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Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest: a millenium of management

Se-Kyung Chong

Name of forest:

Anmyeon-Do Recreation Forest


Changgi-ri Anmyeon-eup Taean-gun, Chungnam Province

Area (hectares):

5 175

Managing entity:

Anmyeon Recreation Forest Management Office

Mgt. objectives:

Recreation, tourism


Republic of Korea

"Let's sing the national anthem and go to the mountain." This slogan will be remembered with pride by older generations of Koreans, recalling their dedication in reforesting the denuded Korean peninsula.

Korea is a mountainous nation, with forests covering more than 65 percent of the country's total land area, amounting to approximately 8 million hectares. Historically, forests provided fuelwood for cooking and heating and served as a primary source of building materials. Forests were also a cornerstone for Korean philosophies that centred on a strong respect for nature and the environment. The important roles played by forests in Korean life and spirituality, allied with only moderate physical demands, resulted in forests remaining rich sources of biodiversity until the end of the Chosun Dynasty, the period of the last Korean emperors. Mountainous regions, for example, were habitats for the now long-extinct Korean tiger.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, forests have been subjected to long periods of devastation wrought by wars, social instability and colonial exploitation. During these periods of turmoil, extensive areas of forest were cleared or heavily degraded. National forests, including the Anmyeon-do forests, which had been protected by the former royal dynasties for their unique natural values, were no exception. In modern times, degradation increased in the period following the Second World War. Illegal felling of timber was pervasive, with the worst peak lasting from 1955 until the early 1960s. Forests adjacent to rural villages were often totally denuded as a result of dramatic increases in shifting cultivation for subsistence, and demands for fuel. Korean families during this period utilized "On-dolls," a unique wood-burning system for heating and cooking. Fuelwood was the prevalent energy source in rural areas until the late 1970s, eventually being replaced by oil, gas and electricity. A dramatic population increase also contributed to deforestation during this period. A national forest inventory carried out in 1955, immediately after the Korean War, found that the non-stocked forest area totalled 3.3 million hectares, accounting for approximately 50 percent of all forest land. The average growing stock was a mere 8.6 cubic metres per hectare. Effective forest management was demonstrably lacking.

Reforestation since the 1950s

Since the end of the 1950s, the Korean Government has made continuous efforts to improve forest management and to implement forest restoration projects, including reclamation of denuded areas, establishment of fuelwood forests, planting fast-growing trees and discouraging shifting cultivation.

The Korean Government took the lead in rehabilitation efforts with numerous reforestation projects, and encouraged villagers to re-establish community cooperatives (San-lim-gye). The government also introduced the Sae-ma-ul movement, which was a nationwide people's association to eliminate poverty and improve living conditions. Such initiatives were designed to revitalize the traditional spirit of cooperation and unity and eventually became pivotal in the successful regreening of forests.

The Confucian ideals of Korean society also helped. A strong cooperative spirit, and community-based traditions of unity, invoked historical traditions of Doo-rae or Kil-sam - systems for cooperative assistance based on community-sharing of agricultural labour. Traditional cooperative systems were redeveloped, including several forest cooperatives, such as the Song-gye system, which involved partnerships between surrounding villages to manage and protect specific forests.

A potent driver of success was the late President Park Chung Hee's strong political commitment to reforestation. President Park initiated the Sae-ma-ul movement, which cultivated a spirit of self-help and self-reliance. This movement encouraged rural villages to develop a community spirit centred around village leaders. It successfully focused national attention on reforestation and encouraged people to participate in various reforestation projects. Hundreds of thousands of people dug trenches on barren mountains and carried soil to create terraces for supporting trees. The result was a seemingly miraculous rebirth of forests from barren land.

Completely degraded forest in the 1960s (courtesy Korea Forest Research Institute).

The reforestation effort restored the forest area (courtesy Korea Forest Research Institute).

Forestry in Korea

In recent years, visiting the old forests and mountains has become fashionable among Koreans, and there is a burgeoning appreciation of nature and ecology. Traditionally, Korea's forests have constituted an integral part of the respect for the Keum-Su-Gang-San - the Korean homeland - that literally translates as "the land embroidered with mountains and rivers." People are also flocking to the mountains because of the spectacular landscapes and to express and reinforce patriotism.

Oak (Quercus spp.) and pine (mainly Pinus densiflora) forests feature in many of Korea's best-loved landscapes. National forests cover 1.43 million hectares and comprise 22 percent of the country's forested area. Other public forests encompass an additional eight percent, but the majority of Korea's forests (70 percent) are privately owned. National forests are mainly located in the mountainous areas in eastern Korea, with smaller blocks scattered throughout the country.

National forests are managed by five National Forest Offices, whose spheres of operation extend nationwide. The average stocking of national forests is 88 cubic metres per hectare, considerably higher than the national average of 63 cubic metres per hectare. The national forests are considered to be fundamental to the country's efforts to conserve endemic oak and pine forests.

Within the national forest estate, 90 forests - including Anmyeon-do - have been designated as recreation forests, totalling 120 000 hectares. Many of these recreation forests comprise compartments of larger national forests. In general, they are the jewels of the country's forest estate - selected for their outstanding scenic qualities, unique natural values and well-managed resources. In 2000, approximately 3.8 million people visited recreation forests across the country.

Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Korea is Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest. Anmyoen-do (do means "island") is a small island located off the west coast of the Korean peninsula. In fact, Anmyeon-do was originally part of the mainland but, during the Chosun era, a canal was cut across the Anmyeon-do peninsula to allow passage for boats. Administratively, the island belongs to Tae-Ahn County of Chung-Nam Province. The island has a total land area of 11 907 hectares with approximately 13 000 inhabitants.

The Anmyoen-do forest is one of the best protected forests in western Korea. Forty-three percent of the island of Anmyeon-do, totalling 5 175 hectares, is covered with trees. Of this area, 75 percent (3 902 hectares) is provincial forest. Pine is the dominant tree species, particularly red pine (Pinus densiflora), also known as Anmyeon-song (song means "pine"). Along the coast, black pine (Pinus thunbergii) or Hae-song (Hae means "sea") is common. Of special importance are 434 hectares of high-quality red pine forests, ranging in age from 80 to 120 years, and reaching up to 360 cubic metres of standing volume per hectare. The Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest was demarcated from this area and consists of 175 hectares of natural pine.

The long history of Anmyeon-do forest

The Anmyeon-do pine forest has been managed intensively and protected for more than 1 000 years - first by the old royal dynasties, then by central governments and, most recently, by the local government of Chung-Nam Province. In medieval times, the Anmyeon-do forest was protected for the exclusive use of the Crown, beginning with the 400 years of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392 A.D.). During the Chosun Dynasty (lasting until 1910), several areas in the Anmyeon-do forest were designated as Geumsan or Bongsan, which means "blockade forest". These forest areas were demarcated with stone markers called Bongpyo, which indicated "Crown Forests reserved for timber supply." Of the 282 Bongsan designated areas throughout the country, 73 were located in Anmyeon-do. There are several reasons why the Anmyeon pine forest was favoured by royalty. Firstly, the high quality of the timber was appropriate for special royal purposes including the construction of palaces and castles, coffins for royal personages and ship construction for royal fleets. A second reason was ease of transportation to the capital city, Hanyang (the former name for Seoul). The sea route from Anmyeondo to the Han River, flowing through Seoul, enabled much easier transport of the timber compared with the very poor road network that existed then.

During imperial times, a supervisory management office was located at Anmyeon-do, and as many as 16 forest rangers watched over the Bongsan forests. The chief forestry officer for Anmyeon-do was required to report directly to the Crown authority on a regular basis, describing cut-over areas, areas planted, methods of regeneration and forest conditions. Procedures for timber harvesting were very strict. The local government authority reported the harvesting plan to the Naval Commander, the highest post in the province at that time. The Naval Commander had to receive permission for timber harvesting from the Minister of Finance in the royal palace, who specified the exact harvest volume required to build a particular ship. According to historical records, illegal logging in Bongsan was almost unthinkable at the time, because of the respect people held for the emperor and his orders.

One of the most famous castles constructed using trees harvested from Anmyeon-do is Suwon castle, about 50 kilometres south of Seoul. According to the archives of the Chosun Dynasty, 9 680 logs, 2 300 boards and 14 212 poles were required just to construct the castle roof. Pine trees for pillars and props used inside the main castle are at least nine metres in length and 67 centimetres in diameter, requiring 344 pine trees (each with a volume of 4 cubic metres). Anmyeon-do forests were managed carefully to produce giant trees for such construction work, up till the end of the nineteenth century.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Japan occupied the Korean peninsula. In 1909, the Japanese authority surveyed forests on Anmyeon-do. This inventory showed a total forested area of 7 156 hectares, of which 4 864 hectares were primarily pine forests. Subsequent records show that 6 400 hectares of forests were sold to Ma-Saeng-Sang-Jeom, a private Japanese company, in 1927. A significant proportion of the forests was cleared during the Japanese occupation; documentation reveals that 4.5 million kilograms of turpentine oil were extracted from harvested pine trees.

"Following the Korean War, further severe damage was done to the forests during a period of social turmoil," indicated Mr Bon-wook Ku, a forest officer at the local forestry station. "Illegal and careless logging was common. There was significant encroachment into the forest areas, and many trees were stolen for sale to sawmills or for use as woodfuel. This is why we have only 434 hectares of well-maintained pine forests remaining within the 3 902 hectares of provincial forests on Anmyeon-do."

However Mr Jae-noh Jo, Director of the Anmyeon Recreation Forest Management Office, emphasized the importance of public forests, and added: "If these forests were private, then they would likely be in worse shape. The governmental authority has helped to save large portions of the forests by closely monitoring illegal harvesting activities by local people."

In 1965, the central government transferred the ownership of the Anmyeondo forests to the Chung-Nam provincial gover nment, and management responsibility was initially assigned to the Chung-Nam Provincial Forest Management Station in Dae-Chon, about a three-hour drive from Anmyeon-do. The Anmyeon Provincial Forest Field Station - a branch office assigned with direct management responsibilities for the forests - was established in 1966. To preserve the genetic values of the Anmyeon pine trees, the Provincial Forest Field Station designated 115 hectares as genetic conservation forest in 1988. There are only 2 128 hectares of forests designated for genetic conservation - at five locations - in all of Korea. A research station, under the control of the Korea Forest Research Institute, was also established in Anmyeon-do. Its main objective is to manage the pine seed orchard for breeding and cultivation of Pinus densiflora.

In 1992, the Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest Management Office was established by the Chung-Nam provincial government. The Anmyeon Provincial Forest Field Station merged with the management office to strengthen capacity for managing the area. Among the main functions of the management office are:

Features of Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest

Facilities at Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest include a Forest Exhibition House (a forest museum and interactive centre), an arboretum, oriental gardens, play grounds and walking trails. On-site accommodation facilities include 18 log houses and a number of camp sites covering an area of 18 hectares. Three traditional Korean-style houses have also been constructed for guest accommodation. These various facilities were constructed between 1989 and 1992, at a cost of US$2.7 million.

The Forest Exhibition House displays 570 items covering the history, environment and multiple uses of the Anmyeon-do forests. The arboretum houses 555 species of trees and 260 species of wild flowers, occupying about 11 hectares. The Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest Management Office operates all of these facilities.

During the past decade, more than one million people have visited Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest generating earnings (from user fees) of more than US$1.9 million. These funds are contributed to the Chung-Nam Provincial Revenue Office, while the operational budget for the recreation forest is assigned separately from the provincial revenue office.

"The area is popular due to its scenic values," said Ms Hyo-soon Ahn, a forest guide. "The forest is easily accessible by a bridge connecting the island to the mainland."

"Anmyeon-do also gained a lot of publicity from the International Flower Expo held in 2002," she added. The arboretum was used as a part of the exhibition areas for this event. The island also contains an important stand of Golden-rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata).

The island has 14 beaches, with Tae-Ahn Seashore National Park - located on the northeastern part of the island - attracting many visitors, especially during summer.

"The major reason why people visit the area is absolutely the Anmyeon pine forests, which people really want to see. The second most important attraction is the beautiful beaches," Mr Jae-noh Jo noted.

Mr Sung-whan Kim from the Management Office added: "The local people of Anmyeon-do are extremely proud of their island and the pine forests." He cited a significant new publication, Book of Anmyeon-do, compiled and printed in 1990 by local people. The huge volume is a monograph detailing all aspects of Anmyeon-do life, including its history, culture, people and natural resources. This pride is a major reason why forests on the island are less degraded than in many other areas, and why Anmyeon-do forest, in particular, has been a conservation success story.

Forest management

Currently, the Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest Management Office employs 20 administrative staff. The Office also hires local people to carry out silvicultural work and other types of labour. The office has an overall objective to have Anmyeon-do recognized as one of the best conserved pine forests in Korea. It also aims to develop more opportunities for recreation and education in the natural pine forest area, and through the forest exhibition house and arboretum.

To support the rational management of the forest, the Management Office has developed a Decision Support System that includes attribute data for producing thematic maps showing forest cover, forest-use zones, topography, soil types and access roads. In addition, the Management Office uses a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) to determine elevations, slopes and directions of forest areas. The engines for the Decision Support System are ARC/Info® and MapObject® and MS-Visual Basic,® which facilitate data management, data queries and reporting. These systems utilize the results of a study conducted by Korea University and the Korea Tree Protection Association in 2000, which aimed at better understanding and management of the Anmyeon pine forests. The Chung-nam provincial government provided US$86 000 for this project.

Special management attention is paid to the pine forests, including the area allocated as genetic conservation forest. Fences have been erected around the genetic conservation forest to prevent encroachment.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, pine-leaf gall midge and gall diseases were the most severe threats to pine forests in Korea. The Anmyeon pines were no exception. "At that time we covered the ground under the pine trees with vinyl, to prevent gall midges coming in. This helped to save the pines in this area from infestation," reported Mr Jae-noh Jo. Protecting against the pine gall midge and controlling gall diseases - which have not been completely eradicated in Korea - are still high priorities for management.

The management office has spent more than US$660 000 on forest health activities since 1998, to carry out stem injections on individual trees, sanitary thinning and aerial spraying of 1 700 hectares. It also applied fertilizer and nutrient supplements to maintain forest health. Tree surgery to remedy external injuries is another important activity within Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest. The focus is intense, with the effort aimed at rescuing and maintaining individual trees. These technical activities are carried out under a contract with the Korea Tree Protection Association. To develop a method of ensuring successive forests, experiments have been conducted to investigate methods to assist natural regeneration by direct seeding and transplanting of seedlings in a five-hectare test site.

Forest management concentrates on optimizing forest density by thinning - especially in the oldest stands, many of which are heavily overstocked - and tending of young stands. Efforts are being made to replace about 460 hectares of pitch pine forests with native pines.

"The government made a mistake during the reforestation period in replanting the cut-over areas with pitch pine (Pinus rigida), an introduced species from North America," explained Mr Bon-wook Ku. "The pitch pine grew poorly so we are working to replace those areas with native pine species." The native pine trees are cultivated in a nursery from seeds collected from superior mother trees. By 2000, some 2.2 kilograms of seeds had been collected and about 15 000 seedlings are being grown from these seeds. A tree improvement programme for native pines is being implemented at the several nurseries operated by the Management Office.

Promoting tourism is an important way to ensure that the recreational benefits of the Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest are widely enjoyed. For example, the Management Office recently organized a traditional fingernail-tinting event (using the leaves of "touch-me-not," a garden balsam). About 6 500 people participated in this revival of an old custom.

"The Office does not presently run formal programmes for ecotourism and environmental education. However, when people arrive here, they go through trails in the arboretum and recreation forest observing trees, plants and wildlife," indicated Mr Bon-wook Ku, a local forest officer.

The Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest is administered solely by the provincial government, which collects revenues and assigns management responsibilities through the Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest Management Office. However, the indirect benefits of the forest contribute enormously to the local economy. Local people note that the attractions and surroundings at Anmyeon-do offer significant potential for ecotourism development.

One local person remarked: "In a sense, the forest is about recreation and eco-education, while at the same time continuing the tradition of people 'going to the mountain.'"


Compilation Committee for Book of Anmyeon-do. 1990. Book of Anmyeon-do.

Korea University & Korea Tree Protection Association. 2000. Basic forest survey for conservation of superior Anmyeon Pine Forests. Final contract report for Anmyeon-do Recreation Forest Management Office.

Korea Forest Service. 2001. Vision for Green Korea.

Korean Society for Forests of Life Movement. 2000. Forests and people (stories of successful reforestation and citizen group's forestry movement). Contract report for Korea Forest Service.

About the author

Dr Se-kyung Chong was born in the small town of Cheongju-si in Republic of Korea in 1957. He is married with three children. He has a doctoral degree in timber supply modelling from the University of Alberta, Canada. He currently works as a researcher at the Korea Forest Research Institute.

Acacia mangium planted on degraded grasslands in Mindanao, Philippines (courtesy Masakazu Kashio).

History of a legend: managing the Makiling Forest Reserve

Juan M. Pulhin and Maricel A. Tapia

Name of forest:

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve


Los Baños, Laguna Province

Area (hectares):

4 224

Managing entity:

University of the Philippines, Los Baños

Mgt. objectives:

Training laboratory, conservation of biodiversity, watershed protection, recreation, research



According to legend, the goddess Maria Makiling lives at the top of Mt. Makiling, the highest mountain in Laguna, Philippines. The Tagalogs, the predominant ethnic group in the area, consider her to be the guardian and protector of the mountain. In the legend, she once walked with the lowland people and helped them to meet their needs. She was venerated for providing bountiful harvests and other divine gifts. However, some people abused this kindness, thus incurring her wrath, and she returned to the mountain peak, never to be seen again.

This legend is as much a part of the Tagalog culture as the mountain itself. But its cultural significance may become a thing of the past as degradation of the mountain becomes more serious over the years. The mountain's fragile resources are endangered by land development, conversion and infrastructure expansion by private landowners and developers, kaingin (shifting cultivation), illegal occupancy, poaching of wildlife and forest products, uncontrolled in-migration and a rapidly increasing population.

"I've seen a lot of activities on the mountain that endanger its beauty and reduce its resource value," said Shirley Satioquia, a 43-year-old resident, who has lived near Mt. Makiling for the past 20 years. "These include illegal cutting of trees, littering inside the forest and dumping of garbage."

Fifty-one-year-old Alfredo Balagat, a native of the area, was anxious about the burgeoning subdivisions constructed on the lower slopes of the mountain. "Development of subdivisions for residential purposes has contributed to the degradation of the mountain," he observed. "The constructions not only clear the forest, but also cover the craters that emit the volcanic heat of the mountain. Aside from this, poaching of wildlife and forest products and charcoal-making occur in several areas of the reserve."

"Despite all these threats," noted Dr Edwino Fernando, Director of the Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems, "Mt. Makiling remains one of the country's most important biodiversity areas and most significant forested watersheds. It is a living testimony to people and institutions working together to conserve the country's natural heritage for Filipinos and for the world."

The Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems, a unit of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), manages the forest directly.

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve

Mt. Makiling's beauty and ecological importance have been recognized for a long time. In 1910, the gover nment issued Proclamation 106, establishing the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve. The reserve presently covers 4 224 hectares extending across 80 percent of the mountain. Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve straddles the municipalities of Los Baños, Bay and Calamba (all in Laguna Province) and the municipality of Sto. Tomas (in Batangas Province). The reserve's primary purpose is to serve as a training laboratory for the advancement of scientific and technical knowledge on the conservation and development of forests and associated ecosystems. The UPLB has been at the forefront of the reserve's management ever since it established the Philippines' first school of forestry in 1910.

Visitors to Mt. Makiling enjoy the well-maintained hiking trails (courtesy Patrick Durst).

Dr Emmanuel Abraham, head of the Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems Forest and Watershed Division, identifies five important roles of the forest reserve for human beings:

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve is particularly important as an educational and research resource, as it provides the setting for studies by many local and international researchers. It also has enormous biological diversity and genetic resources, being home to many plant and animal species - both indigenous and exotic. In 1983, for example, J.V. Pancho, a noted Filipino botanist, reported 949 genera and 2 038 species of flowering plants and ferns representing 225 families in Mt. Makiling and its environs.

Botanical references to Mt. Makiling describe an exceptional diversity of woody plant species, totalling more than the entire number of woody species found in the United States of America. In 1977, the late Dioscoro Rabor, an award-winning zoologist, reported at least 50 species of mammals, 120 bird species, six species of amphibians, 19 types of reptile and several varieties of fish inhabiting the reserve. The area also contains at least 7 000 insect species.

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve is also a very important watershed, providing water for irrigation, as well as for industrial and domestic purposes. The Mt. Makiling watershed supplies water to five water district authorities, and an indeterminate number of business establishments, government offices and other institutions.

The forest reserve also contains resources supporting geothermal operations that have an electricity generating capacity of 370 megawatts. This constitutes about 17 percent of the generating capacity on the island of Luzon. Mt. Makiling - an inactive volcano - is endowed with numerous natural hot springs, which are the main attraction for local resorts and recreation facilities. About 200 private pools and resorts draw thermal water from the mountain.

The forest reserve's mysterious legends and captivating natural scenery, as well as the only intact forests within a 65-kilometre radius of Metro Manila, have made Mt. Makiling a favourite recreational site for tourists (local and foreign) and excursionists. Some 120 000 visitors flock to the forest reserve each year. Among the main tourist attractions are the Makiling Botanic Gardens, Mudsprings and Flatrocks.

Ecotourism helps to generate significant financial resources for the reserve. For example, in each of the past three years, the Makiling Botanic Gardens has earned more than US$20 000 from entrance fees. Other sources of income come from the rental of forest reserve facilities and the sale of forest products. These revenues contribute significantly to the modest budget allocated by the national government for the reserve's management. However, the combined amount is still barely sufficient to sustain the regular monitoring work done in the forest reserve. As a result, other strategies are needed to protect and conserve the reserve.

Numerous challenges

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve's protected area status is supposed to ensure that it is free from human occupancy, cultivation and private claims. However, residents within and around the forest reserve largely view the mountain area as an economic resource. Almost 1 000 people - mostly farmers - currently live inside the reserve boundaries, according to UPLB researchers. Farms, providing the main source of livelihood for these residents, now cover approximately 45 percent of the forest reserve's total area.

Urbanization along the fringes of the reserve further complicates the occupancy problem. The past several decades have seen the growth of various commercial establishments and infrastructure. Development of residential subdivisions on the lower slopes of the mountain puts added pressure on the forest reserve.

"Urbanization itself is not so bad, but the changes that come with it may cause damage to the reserve," explained Dr Abraham. "One example is the impact that urbanization has on upstream and downstream water resources, particularly related to wastewater disposal. Other physical impacts include soil disturbances and increased solid wastes. There are also detrimental social impacts such as when land development dislocates landless farmers who then move deeper into the reserve, clearing yet more forest to create new farms."

The dynamic processes within and around the reserve force its managers to contend with pressures from both agricultural and urban environments. Added to this complexity are the multiple interests of the resident farmers, local government units, people's organizations, government agencies, lessees, nongovernmental organizations, schools, student organizations and the private sector. The differences in their perspectives, mandates, goals and interests can lead to conflict and competition for resources - adding to management challenges.

Transfer issues

The management of the forest reserve has been transferred several times since its establishment in 1910. Initially, responsibility for management was vested in the Bureau of Forestry. In 1952, Republic Act 826 re-assigned management responsibility to the Commission of Parks and Wildlife. In 1956, the UPLB's College of Forestry and Natural Resources sought jurisdiction over the forests to make the reserve a training laboratory for scientific and silvicultural studies. Four years later, in 1960, President Garcia designated the UPLB's Board of Regents, as the official administrator of the forest reserve. The transfer was formalized in Proclamation No. 692, which stated that the forest reserve shall "be conserved and preserved as a national park." However, at the time of transfer, approximately one-third of the reserve's area had already been encroached by kaingineros (slash-and-burn farmers) and squatters.

A sudden change in the forest reserve's administration occurred in 1987 when jurisdiction was abruptly transferred to the National Power Corporation (NPC) through Executive Order No. 224 issued by President Aquino. The Order set aside a large parcel of land in the provinces of Quezon and Batangas, covering portions of Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw - including the entire Makiling Forest Reserve - for energy generation.

The UPLB countered this administrative development by urging the House of Representatives to return the responsibility for management of the reserve to the university. The university's efforts were rewarded in 1990, when Republic Act 6967 was signed - giving the university exclusive control of the entire forest reserve.

These frequent changes in administration have inevitably resulted in policy inconsistencies and sometimes ineffective management. Unsurprisingly, only 53 percent of the total land area remained forested by 1989 - the rest had been converted to farms or other land uses.

Earlier approaches governing the forest reserve were highly regulatory and punitive. They did not provide opportunity for social development or for effectively involving stakeholders. For instance, in 1976, President Marcos ordered that farmers who lived in the forest reserve should be forcibly resettled to Quezon Province, some 100 kilometres away. However, without adequate resettlement assistance, and confronted with the infertile soils and the absence of employment opportunities in the resettlement area, most of the relocated people slipped back to Mt. Makiling in less than one year. The expelled farming community quickly re-established itself in the forest reserve and continued with its previous activities.

Multistakeholder approach

During the early 1990s, the failure of earlier management strategies triggered an urgent rethink of approaches and led to a multistakeholder or "participatory approach" to forest management - an approach that has since gained wide acceptance, not only in the Philippines, but also in other parts of the world.

The UPLB recognized that it alone could not conserve and protect the reserve. Its new strategy sought partnerships with people's organizations in the forest reserve. These included Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Mataas na Lupa ng Lalakay sa Bundok Makiling and Samahan ng Bagong Pagasa ng Bagong Silang. It also sought collaboration with private companies, local government units, non-governmental organizations (including the Laguna Tourism Association and the Rotary Club of Los Baños) and schools. A variety of programmes were coordinated and implemented by the Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems in collaboration with these and other institutions.

As a result of such partnerships, financial resources for development initiatives were seldom lacking. Each partner became a potential source of funds and non monetary inputs.

"Collaborative partners usually implement activities themselves. For instance, they may bring their employees to plant trees, and staff from the university will simply coordinate and supervise them. The advantages of this approach are that complex fund transfers are avoided and the university does not have to use its own resources for rehabilitation projects. Furthermore, the people who take part in the activities gain experiences that they long value," said Dr Abraham.

Forest management measures

The 1990s were a good decade for the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve in terms of collaborative work. During this period, a number of private organizations provided funds for reforestation projects, while local farmer organizations provided hired labour and forest protection services. Private sponsors included Novartis (a biological and chemical company based in Switzerland), Surigao Development Corporation, the Philippine Wood Producers Association and Sterling Health Incorporated. These organizations funded tree-planting and watershed rehabilitation projects in the forest reserve. To date, approximately 45 hectares have been replanted, with 70 to 90 percent survival rates. The choice of species has shifted from introduced to indigenous trees, especially species of dipterocarps that once dominated the original forests.

In addition to tree planting, Mt. Makiling stakeholders also engage in other forest management activities including land-use assessment and planning, watershed protection, biodiversity conservation and restoration, and protection and management of water sources and distribution systems.

The Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems is tireless in its efforts to seek the participation of partners in the rehabilitation of denuded land. It has also made education a priority - especially to increase forestry expertise and the level of awareness of people concerning the importance of conserving the forest reserve. This is done mainly through various forestry certificate and degree programmes ranging up to doctoral level. The College of Forestry and Natural Resources implements these programmes.

Training laboratory

The College of Forestry and Natural Resources has trained 6 684 graduates in forestry since 1912. It is widely recognized as the premier forestry school in the Philippines, and as one of the leading institutions in the region.

"It was while doing practical fieldwork in the forest reserve that I first learned and appreciated the basic concepts and importance of watershed management," recollected Dr Rex Victor Cruz, a 1978 forestry graduate and now a leading national expert in watershed management. "This exposure encouraged me to pursue a higher degree in forestry and to build a professional specialization around forests and watersheds. It was also in the forest reserve that my eyes were first opened to the vast diversity of plants and animals in a humid tropical forest. At close range, I came to understand the real interactions between people and the forests."

Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve is set apart from many other forests by the sheer volume of research conducted within the reserve - by both local and inter national scientists. Aside from providing additional information and knowledge on various features of the reserve, these studies also impart insights on how to continuously improve management. Research has also led to the development of models for management that have subsequently been applied in forest ecosystems throughout the Philippines.

Outdoor recreation education

The primary purpose of the forest reserve, however, extends beyond the confines of academia, into extension efforts aimed at educating other sectors of society - and particularly young people.

As early as 1973, the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, through the Department of Forestry Extension, began implementing an Outdoor Recreation Education programme in collaboration with the Department of Education, Culture and Sports in the nearby provinces of Batangas and Laguna. Conducted during the summer months, the programme educated young people on the value of spending their vacation time outdoors and in natural environments, as well as the proper use of outdoor recreational areas. The programme provided schoolchildren with new perspectives and knowledge about the importance of the environment.

In 1998, the Makiling Centre for Mountain Ecosystems expanded the Outdoor Recreation Education programme (which ended in 1996) by launching the Environmental Education Program. The new programme expands coverage to elementary school administrators and teachers at Grades V and VI, as well as students.

The core components of the Environmental Education Program are:

The programme was initially run for 13 schools, but its success led to its expansion to cover 113 schools, with the participation of 130 school officials, 150 teachers and 20 000 pupils. More schools are eager to join the programme, and further expansion is anticipated.

In recognition of its exemplary performance, the College of Forestry and Natural Resources cited the Environmental Education Program as the Outstanding Extension Program of the College in 2003.

Monitoring and law enforcement system

To provide adequate protection to its forests, the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve uses a progressive system of monitoring and law enforcement. Efforts are first made to resolve problems associated with illegal tree felling, poaching of wildlife and forest encroachment through dialogue and moral persuasion. Persistent violators, however, are arrested and prosecuted. "Some poachers are imprisoned, while other cases are settled more amicably," indicated Dr Abraham.

A number of laws and policies have been issued for the protection of the reserve. Presidential Decree 330, for instance, defines timber smuggling or illegal cutting of logs from public forests and forest reserves as qualified theft. Memorandum No. 080, S. 2000, prohibits the construction of huts, houses or similar structures inside the forest reserve. Forest officers are assigned within the reserve to enforce these rules and regulations and to conduct regular forest patrols.


Although a multistakeholder approach has generally proven effective in managing Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, it is not flawless. The implementation of participatory processes sometimes introduces problems that cannot be ignored. Identifying stakeholders and their "stakes" in the forest is a primary concern, since it is not only the benefits that are shared, but also responsibilities. The means and modes of participation also need to be made clear to all parties. To avoid conflicts, efforts are made to communicate with various stakeholders through meetings, workshops and other extension activities.

To formalize the partnerships between the UPLB and other stakeholders, several Memoranda of Agreement have also been signed. One example is a memorandum signed between the university and the Regional Office of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (signed on April 4, 2001). This agreement governs the implementation of an Environmental Learning and Conservation Project designed to promote environmental awareness by conducting experiential learning activities for students. Recognizing the importance of conservation and protection of the watershed within the forest reserve, the university and the Laguna Tourism Association implemented an agreement (signed in January 2001) to regulate the erection of signs and to support a monitoring station along the boundaries of the forest reserve.


Not all efforts to conserve and protect the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve have been successful. Nonetheless, the reserve has been maintained and improved for almost a century due to the commitment of its managers to uphold its primary objective, that is, to serve as a training laboratory for the advancement of scientific and technical knowledge on natural resources' conservation. This effort is strengthened by the participation of various stakeholders in conserving and rehabilitating the forest, and by the high level of awareness of local people concerning the importance of the reserve. Threats from encroachment, urbanization and surging populations have not deterred the pursuit of this primary objective. The management experiences at the forest reserve add to the Mt. Makiling legend.

In summarizing his perspectives, Dr Fernando said: "I would like to regard 'Makiling' as a brand name - not just for the mountain's beauty and the maiden lass of the legendary tale - but also for the quality of the forest reserve and its environment. The name 'Makiling' should evoke the reserve's many economic, aesthetic and ecological benefits, and its long academic and scientific tradition. Its conservation and protection are of the utmost importance, while its demise would be a great tragedy for us all."

About the authors

Dr Juan M. Pulhin is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños. Prior to this, he was Departmental Chair of Social Forestry and Forest Governance in the same college. He has a doctorate in Geographical Sciences from the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Maricel A. Tapia is a Research Associate with the Environmental Forestry Program, College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines at Los Baños. She has completed a B.Sc. in Development Communication and is currently pursuing her MA in Sociology at the same university.

Pre-harvest inventory and tree felling, Nakavu Forest, Fiji (courtesy SPC/GTZ Pacific-German Regional Forestry Project).

Nakavu Forest: research makes the difference

Lemeki Lenoa

Name of forest:

Nakavu Forest


Namosi Province, Viti Levu Island

Area (hectares):


Managing entity:

Fiji Forestry Department and Nakavu villagers

Mgt. objectives:

Sustainable timber production model, collaborative research



"Nakavu Village holds a special place in the national effort to develop sustainable management of natural forests in the country," said Laiakini Jiko, Fiji's Conservator of Forests.

He knows what he is talking about. After all, in 1991 he was the Head of the Forestry Department's Silviculture Research Division, which was directly responsible for research activities on sustainable forest management, under the Fiji-German Forestry Project. Villagers in Nakavu are the landowners of the forests of the Yavusa Nabukebuke in the interior of Namosi Province. "Their cooperation, goodwill and trust in our request to lease part of their communally-owned forests for applied research into the complex issue of sustainable forest management will be long remembered in the history of the Forestry Department," Jiko added.

Land tenure in Fiji, and particularly issues perceived to be affecting Fijian native land, has been the subject of keen national debate over the years and has been a contentious issue during the recent national political elections. Differing views on the land issue, coupled with deliberate misinformation by certain politicians and interest groups, were among the causes of past political unrest,

The British established the land tenure system in Fiji in the 1800s, during the period of colonial rule. Fiji is unlike most countries of the Pacific where the land was alienated or sold off by the native owners. Fiji had a Scottish governor, Sir Arthur Gordon, who was familiar with the system of land ownership because it was similar to the system in his native Scotland. Against the desires of early European settlers, he strongly supported the protection of indigenous ownership of land. He introduced a system that allowed Fijians to own the land outright, a system maintained to this day. The basis of the ownership is that land is owned by the mataqali (landowning unit or clan). It is not owned individually, but communally.

Fiji's Native Land Trust Act of 1940 established the Native Land Trust Board, a statutory authority, and gave it control of all native land to be managed for the benefit of indigenous Fijian owners.

"The sanctity of the trusteeship role given to the Native Land Trust Board by the indigenous landowners is unequalled in our time." Thus spoke the great Fijian politician, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, during the 1940 debate on the Native Land Trust Bill, and his words still ring true. The indigenous landowners unconditionally put their faith in the organization when they entrusted the administration of their land to the board. It is the board's duty to protect that trust and it plays the dual role of trustee and landlord in the development of native land in Fiji.

In Fiji, there are three classes of land ownership, namely:

The term "native land" is defined as land above the high water mark, not being freehold or owned by the state in accordance with the provisions of the Crown Lands Act (Cap. 135). Native land - which comprises 1 487 581 hectares or 84 percent of Fiji's total land area - is owned by indigenous Fijians in their collective groupings according to custom and tradition.

Both the government and the Native Land Trust Board are aware of the importance of the land issue to the indigenous Fijian population. The board has undergone major changes in the past few years to make it more commercial and customer-orientated in its outlook. In simple terms, the board's revised policy now focuses on maximizing revenues for indigenous Fijian landowners, promoting sound relationships with all stakeholders and securing benefits to the national economy.

Important economic contributions from forestry

The government's 2003 budget describes forestry as a "growth sector" in the economy. It has contributed, on average, about 0.9 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) over the last five years. At present, it ranks as Fiji's fifth most important export industry, after garments, sugar, gold and fish. Earnings from forest products (sawntimber, plywood, veneer and pine woodchips) are greatly influenced by the price of exports, production and weather patterns.

"The forestry sector is increasingly becoming a significant part of Fiji's economy as it encompasses the entire range of production processes from harvesting, milling and value-added operations, to production inputs in construction and other industries," announced the Minister of Finance, Ratu Jone Kubuabola, during his 2003 budget speech in parliament in November 2002. "Ensuring sustainability of the industry is therefore of paramount importance, whilst providing assistance and building the capacity of indigenous resource owners, thus, facilitating their participation in the industry," he added.

Harvesting of natural forests and landowners' involvement

Forestry development represents an area where indigenous Fijian landowners can widely and meaningfully participate in commercial business activities. The provision of seed funding in 2002 under the government's Affirmative Action Plan, has encouraged landowners to increase their involvement in the timber industry and to maximize the potential benefits accruable to them. In fact, the gover nment believes that the immense potential of forestry, including that of the country's extensive pine and mahogany plantations, may be harnessed effectively only by dealing with landowners' desires and expectations successfully.

Log scaling using calipers at Nakavu forest (courtesy SPC/GTZ Pacific-German Regional Forestry Project).

Landowner involvement in the activities related to the country's natural forests has, to date, been limited due to lack of capital, expertise and business acumen. The industry has been dominated by Indo-Fijian family businesses, which operate a number of small- to medium-sized sawmilling operations and a large veneer/plywood processing mill on the second largest island of Vanua Levu.

The involvement of landowners in the plantation-based pine industry is much more structured and more developed. However, there are also certain underlying factors that landowners still need to address if their own companies and the forest industry are to be successful in the future. These include changes in attitudes and perceptions about the forestry business, differentiation between ownership and management, competition, transparency and accountability, and capacity building.

The case for sustainable forest management

Over the years, there has been growing support for the sustainable management of Fiji's 740 000 hectares of natural forests. This point is now specifically spelled out in the current forestry and environmental policies of both the government and the Native Land Trust Board.

Fiji is fortunate in having substantial high-value natural timber resources, but in the past, forest exploitation has not been conducted sustainably. Now, however, the country is in the enviable position of being able to move towards sustainable management of its remaining natural forests, by relying more heavily on its extensive plantations of pine and mahogany. Almost five decades ago, the government invested substantial sums to establish industrial plantations of both softwood (pine) and hardwood (mahogany). Plantations now cover approximately 90 000 hectares on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

The current challenge is finding a workable mechanism for incorporating sustainable forest management guidelines into Fijian forest management - in a way that also satisfies the needs of the indigenous Fijian resource owners, the timber industry and government interests.

As part of the International Tropical Timber Organization's (ITTO) ongoing programme to promote the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests, the following conditions have been identified as essential for sustainable timber production:

Furthermore, ITTO's efforts to promote and support sustainable forest management - to which Fiji subscribes - have shown that successful sustained yield management of natural tropical forests can only be achieved if management systems incorporate:

"In Fiji's case, the official government approach towards the management of the nation's natural forests has improved considerably during the last decade," Jiko observed. "The introduction of the National Code of Logging Practice in June 1990, together with related training (for both Forestry Department officers and private timber industry operators) and field monitoring activities have led to a substantial improvement in the technical standard of the planning and implementation of logging," he added. The Australian Government-sponsored Fiji Forest Resource Tactical Planning Project (1993-1996) made important contributions towards strengthening capacities.

Nevertheless, until recently the silvicultural aspects of natural forest logging received little attention. There is still inadequate scientific data on the growth of Fiji's main commercial natural timber species. This is due to the lack of emphasis, in the past, by the Forestry Department on this area of silvicultural research.

The Natural Forest Management Pilot Project (NFMPP)

Seeking management prescriptions that would ensure sustainable yields of natural forest resources, the Forestry Department - with funding and technical support from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) - implemented a research programme on 315 hectares of natural forests in Nakavu, Namosi Province. The project's field activities, which ran from March 1991 to December 1994, were implemented by the Forestry Department's Silviculture Research Division, with support from the Fiji-German Forestry Project.

The research programme, entitled Natural Forest Management Pilot Project (NFMPP), was tasked with "developing improved silvicultural guidelines for natural forest management within the Fijian context of communal forest ownership and the need to involve forest owners more in management decisions and practices."

The "Nakavu Model": a new management approach

The resultant sustainable forest management guidelines, or prescriptions for management (commonly referred to as the "Nakavu Model") can, after due evaluation and refinement in larger scale operational trials under real commercial conditions, be adopted by the Forestry Department and the Native Land Trust Board for application throughout Fiji's natural forests.

The NFMPP embarked on research and testing to support nine operations under the Nakavu Model namely:

With this overall approach, a number of other specific technical outputs were expected from the NFMPP. These were related to:

"Selection logging" refers to harvesting whereby only a portion of the total merchantable volume is removed, and whereby emphasis is placed on the condition and structure of the remaining stand. Emphasis is given to natural regeneration and future timber production, as opposed to the immediate removal of the best quality timber trees. "Controlled selection logging" refers to the deliberate harvest of a predetermined volume of timber - normally much less than what would be taken using conventional logging practices.

Nakavu Forest project site

The Nakavu project site was selected by the Forestry Department and the Fiji-German Forestry Project team from a number of potential sites, on the basis of its forest characteristics, and sociocultural and accessibility factors. The area is located about 9 kilometres northwest of the small township of Navua, which is 45 kilometres from the capital Suva on the southeast coast of Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji.

Nakavu Forest is on communally-owned native land belonging to members of the Yavusa Nabukebuke tribe, which comprises six distinct clans residing in nearby Nakavu Village. Being native land, negotiations were conducted with the Native Land Trust Board and the landowners, enabling the Forestry Department to formally acquire a 50-year lease over the 315-hectare project site - effective from January 1991 - with provision for review of the lease agreement at 10 year intervals.

Nakavu Forest is a dense mixed-evergreen rain forest with an upper canopy height of about 27 metres. Dominant commercial tree species include kaudamu (Myristica spp.), yasiyasi (Syzygium/Cleistocalyx spp.), sacau (Palaquim spp.), damanu (Calophyllum spp.), laubu (Garcinia spp.), kaunicina (Canarium spp.), kaunigai (Haplolobus spp.) and mavota (Gonystylus spp.). Nakavu Forest is representative of the mixed-evergreen forest type found throughout much of Fiji.

The Natural Forest Management Pilot Project required a suitable tract of representative natural forest and landowners willing to cooperate with the project. The project also required the participation of a logging contractor and sawmiller prepared to be trained, and to work under supervision, in following the proposed sustainable forest management harvesting guidelines. The Forestry Department Research Division was designated to manage the project, with support from the Fiji-German Forestry Project.

Apart from consenting to the leasing of part of their forest for the project, the Nakavu landowners were firm in their acceptance and belief in the sustainable forest management concept throughout the four-year duration of the project's field activities.

"The landowners played a pivotal role in ensuring the entire project activities were implemented smoothly as planned and completed successfully," said Principal Forestry Officer Tevita Evo, who was then the Research Division officer directly in charge of the National Forest Management Pilot Project.

Project field activities

As part of the project's objectives, 12 landowners were selected and employed on a full-time basis. They were led by Mosese Moceyawa and Kasiano Duikoro, both of whom were appointed "charge-hands" (supervisors) of the landowner workforce, because of their supervisory capabilities, knowledge of local forest conditions and the respect they commanded. Following training, they were directly involved in undertaking various project field activities including:

In addition, a fourth treatment called "conventional" logging was included, whereby all commercial trees (>35 centimetres dbh) were removed. This made it possible to compare the modified logging intensities with normal practices.

"The landowner employees were instrumental in promoting the sustainable forest management concept through 'Nakavu Day' - an annual celebration and fundraising event organized by the Nakavu landowners and surrounding communities. They also conducted landowner-awareness training for other forest owners interested in sustainable forest management including, for example, the Drawa landowners of Wailevu West, Vanua Levu," explained Tevita Evo.

Under the National Forest Management Pilot Project, Nur Ahmed & Company Ltd was selected as the logging contractor from a list of 10 interested parties. The company was selected because of its favourable location, the company's satisfactory harvesting record, and because its harvesting operations were integrated with a medium-sized sawmill at Yarawa (about 18 kilometres from Nakavu).

"The project's harvesting operation was a learning experience for our company, particularly in working with the three different logging intensities and following the approved logging plan," reported Tahir Ali, one of the logging company's directors.

The modified logging intensities, particularly the medium- and heavy-logging treatments, were not necessarily more expensive than conventional methods. In fact, cost comparisons indicated that the medium and heavy treatments were actually US$1.50 per cubic metre less than conventional logging costs (estimated at an average of US$42.50 per cubic metre in 1995).

Advanced tree selection was extremely important, enabling accurate forecasting of species' composition, volumes and location within the logging coupe or compartment. This resulted in better planning, and improved overall efficiency. "Thinking back, there were certainly some real benefits to us - most notably the overall lower costs at the end of the day," Tahir Ali smiled.

The modified logging intensities lead to higher average diameters of the timber felled, which lead to more efficient processing and increased profits. "Both the sawmilling and rotary veneer recovery rates are very much a function of the log diameter and form; the larger the log with good round cylindrical form, the better the recovery rates achieved," indicated Lepani Moce Sogovale, Resource Manager for Fiji Forest Industries Ltd, a pioneering institution in Fiji's timber industry, and an important sawmiller and veneer/plywood manufacturer.

Fijian landowners whose forests are being harvested by outside logging contractors or companies are presently awarded the following benefits:

However, the current harvesting system in Fiji allows for the removal of all trees greater than 35 centimetres dbh, which significantly alters the forest structure and composition, and is unsustainable in the long term.

Increased benefits from the Nakavu Model

The "Nakavu Model" has several advantages for the landowners. Key among these, as pointed out in the project's final report, is that landowners will have "a more stable income from royalties, logging jobs, and management jobs over shorter felling cycles."

"The Nakavu villagers have certainly benefited from their involvement in the project," related Tevita Evo. "Financial and other benefits have played a large part in raising the general living standard in the village. It has facilitated a regular electricity power supply and the construction of a community hall. The project was a 'unifying force' and galvanized the villagers into working together, and now they have a different and greater appreciation of their forests. And through all this, they still see their forests out there - without the major damage typical of areas where uncontrolled harvesting has taken place - regenerating and growing."

The project's final report adds: "Apart from the financial advantages, the active participation in the preharvest inventory, tree selection and logging, leads to an increased awareness about sustainable forest management and the activities required for achieving it. Landowners will only be prepared to protect their own forest if they perceive that it has value."

Importantly, the reduced volumes removed at the time of the first harvest and the improved silvicultural practices leave the original structure, composition and biodiversity of the forest intact. This in turn leads to improved supplies of culturally important non-timber forest products and to improved quality of streams and other water supplies.

Other advantages arising from the Nakavu Model include ensuring log supply security over time and potentially better export market access for timber products coming from sustainably managed forests. A recent consultants' report examining the issue of Fiji's efforts to improve forest management and move towards forest certification noted that:

"Log supply is guaranteed for the long term due to the fact that you are managing your forests in a truly sustainable manner. Implementation of the 'Nakavu Sustainable Forest Management Model' is a major step towards getting the forest certified.... While there is little or no pressure from Fiji's current timber export markets for certification and labeling of forest products generally, access to certain offshore markets (e.g. in Europe and the USA) is becoming dependent on being certified. Current international experience has been that price premiums may not result from certification and labeling; rather the prime motivation for undergoing what can be an expensive process is to obtain and protect market access."

The benefits to the government from the Nakavu Model can be seen from the perspective of the Forestry Department as the implementing agency, and from the perspective of the nation as a whole:

The development of the Nakavu Model has been a significant milestone in the effort to improve management of Fiji's remaining natural forest resources. "The Forestry Department Silvicultural Research Division continues to undertake regular monitoring of the Nakavu permanent sample plots, recording valuable tree-growth data every two years. We also see the value of Nakavu as a demonstration site, with increasing popularity for visits by university researchers, students and overseas visitors. Recently, we have started a number of studies on phenology and forest succession after logging on site," noted Inoke Wainiqolo, Principal Silviculturist of the Division.

The Nakavu Model is now in the process of being implemented on a larger operational scale, under commercial conditions, in a 6 500-hectare forest belonging to the Drawa landowners of Wailevu West on the island of Vanua Levu. This operation is expected to allay remaining scepticism harboured by the timber industry. Key local staff employed in the Nakavu project have participated in the initial training sessions for Drawa landowners.

The refined sustainable forest management guidelines resulting from this process have established a model and basis for nationwide adoption and implementation. A senior Forestry Department official explained: "Landowners are becoming more knowledgeable of the need for good forest management and are increasingly concerned about bad forest practices. This concern is motivating the Forestry Department to review the National Code of Logging Practice and to strengthen measures to enforce it. There is also an enhanced desire by landowners to become involved in decision making related to their forest resources, but many lack experience in dealing with the commercial sector. In the past, tensions and disputes have often ensued when expectations between landowners and commercial operators have not been met. The experience in Nakavu has demonstrated that such problems can be averted through careful planning, consultation with local people and management that makes long-term benefits to landowners a priority. Many people argue that if sustainable forest management is to be implemented widely, it must be seen as beneficial to everyone involved or affected. In other words, the answer to the question 'what is in it for me or us?' must be positive for everyone concerned."

These are the underlying issues that are being addressed through the Nakavu Model, and the process of fine-tuning the model through the larger scale operational trials under actual commercial conditions.


deVletter, J. 1995. Natural forest management pilot project - final report. Technical Report No.27, FD/GTZ-Regional Forestry Project.

Ministry of Fisheries & Forests. 2002. Seed capital revolving fund (SCARF) forestry scheme.

Mussong, M. 1995. Costs & benefits of logging and forest management in the natural forest management pilot project. Technical Report No.26, FD/GTZ-Regional Forestry Project.

About the author

Lemeki Lenoa is a forester with over 22 years of experience in all aspects of Fijian forestry covering the government, timber industry and lately as an independent forestry consultant dealing with Fiji and other Pacific Island region countries. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Forestry) from the Australian National University in 1979 and entered government service under the Fiji Forestry Department in 1980. He spent the initial 13 years of his career with the government. In 1993, he resigned and joined the private timber sector as the Manager, Resource & Transport, of Fiji Forest Industries Ltd (FFI), Fiji's largest natural timber processor and exporter.

Deramakot Forest Reserve: the future is now

John Tay and Kan Yaw Chong

Name of forest:

FMU19(a) Deramakot Forest Reserve


Sandakan, Sabah

Area (hectares):

55 083

Managing entity:

Sabah Forestry Department

Mgt. objectives:

Sustainable timber production



"Deramakot Forest Reserve is the site of Sabah's first major initiative towards sustainable management of logged forests," explained Frederick Kugan,

Head of the International and External Assistance Division of the Sabah Forestry Department. "We recognized that if we were serious about implementing sustainable forest management in Sabah, then we needed to develop an overall approach, management systems and silviculture that would support sustainability. Deramakot was chosen as the project site for developing these model practices."

In fact, the Deramakot initiative is considered by many to be the first extensive test of comprehensive sustainable management in the moist tropical forests of Asia. The forest reserve is located in the district of Sandakan and comprises a single contiguous tract of 55 083 hectares of forest. Deramakot is a Class II forest reserve managed as part of the Permanent Forest Estate by the Sabah Forestry Department. It is one of 27 demarcated Forest Management Units (FMUs) - administrative districts into which all Class II forest reserves are allocated in Sabah.

Deramakot Forest Reserve and much of the surrounding area was virgin forest until the 1950s. Since then, in common with much of the lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah, the reserve has been logged several times. It constitutes a typical example of logged forests and is, consequently, an ideal site for developing a model for improved forest management.

The Deramakot Sustainable Forest Management project started in 1989 with technical and financial assistance from the German Government via Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). The first phase of the project ran between 1988 and 1990, and concentrated on capacity building for research personnel. The second phase, from 1990 to 1995, focused on the development of the Deramakot Sustainable Forest Management Model.

The manually operated semi-mobile sawmill in Deramakot (courtesy Kan Yaw Chong).

The philosophy was to develop a sustainable forest management model that would enable multiple use, but with a central focus on timber sustainability. The model would have to allow for local communities, living in close proximity to forests, to utilize the forest for subsistence needs. The forest would be required to provide clean water, medicinal plants, building materials and tools as well as non-timber forest products for cash incomes.

Forestry in Sabah

Sabah is one of the two East Malaysian states on Borneo. With a land area of almost 7.4 million hectares, Sabah occupies about one-tenth of the island. It is the second largest state in Malaysia with a population of more than 2.6 million people. According to the most recent forest assessment in 1996, more than half of Sabah's total land area is covered by forests. Almost 3.6 million hectares - 49 percent of Sabah's land area - is designated by law as Permanent Forest Estate.

There are seven principal classes of forest reserves in Sabah. Class II forest reserves, covering an area of 2.73 million hectares, are designated for timber production. The bulk of Sabah's forest revenues come from Class II forest reserves. These comprise mainly mixed dipterocarp forest, which is rich in marketable timber species. Dipterocarp trees reach 45 metres, with tree diameters at breast height (dbh) of up to 150 centimetres. There are as many as 5 000 trees per hectare in undisturbed dipterocarp forests with many trees in the lower diameter classes. Climbing plants such as rattans, lianas, creepers and epiphytes co-exist in the forest.

Sabah is highly dependent on timber harvesting for foreign exchange and revenues (Box 1). The fundamental problem, however, lies in unsustainable and indiscriminate logging that causes disturbance to the forest environment, polluting rivers and eroding the soil. Some of the major rivers in Sabah that provide the principal sources of drinking water - most notably the Padas River in Kota Kinabalu - remain murky all the time. However, logging is not the culprit per se as there are other more damaging practices such as unsustainable agricultural development, infrastructure development and illegal encroachment. Nonetheless, logging contributes to the problem and facilitates other destructive agents.

Box 1. Forestry's contribution to the Sabah economy

During the past five decades, the forestry sector has played a significant role in the socio-economic development of Sabah, by contributing (on average) 56 percent (equivalent to US$530 million) of annual state revenues. Since 1990, the forestry contribution has been declining and currently it is less than 40 percent of total revenues, but the sector is still the major foreign exchange earner.

State revenues from forestry are largely earned through royalties collected from the sale of logs from natural forests. Log production has increased radically during the past 35 years, from 6 million cubic metres in 1970 to 13 million cubic metres by 1978. During the 1980s, log production averaged 10 million cubic metres per year. In the 1990s, log production started to decline, falling to about 4 million cubic metres per year by the end of the decade. Since 2000, log production has fluctuated in the range of 2 to 4 million cubic metres per year. These volumes are still significantly higher than the official annual allowable cut (AAC) of 1.2 million cubic metres announced by the Sabah Forestry Department in 1991.

History of unsustainable harvests

During the peak harvest period from 1970 to 1990 it has been estimated that Sabah was harvesting, on average, four times the rate of sustainable yield

(2.8 million cubic metres). It is estimated that the clearing of state forest land for agricultural expansion, in accordance with the National Agricultural Policy, contributed 9 million cubic metres of timber annually.

Sabah's heavy reliance on timber revenues for socio-economic development and weak regulatory capacity in the Sabah Forestry Department, prior to 1997, had a serious effect on the state forests. One assessment of forest management in Sabah, carried out in 1997, summed up the forestry situation as follows:

Today, most of the logged forests contain only remnant stands of dipterocarp species, with very few trees of commercial value. Climbing plants such as lianas are very common, as is bamboo. When climbers are not removed, the growth of young trees is retarded (or may even be smothered) and hence they require a longer time to mature. Furthermore, most of the naturally regenerating seedlings are not of preferred timber species, nor are they representative of the entire natural ecosystem that comprises mainly pioneer species. This situation is worsened when the logged areas are burned. The only option to restore commercial productivity in burned areas is to plant timber species.

In recognition of the seriousness of this situation and its severe impacts on environmental services and future raw material supplies for wood industries, the Sabah Forestry Department initiated the Deramakot Sustainable Forest Management Project to develop a management model that could be used to manage Sabah's 2.7 million hectares of logged forests sustainably.

The Deramakot Sustainable Forest Management Model

Historically, Deramakot was logged selectively as early as the 1950s. Of the lowland mixed-dipterocarp forest, 93 percent is classified as production forest, while the remainder is protection forest. Only 20 percent of the production forest is considered to be well-stocked - having at least 16 trees of harvestable size (larger than 60 centimetres dbh) per hectare. About 30 percent of the area has fewer than two harvestable trees per hectare.

Dermakot Foreston multiple

The Deramakot Sustainable Forest Management Model was planned as an exemplary model of forest stewardship. The first step in developing the model focused on planning, which was carried out at two levels:

1) At the state and forestry sector level, overall socio-economic conditions and linkages are evaluated (sectoral analysis) and strategic plans are prepared. The planning horizon at this level is 10 to 20 years.

2) Planning is also executed at the FMU level. A medium-term forest management plan (5 to 10 years) and annual work plans are prepared in accordance with sustainability goals.

The management plan establishes prescriptions for implementing a number of operations including:

Only timber harvesting, silvicultural operations, rehabilitation, protection and research are fully operational at present. There are 58 field personnel at Deramakot who oversee major management activities.

Timber harvesting

One of the crucial factors in the Deramakot Model is the strict adherence of harvesting to the AAC. Initially this was set within the Deramakot Forest Management Unit at 20 000 cubic metres. This AAC was calculated using the Dipterocarp Forest Simulation Model - a software tool that can be used for modelling growth and yield. The AAC was reduced to 15 000 cubic metres during a mid-term review in 2001.

Currently, timber harvesting in Deramakot is based on guidelines for reduced impact logging that include: cutting of vines prior to harvest, reserving large trees (above 120 centimetres in diameter) as seed bearers, directional felling and leaving fruit-bearing trees. Prior to harvesting operations, forest rangers map designated skid trails to minimize bulldozer movements to reduce damage to remaining trees. Cable extraction is used on difficult terrain where skidding cannot be carried out. All activities are aimed at retaining a good stock of healthy young trees as a future crop.

Improved timber utilization

In most concessions, log recovery from felled trees is poor and many short and defective logs, often 10 to 20 percent of the tree volume, are left behind. To maximize timber recovery, a mobile sawmill has been introduced in Deramakot to utilize logs previously rejected at the stump or at intermediate landing sites. By improving utilization efficiency, fire hazards during drought periods are also minimized.

Ensuring regeneration

Where there are insufficient seedlings on the forest floor, enrichment planting is carried out with seedlings planted in the gaps created during logging or in artificially created gaps. Gap planting mimics the natural process of regeneration in forests by replicating the gap created when a tree falls. In Deramakot, each artificial gap is 10 square metres. A small cluster of up to five seedlings is planted in these gaps. In theory, this equates to a stocking rate of 300 trees per hectare - many more than the numbers of trees harvested (usually 10 to 20 maturetrees per hectare). Gap planting is also relatively cheap compared with line planting. The latter requires creating openings of up to a width of three metres at systematic intervals, (normally about 10 metres apart) and planting these with seedlings.

Adequate protection

Forest protection is prioritized in Deramakot to prevent encroachment and poaching. Recently there have been many wildlife sightings including rare species such as elephant, orang utan and proboscis monkeys, as well as wild pigs, sambar deer, wild ox and avi-fauna. A survey of orang utan in Deramakot estimated a population of around 1 000 individuals. Deramakot also has highly significant conservation ecosystems and scenic landscapes including peat swamp forests, waterfalls, fishing sites, inundated limestone caves and wildlife observation sites.

Despite tight security measures, Deramakot has not been spared from illegal logging. In 2000, illegal felling is estimated to have accounted for approximately 3 000 cubic metres of wood. To curb illegal activities, the Sabah Forestry Department works with local communities to gain their assistance in protecting Deramakot Forest as well as educating them on fire prevention.


These intensive management efforts have enabled Deramakot to obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management certification. Deramakot attained this "green label" in 1997, for a five-year period (1997-2002), and is one of the few forests in the Asia-Pacific region to have received certification. Deramakot's certification is based on criteria and indicators under the Forest Stewardship Council initiative as well as the Malaysian criteria and indicators.

"Our initial motive in having Deramakot certified was to add prestige," noted Frederick Kugan - the prime mover for certification. "We were less concerned with getting a price premium for certified wood at that time, although it is now an important part of the exercise."

"There is a price premium of up to 30 percent on Deramakot logs compared with average log prices in Sabah," said Andurus Abi, the Forest Department's Marketing Officer. "However, the price received for certified logs of some timber species is still low compared with non-certified logs in Peninsula Malaysia," he added. "This is peculiar to Sabah, because of the relatively longer distance to markets in Japan, Korea and China. There may also be an element of price restraint by other major producers in Sabah."

Deramakot has renewed its certification for another five years (2003-2008), even though the cost has doubled compared with the first certification.

"Even with the higher cost on the second certification, it is still worthwhile to certify Deramakot to maintain the correct image and credibility," Kugan explained.

Revenues and costs

Deramakot logs are sold by public auction to local and international buyers. Auctions are administered by the Sandakan District Office of the Sabah Forestry Department. The experience at Deramakot shows that, to a large extent, auction prices depend on whether buyers are locals or from overseas - and the product mix. Overseas buyers generally offer much higher prices than local buyers.

The average annual cost of implementing harvesting and silvicultural programmes at Deramakot is US$1.33 million. Most of this expenditure is for tending, planting, infrastructure development and administration activities. Currently, the only revenue-generating activity is timber harvesting, but this may be subsumed by other activities as the area allowed for logging becomes more limited. At current prices, Deramakot must sustain a cyclical harvesting intensity of at least 30 cubic metres per hectare to break even. This profitability challenge is compounded because 30 percent of all trees marked for harvesting in Deramakot contain hollow volume due to termite infestation.

Shortfalls in revenues from timber sales have forced the Sabah Forestry Department to provide financial support to implement the sustainable forest management programmes in Deramakot. The Forestry Department recognizes, however, the pioneering nature of the work being implemented and the financial shortfalls are seen as a necessary cost of moving up the sustainable forest management learning curve.

In recent years, the financial challenge at Deramakot has shown signs of easing. Deramakot showed a "profit" for the first time in 2002 - attributable to improvements in management, higher log prices and infrastructural improvements - and was expected to also turn a profit in 2003. This is a positive development that could help to convince other forest managers in Sabah that it is possible to adopt best management practices without sacrificing profits. Senior managers from the Forestry Department emphasize the importance of consultation with staff to solve operational problems, reduction of administrative red tape and inculcating good management values to control and monitor costs. The Forestry Department also recognizes and supports infrastructural development, in particular road maintenance, as a crucial component in ensuring the efficient movement of timber and people.

Favourable international log prices, which have appreciated by 47 percent since 1995, contributed significantly to achieving profitability in recent years. In addition, planting costs declined in 2002 in comparison with previous years, because of abundant natural regeneration at logged sites. Silvicultural costs in 2002 were restricted largely to tending activities - especially removal of competing bamboos, vines and weeds. Average tending costs per hectare are US$93 compared with average planting costs of US$252 per hectare.

Success factors and challenges

Achieving sustainable forest management at Deramakot has not been easy. There are, however, a number of exceptional management features that have helped Deramakot to progress.

Willingness to change

The primary factor in successfully implementing sustainable practices at Deramakot has been the willingness of Forestry Department staff to accept change. The Director of the Forest Department was convinced forestry in Sabah would need to change, and a model FMU would help in convincing staff and private sector operators. The opportunity to start developing a model forest arose when GTZ sought such a possibility. Even then, it took quite some time to bring about an attitudinal change. The initial skepticism wore off as the project began to evolve. The development of the model was not easy, and required immense flexibility in developing and implementing new management approaches. But by the time the first review of criteria and indicators was conducted, the staff at Deramakot had acquired considerable experience and confidence. The results convinced them that developments at Deramakot were setting the direction for the future management for all of Sabah's forest estate.

Political endorsement

A visit to Deramakot by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad in August 1997 instilled much-needed confidence in the project and may, in fact, have sparked the beginning of a real change in the mindset of skeptics. This was especially important because responsibilities to implement the programme lay with former skeptics in the Sabah Forestry Department. The visit of the Prime Minister provided political endorsement to the project.

Sam Mannan, Deputy Director of Operations at the Sabah Forestry Department, who has been involved extensively at Deramakot, presented a paper describing the Deramakot experience during a seminar on practising sustainable forest management. Mannan reported: "Without political commitment from state leaders, the concept of Deramakot could not have been expanded to other areas of Sabah. Therefore, get politically certified first. It is the most important certificate you will need."


An important factor in the success of the Deramakot Model was the GTZ-assisted training that developed specific skills for Sabah Forestry Department staff in managing the forest reserve. A well-structured and coordinated training programme has maintained a clear focus on prescribed outcomes among senior management, supervisors, technicians and forest workers from the Sabah Forestry Department as well as the FMU holders.


The project had several setbacks in the early stages of its implementation including a high turnover of staff, lack of capable and experienced staff to carry out the demands of the sustainable forest management programmes and excessive bureaucracy. Several changes in management structures were made to address these bottlenecks and these were facilitated through dialogue and consultations with different stakeholders. These consultations helped to define the roles and functions of the respective stakeholders, as well as to allow expression of expectations and resolution of conflicts.

Perhaps the stakeholders whose cooperation was most needed at the beginning were the logging contractors. According to the thinking of conventional loggers, the main goal was to remove as much timber as possible; the method of extraction was not critical. To change the loggers' operational style was a major challenge. Over several consultations, however, the logging crew began to modify their practices. The head of the company posted himself in the forest to provide direct support for change. The head supervisor and logging crew met every evening to discuss problems and solutions. Eventually, the logging crew itself provided ideas on how best to minimize logging damage to the residual trees and to the soil and waterways.

"In spite of all the difficulties, 80 percent of the Deramakot programme is now in place," indicated Jeflus Sinagin, Head of the Forest Management Plan Division of the Sabah Forestry Department.

Multiple-use forest policy

Although Deramakot's management was directed principally at proving that timber management could be conducted sustainably, other conservation and social issues were not ignored. At the very start, when the project was formulated, one key feature was the adoption of a multiple-use policy. This policy was observed throughout the formulation and implementation of the model. One important early aspect of the project was implementation of a thorough survey of the forest's wildlife and the hunting and gathering practices of neighbouring villages. Various potential features for ecotourism were explored. Discussions were held with local villagers on their specific needs, such as gathering of fruits, nuts, resins and hunting activities. Segments of the forest area were identified for the continuation of such practices. The waterways were given substantial protection so that the water quality downstream would not be compromised. Besides management attention to production areas, green buffer areas were set aside. Biodiversity issues were heavily weighted during the planning process, and areas encompassing unique vegetation were demarcated for protection. Sociocultural and heritage issues were profiled during the planning stage. In addition, the logging company proactively attempted to ensure that jobs were allocated first to the people living in the adjacent villages.

Albert Radin, the newly appointed coordinator of the project, affirmed that the multiple-use policy could work because it had the potential to generate additional revenue from ecotourism. "Not least, it has provided employment to the general public," Radin explained. "The Sabah Forestry Department is here to provide technical support to all FMU holders based on the Deramakot experience to help make the model work."

The multiple-use management potential of the area was clearly and thoroughly explored, but the final decision was that under current demographic conditions, and given the remoteness of the area, it would be quite some time before the timber value of the forest would be superseded by the value of other services. But management has carefully charted the areas in Deramakot that could potentially be valuable for multiple-use management in future, such as for ecotourism or other non-timber uses. Management activities are planned carefully and implemented to ensure that these values are not negated by current management practices that emphasize timber harvesting.


It is often said that managing forests on a sustainable basis will pay for itself. Longer term profitability and reductions in rehabilitation costs make sustainability a financially desirable objective, particularly when environmental and social values are properly accounted for. But to initialize the process, the Sabah Government has been experimenting with several approaches, including providing financial incentives. In 2002, for example, it lowered the royalty rates on logs by US$2.65 per cubic metre to encourage FMU holders to adopt reduced impact logging techniques.

The Forestry Department is also working with other federal government departments to consider a Group Tax Relief incentive that would enable diversified companies to offset their group earnings against business investments in forestry.

Currently, no fiscal incentives have been offered by the government for managing forests using the principles developed at Deramakot. If, however, the Deramakot Model proves its long-term financial viability, and is attractive to consumer markets, then other FMUs are likely to follow the Deramakot example.

Changing mindsets

As Sam Mannan claimed: "The Deramakot Model must multiply in order for sustainable forest management to be truly accepted throughout Sabah." Importantly, the model is not merely about introducing changes in techniques of harvesting trees. It first requires a change in mindset - that sustainable forest management is the only way the forestry sector can remain productive in the long term. In Sabah, where many stakeholders remain complacent about forest resources, the Deramakot Model is nearly revolutionary. The planning, preparation and training required are substantial at all steps from preliminary planning, to fieldwork, and to the difficult task of getting private logging companies to comply with new rules. The entire process requires close scrutiny by professional certifying agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations and the general public.

Forest management continues to advance in Sabah. In 1997, the Forestry Department launched a programme of "smart partnership" with 10 private concessionaires to operate Sustainable Forest Management License Agreements (SFMLAs) covering a total area of approximately 1.6 million hectares. Under the programme, the Sabah Forestry Department trains employees of the licensee, provides technical advice, formulates policies and coordinates the overall work of the FMUs. The role of the SFMLA holders is to invest in, implement and safeguard sustainable forest management - similar to the role of FMU holders in the Deramakot Model. Although the "smart partnership" programme provided the basis for sustainable management, the initiative hit a minor snag when several of the concessionaires failed to perform. The Gover nment of Sabah has subsequently recommended that the licenses of two of the ten SFMLA concessionaires should be revoked.


After 13 years of refinement, the Deramakot Model serves as a significant initiative - proof that with political support and institutional commitment, sustainable forest management can be attained. However, there are still uncertainties. Even though Deramakot has achieved ecological and social sustainability, it has not yet demonstrated financial sustainability. This is a difficult challenge in light of the runaway profits earned in the logging sector in the past. From an economic perspective, however, the Deramakot Model has proved effective by eliminating the high environmental costs associated with previous unsustainable logging.

More work is needed to refine the Deramakot Model to ensure long-term profitability. In the meantime, it is impossible to be certain that ultimately the Deramakot Model will be successfully translated to the whole of Sabah. The present sentiment and momentum lend confidence, however, that the Sabah Forestry Department will succeed and the hard work carried out in developing the Deramakot Model will yield a major pay-off.

About the authors

John Tay has a Ph.D. from the University of North Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, having earlier completed a B.Sc. in Forest Resource Management at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Currently, Dr Tay works at the School of International Tropical Forestry of the Universiti Malaysia Sabah. He lectures in tropical forest management and harvesting technologies. From 1987 to 2003, he was Principal Forest Officer for Innoprise Corporation, a semi-government organization that has forest concessions in Sabah. He has published and presented more than 20 forestry-related papers.

Kan Yaw Chong has a BA from the University of Queensland, Australia, where he majored in economics. In 1975, he returned to Sabah, where he taught economics at La Salle Secondary School in Kota Kinabalu for 10 years. In 1986, he switched to journalism and has since won numerous state and national journalism awards, including the Best Malaysian Sports Writer (1979), the Tourism Malaysia Gold Award (1997) and the Malaysian Environmental Journalism Grand Prize (2001-2002). In late 2002, he participated in a six-week training course on the Conservation and Management of Natural Terrestrial Environment for Malaysia, sponsored by the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA). Kan is a special writer with the Daily Express, a leading English newspaper in Sabah.

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