites, newsletters and brochures over a period of several months. Nominating workshops were also convened in nine countries, providing opportunities for participants to debate extensively the elements of good forest management.

The nominating process closed on 1 May 2002, with more than 170 nominations received from 20 countries. Nominated forests ranged in size from less than 20 ha to nearly 2.5 million hectares and included forests managed for protection of watersheds and biodiversity, timber production, recreation, non-wood forest products, agroforesty production, rehabilitation, tourism and multiple use. They included State-owned forests, private forests owned by individuals and corporations, community forests and joint ventures. Nominations included natural forests, plantations and agroforests from New Zealand to Kyrgyzstan. Nominations were most numerous for forests in India (39), Indonesia (25), New Zealand (17), Nepal (14) and the Philippines (14).

A technical working group comprising ten individuals with diverse forestry knowledge and experience from around the region systematically reviewed all 170 nominations and selected 30 forests for in-depth case studies. Emphasis was placed on identifying a variety of instructive and innovative management experiences, characterizing a full range of management objectives across several countries in the region.

The complete set of nominations and particularly the in-depth case studies are currently being analysed to identify common elements contributing to excellence in forest management. Initial review indicates that those submitting nominations tended to define excellence in terms of outstanding science-based forest practices and well-ordered management organizations functioning in a participatory and transparent manner. Excellence was also commonly described in terms of impressive biophysical changes (e.g. rehabilitation of degraded areas, reduced soil erosion, enhanced water quality and yield) or positive socio-economic changes (e.g. increased incomes for local residents, improved availability of forest products, enhanced understanding and appreciation of healthy forests). The involvement of multiple stakeholders in decision-making and the management of forests for multiple benefits were also usually recognized as important elements of exemplary forest management.

An overview of the findings and a compilation of the case studies will be published in early 2004. It is further anticipated that a series of seminars and workshops will be organized in 2004 to highlight the findings. For more details of the initiative, visit the APFC Web site at:

FAO has recently carried out a similar In Search of Excellence exercise in Central Africa, in collaboration with the Inter-African Forest Industries Association (IFIA), the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the African Timber Organization (ATO), the International Model Forest Network Secretariat (IMFNS), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The case studies of the African initiative have been published recently as FAO Forestry Paper No. 143. (See the book section of this issue of Unasylva.)

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