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Rural organizations in forestry

C. Chandrasekharan

C. CHANDRASEKHARAN is Senior Forestry Planning Officer, FAO, Rome.

Without effective local organizations it is difficult to institute forestry programmes in rural areas

The overwhelming majority of people in developing countries live in rural areas, which for them are typically characterized by persistent poverty, unemployment, landlessness, land tenure problems, lack of educational and training facilities, social repression and tension, inadequacy of services and a large disparity in both control of resources and income.

The goal of rural development is to transform rural life and activities by removing as many constraints as possible, thus enabling the population to attain economic and social progress. In any major strategy employed to achieve such a goal, it is necessary to have supportive government policies, public investments in various infrastructures, appropriate technologies and - crucial for ensuring and coordinating the contribution of the other components effective systems of organization.

The actual nature and scope of any system of rural organizations will vary depending on the factors influencing them. Broadly speaking, a system will comprise three forms of organization - public-sector bureaucracy, private-sector institutions and local organization. None of these, alone, can succeed in promoting rural development. The best approach is a combination of the three forms, adapted to the particular needs of each area.

The growth of rural organizations in forestry is affected by the same factors that influence other fields of rural life. Historical factors such as feudal land-ownership and political and economic developments related to the use of the forest resource have had a deep influence. Furthermore, because of the integrated nature of rural life and needs, rural organizations, unlike urban ones, are not always differentiated by activity or sector.

The nature, range and pattern of linkages and combinations of forestry organizations in all aspects of production, processing and marketing arc influenced by one or more of a variety of factors. These are:

· the nature of forest or forest industry ownership (public, private or communal);

· the type of resource-generating activity (large-scale forestry, wood lots, small holdings, agroforestry practices, plantations along transportation corridors, mixed farming);

· the kinds of products (timber bamboo, rattan, resin, gums, honey mushrooms, medicinal plants, etc.);

· the type of processing (large, medium- or small-scale, artisanal);

· the nature of services (support to agriculture and grazing, game, recreation, environmental conservation)

· the purpose of the use of the resource (employment, income generation, supply of goods and services export, overall rural development);

· the nature of rural participation (as producers, consumers, employees beneficiaries);

· the system of administration and control (centralized, decentralized);

· the nature and structure of linkages with other organizations and activities (for financing, primary and secondary processing, infrastructure marketing, and ancillary activities);

· technology (intensity of management, production and processing technology);

· the social composition of the community (income distribution, culture, education and skills).

Forests are mainly found in the least-developed rural areas. Accordingly, although forestry plays a major role in supplying urban needs and promoting industrialization and export earnings all worthwhile objectives - it is of equal or greater importance in promoting the prosperity of rural areas. Forestry plays an integral role in rural development by helping to meet people's basic needs for wood, fuel, food and forage, as well as providing sources of additional income and employment, ensuring agricultural productivity and enhancing the environment.

Forests constitute a renewable source of valuable raw materials that are currently in increasing demand and that have little prospect of being replaced by economically and environmentally acceptable substitutes. Forest management can be labour-intensive, but it is also highly flexible in operational timing, thus allowing it to interact with and complement other activities in rural sectors. Furthermore, forest industries are characterized by strong forward and backward links. In some of the primary forest processing activities, such as sawmilling and charcoal-making, labour inputs can substitute for capital in cases where there are no marked economics of scale.

The conflicts arising from the different roles of forestry and the consequent trade-offs make it necessary to have appropriate checks and balances for ensuring positive impacts. In this regard, the strength of the organizational system - involving bureaucracy (public administration), private-sector commercial enterprises and local organizations - becomes the dominant influence.

AFRICAN REFUGEES GATHERING FUELWOOD without effective organizations, the work is even harder

Public administration. Public administration related to forestry (including quasi-governmental agencies and parastatal bodies) can, and in many cases does, play an important role in sup porting rural development. This is done through policy formulation, regulations, financing, extension and delivery of services, provision of infrastructures and marketing assistance. Technological changes that are designed to generate development opportunities for the poor sections of society also usually depend upon government. Many developing countries have established strong control over their forests as a means of promoting growth and/or development.

Different governments have adopted different combinations of organizational arrangements. At the top level, these may be quite complex, while at the lower, rural level they tend to be comparatively simple.

The forest service

The most common example of public organization for forestry is the Forest Service, an institution with varying degrees of importance according to the country. In some countries, Forestry is a division of a major department such as Natural Resources or Agriculture, where it normally performs both line responsibilities and functional roles. The functional units deal with production, protection, wildlife management and watershed management. The units can be designed to be fully integrated with the service (or department) or to be fairly independent subagencies. In certain cases, some functions are segregated and given parallel status as a separate department. This happens with the Wildlife Department in some countries where the forest itself and wildlife are under the control of different departments.

Generally, forest services have exclusive control of all their line functions. There are also cases where they are involved in managing processing plants such as sawmills, plywood mills and so on. However, in other cases the forestry staff work under area administrators (provincial governors, district commissioners, heads of development blocks) with the Forestry Department providing only technical support. These arrangements have both advantages and disadvantages.

At the rural level the functions and roles of the agencies related to forestry could include:

· protection of forest property and enforcement of law and order;

· collection of revenue, issuing of permits and licences, controlling logging and collection of forest products, and management of forest plantations and nurseries;

· management, control and utilization of common or communal forests based on appropriate rules and regulations;

· implementation of rules and regulations related to trees and forests in private lands, including registration of growers and collection of levies;

· licensing and control of production, processing and marketing activities;

· organizing supplies and sales of fuelwood, raw materials for processing industries and other useful forest products;

· provision of extension services and supply of seedlings and planting materials to rural households and farmers;

· other special functions, such as carrying out development programmes, community forestry, rural afforestation, marketing and the promotion of tourism.

Depending upon the structure and division of roles between agencies and subordinate bodies, there could be several individuals or groups of functionaries at the rural level reporting either to their respective and separate superiors or to the chief of the office at the rural level. Thus, depending upon circumstances, the government forestry institution at the rural level may be a "beat" office, a forest post, a forest nursery unit, a range office or the office of a special project.

The normal situation is that functionaries have no discretionary or decision-making powers at the village level. Except for their roles in forest protection, policing and revenue collection, forestry institutions at the rural level were in the past mostly isolated from the larger society. The involvement of the Forest Service in such aspects of rural and community development as agroforestry, shifting cultivation, rural employment programmes, income generation and service delivery has given foresters new roles, quite different from those they have been accustomed to playing.

According to many observers, the major weaknesses of many forestry services in performing their role at the rural level are: (1) lack of meaningful dialogue or consultation with the local people; (2) no access to centralized decision-making mechanisms; (3) lack of coordination with other rural activities, a problem exacerbated when decisions are made from afar; (4) neglect of rural units when there are insufficient staff and funds; and (5) a general tendency toward bad management because of the concentration of large and valuable resources with weak organizational units.

Other agencies. In many cases, certain aspects of forestry administration and management, directly or indirectly, still fall under the responsibility of other government agencies. Examples of direct responsibility include: afforestation and protection of watershed areas by agricultural, hydroelectric or irrigation agencies; forestry activities related to employment programmes by social welfare departments; and control of forest land by land revenue departments or land boards, which allow forest departments control only over tree growth.

The role of national investment authorities and development banks in promoting investment in forestry may be an indirect one.- The financing scheme of the Philippines Development Bank for smallholder tree farms is a case in point (see the article by E.L. Hyman in Unasylva, vol. 35, no. 139). Agencies dealing with village industries, medium- and large-scale industries, commerce and industrial and domestic energy are some of the other bodies concerned with forestry.

When several agencies oversee forestry matters, the problem of coordination becomes very serious, especially at the rural level. The situation becomes even worse when there are no functional or constitutional divisions of responsibilities.

UGANDA'S MARK III CHARCOAL KILN training for youth organizations, forest rangers and company managers

A VILLAGE IN NORTHERN THAILAND the nucleus for rural forestry development

THINNING A CHINESE FIR PLANTATION IN HUBEI PROVINCE commune members manage and harvest their own forests

With the exception of a few cases of workers' cooperatives, forestry in many developing countries a sector where labour is entirely casual and unorganized. Unions as a tool for collective bargaining for wages and benefits hardly exist.

Parastatal bodies. The development of different types of parastatal bodies in the forestry sector is a resent innovation. Some are designed as commercial enterprises involved in production, processing, trade and marketing. Others also have a development component, such as providing support services to rural communities. Some parastatal bodies supply raw materials to small- or large-scale production units and arrange to market the products on a no-profit, no-loss basis. The handicraft boards and marketing corporations in developing countries belong to this category. Most of these bodies and government-owned companies operate a network of rural units such as collection and distribution points for products or raw materials, processing plants and sales depots. There are several successful cases of parastatal commercial organizations, but sometimes they tend to combine the negative aspects of both public and private sectors, resulting in more social costs than social benefits.

Parastatal bodies may be formed also for non-commercial activities. Here they act primarily as development councils or boards, giving advice and information or acting in a coordinating and overseeing capacity.

In all types of public administration in forestry, centralized decision-making is the normal practice. There is little, if any, delegation of powers. The people rarely participate or are consulted, except in cases where forest lands are communally owned, as in the island countries of the South Pacific. Even in these cases decisions can often be imposed from above. Under the pretext that local institutions lack the capacity to manage forests situated on communal lands, governments may assume control of them.

The people's participation in most forms of forestry activity under government administration is generally limited to wage labour. Unless this situation is changed it will be difficult to promote strong local organizations. It is necessary, in most cases, to make public forestry administration systems more directly related to the circumstances of the rural people and to the growing and complex demands of economic and social development.

Private-sector organizations. Private-sector organizations, including joint-sector enterprises, play an important role in the forestry and forest-based industries. Such organizations cover a wide range: private forest owners, individuals or companies, privately owned processing firms using wood and forest produce, private trading firms, and private firms offering services related to forestry and forest industry. They are all represented at the rural level, either directly or through agents and field outfits, depending upon the size of the enterprise. In addition to providing rural employment and income, these private organizations also offer other development opportunities.

The processing industries, which use a wide range of technology, may range from non-mechanized cottage-scale operations to large-scale processing plants. Even when large-scale industrial plants such as pulp mills and plywood factories are located in urban or peripheral areas, their linkages with rural areas for raw material and other inputs are very strong. It is therefore in the interest of industrial firms - such as sawmills, pulp and paper mills, tobacco companies, match factories and resin factories - to encourage and support production of forest raw materials by offering reasonable technical and marketing arrangements. In the long run, private enterprises themselves stand to gain by helping rural people to improve their skills and capabilities.

Examples of successful private initiatives in partnership with rural groups are not lacking. A well-known case is that of the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP). However, small producers of wood, forest products and handicrafts in the rural areas are, in most cases, constrained by the lack of accessible marketing channels and by the tactics of exclusive buying agents. Intermediaries, contractors and middlemen tend to exploit small producers whenever they are unorganized. Exploitation also affects rural labour in forestry. Local organizations, therefore, are particularly helpful for the weaker sections of rural society.

A free and balanced interplay of private and local organizations in forestry at the rural level is a necessary condition for the development of forestry for rural welfare.

Local organizations in forestry. The lack of appropriate local organizations has been a major barrier to developing successful forestry programmes at the rural level. In several situations, it has aggravated the negative impacts of rural forestry programmes, as illustrated by De Aths (1980) in the case of the Gogol Timber Project in Papua New Guinea. Even simple cooperatives are much less known and less widespread in forestry than in agriculture (Digby and Edwardson, 1976).

Several governments have recently taken initiatives to promote local institutions in the forestry sector. Some of the successful cases constitute excellent examples of their usefulness and relevance.

Other local organizations. Local organizations include non-governmental membership organizations such as cooperatives, farmers' associations, tenant leagues and ethnic unions which are accountable, in varying degrees, to their memberships. Local elected governments (the village assembly or village council) and grass roots-level political organizations are also sometimes included in the broad category of local organizations. The latter are seen as institutions with an integrity of their own, having specified goals which are achieved by implementing group decisions and observing group rules. Their mode of operation is "bottom-up". Local organizations may encompass vertical connections (on the bottom-up principle), thus gaining linkages to levels of organization above the village community, up to and including national institutions.

Local organizations are not substitutes for public- or private-sector services, investments or activities. Rather they serve to fill in the organizational gap between bureaucracy and rural communities. They articulate local interests and perspectives to make a bureaucracy more responsive to individual and group needs. They represent collective activities to meet needs not satisfied by profit-oriented private activities. They are also potentially useful to augment efforts toward rural development. The lack of such organizations has been found to be one of the key barriers to effective rural development. Thus, they constitute a "third" sector, balanced between the public and private sectors (Esman and Uphof, 1982).

There is great variability in the structure and performance of local organizations. Depending upon what criteria are used, they can be classified in various ways: locally initiated or initiated from the outside; voluntary, induced or compulsory; formal, informal or customary; egalitarian or non-egalitarian; large or small; executive decision-making or consensual decision-making; cooperative associations or interest associations; homogeneous or heterogeneous in relation to economic, social and sex composition. For the present purpose the different kinds of local organizations can be grouped into three: constituency organizations, locally accountable membership associations, and interest associations.

"Constituency organizations" are capable of more effective interactions with a service-providing bureaucracy, and must be considered as an integral component of administrative infrastructure in the design and implementation of service delivery programmes to rural areas. In that sense, village assemblies and village councils can be classed as local constituency organizations. A typical example of constituency organization is the local development associations. They are area-based, bringing together most of the people within a community, area or region to promote its own development. The membership of local development associations is as heterogeneous as the communities involved, and they are multifunctional in that they undertake a wide variety of tasks. They have some of the characteristics of the local government, but they differ in that they are not comprehensive in their responsibilities or legal powers.

"Locally accountable membership associations" are voluntary organizations with defined objectives, responsibilities and obligations. Most often they are similar in nature to cooperatives, whether registered as such under relevant regulations or not. In purpose, they are more functional than egalitarian. They may be single-purpose credit organizations, procurers of inputs and services, production or marketing groups or multi-purpose associations.

"Interest associations" are formed on the basis of cohesive groups having a common interest. They are normally egalitarian. Non-local interest associations of professionals, scientists and citizens concerned with rural problems cannot strictly be included here, even though they may have a positive impact on rural development. Small homogeneous groups which share common needs and social positions, interest associations are an effective starting-point to give the least advantaged groups their own organization. Constituency-type organizations for the rural disadvantaged groups are difficult to form immediately. These smaller groups can join larger organizations when they are strong enough.

Area-based structures. Local organizations with an area-based, integrated and multidisciplinary structure are likely to be successful in the development process, in situations either of relative autonomy at the village level or of collective ownership of land and mass participation. In such cases, the organizational components tend to be well-balanced and mutually linked info an integrated system.

In the People's Republic of China, collective forest farms and several types of forestry enterprises are run by People's Communes or "Promotion Brigades", which balance land and labour inputs into agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry. The State forest farms and large industrial establishments are also managed under participatory systems. Similar or comparable approaches have been tried in some other countries; for example, Burma, Ethiopia and Laos. Under the

"Burmese way to socialism", both village and township councils are involved in advisory and participatory roles in forestry activities falling within their respective jurisdictions.

AT A FUELWOOD PLANTATION IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA nearly two million households belong to Village Forestry Associations

Forest land-resource cooperatives. An often-cited, successful example of the organization of forest cooperatives is the Village Forestry Association system of the Republic of Korea. It is a system with a comprehensive programme for the improvement of community life that includes several aspects of forestry - timber and fuelwood production, reforestation, forest protection, non-timber forest products, processing and marketing.

The system, which covers the whole country, consists of a hierarchy of forestry associations (Village Forestry Associations and Forestry Association Unions at the regional level, and National Federation of Forestry Association Unions at the national level), with higher tiers carrying out supervisory and technical guidance functions. It combines voluntary decision-making by village associations with a national programme for forestry development. Based on the Provisional Law of Forest Protection (1951), which provided for the organization and activities of Village Forestry Associations as independent legal entities, and the Forest Development Law (1972), the system was spurred on by the principle and spirit of Saemaul Undung (The New Community Movement) in the early 1970s into a dynamic cooperative movement for forestry development.

The multi-tiered network of over 21000 forestry associations at the village level has a membership of some two million households. Its framework of forestry and land-use legislation, taken as a package, supplies national guidance and directives for a comprehensive programme. The Government is involved at all levels through subsidies, loans, technical support and cooperation with private organizations, thus linking planning and action between government and village-level organizations through clearly delineated lines of authority and interaction.

A number of factors have helped the programme of the Republic of Korea to succeed: availability of land; flexible organizations; broad-based and rational approaches; the combination of top-down and bottom-up planning and administration; an emphasis on incentives such as an increase in short-term income; adequate attention to the importance of research and appropriate technology; government commitment and strong logistical support; assured financial resources and access to them at the rural level: strong laws and effective enforcement; and a tradition of village cooperation (FAO, 1982).

Access to land as a factor deserves special mention, since 73 percent of the forest area in the Republic of Korea is under private ownership. Moreover, about 58 percent of the forest land owned privately is in holdings of fewer than 10 ha. The average size of holdings is 2.6 ha.

Japan has a comparable forestry situation - 58 percent of the country's forest-land area is owned by some 3 million private owners. Ninety-four percent of the private forest owners are farmers, 91 percent of whom own fewer than 5 ha. There are village forest owners' associations, which are legal entities registered under the Basic Forest Law of 1951 and the recent Forest Owners' Association Law. As in the case of the Republic of Korea, village forest owners' associations in Japan carry out several activities - such as wood growing, logging, wood processing and marketing - aimed at rationalization of forest management and an increase in forest productivity. At the prefectural level there is a Federation of Village Forest Owners' Associations, and at the national level a National Federation of Forest Owners' Associations. The system receives financial and technical support from national and prefectural governments.

Conditions for setting up systems of forest cooperatives are not as favourable in most countries as they are in the Republic of Korea. In Guatemala, for example, forest cooperatives function only as a simple land-based production activity. Some Indian communities there, each consisting of approximately 60 families, have formed production cooperatives based on a forest resource of about 10000 ha of communal forests per cooperative. The social afforestation cooperatives of Ecuador follow similar lines.

GUATEMALAN COOPERATIVE WORKERS IN THE ALTIPLANO international assistance spurs rural organizations

Other types of forest cooperatives. There are many other types of forest cooperatives. Their structure depends upon the resources and objectives of the participants. Among these, forest labour cooperatives are quite important. They are based on skills and are equipped for carrying out contract work for such activities as tree planting, forest management operations, timber extraction and timber transport.

In some states of India more than 50 percent of the timber extraction from government forests is carried out by forest labour cooperatives. As they have increased in number, district federations and apex bodies have been formed. Some are running training facilities and other welfare activities for the members' benefit. Tribal cooperative societies of ethnic minority groups living in and around forest areas are also active in several states of India. They are involved mostly in operations such as the collection of forest products and taungya cultivation. Another important group of cooperatives procures the needed production inputs for its members and markets their finished products - handicrafts, rattan work and other products of cottage industries.

Most of these cooperatives have been formed with government support. Their aims have been to free the workers and small-scale operators from exploitation by contractors and middlemen; to ensure fair wages and working conditions; to provide experience to workers the management of cooperatives; and to improve the socio-economic conditions of disadvantaged groups. Nonetheless, significant numbers of these cooperatives fail. They fail because of unsound planning, the depletion or periodical unavailability of resources, deficiencies in regulations, or lack of accountability and discipline.

With the exception of a few cases of workers' cooperatives, forestry in many developing countries is a sector where labour is entirely casual and unorganized. Unions as a tool for collective bargaining for wages and benefits hardly exist.

At the same time, formal and informal associations of skilled and well-to-do groups are far from lacking. They cover a wide range of interests, from sawmillers' associations and plywood manufacturers' associations to trader-dealers' unions. They are characterized by the exchange and acquisition of technical information, price negotiation and the exclusive buying of finished products from the seller (i.e., "monopsonistic buying", which prevents the seller from acceding to more than one buyer market). They also lobby in order to obtain special advantages from the government.

It is in the interest of forest industries to encourage and support production of forest raw materials by offering reasonable technical and marketing arrangements. In the long run, private enterprises stand to gain by helping rural people to improve their skills and capabilities.

Traditional organizations. Traditional rural organizations such as village councils and councils of family heads and chiefs often hold common land under customary regulations, with individuals or families enjoying only user rights. In several cases, governments have also transferred adjoining forest lands to village councils for common use under different arrangements.

There have been isolated instances of notable success, but in most cases the lack of regulation and technical know-how, combined with the poverty of the members, has led to failures or only small improvements.

As a result, governments have often intervened to improve the situation. Their usual practice is to modify traditional systems to suit present-day needs. In general, they have done it by involving the local population in afforestation, management and environmental protection and by providing new directives and controls.

In Arunachal Pradesh (India), for example, forests are owned by local village councils - the Anchal Samithis - and exploited to meet local requirements. Until some time ago these forests were subject to uncontrolled fellings. The Government then passed the Anchal Forest Act, bringing them under the management of the Forest Department with the consent of the Anchal Samithis. The Act ensures continued participation of the Samithis in management decisions and the utilization of the forest's revenue for development purposes, including social infrastructures and establishment of wood-processing industries.

In Nepal the local Panchayats - administrative units grouping villages of 2000-4000 people - are responsible for the planting and protection of trees in the Panchayat Forests, which are government-owned wastelands. In return, they enjoy all rights to their produce. The Panchayats also manage the Panchayat Protection Forests, adopting a viable management system. There too, in return, the Panchayat can collect fuelwood, fodder and minor forest products for local uses. They also receive 75 percent of any revenues derived from the sale of timber and other forest products. In the Gujarat State of India, the Forest Department, in association with the Panchayats, has established wood-lots in over 3000 villages.

Rural movements. In the absence of effective local organizations, spontaneous movements can help to bring local problems into focus. In the Indian village of Gopeswar in Uttar Pradesh, the Chipko movement began in 1972 as a protest movement against the excessive felling of trees. This practice had led to erosion and floods. Chipko means "hug" or "hugging" and describes the gesture of protest adopted by the villagers, who started hugging the trees to save them from felling. The movement spread gradually to other areas and helped correct situations that were arousing the hostility of the local populations. It also created considerable awareness of proper forest management, which was necessary to ensure ecological stability as well as to supply the community with essentials such as fuelwood and fodder.

Interest groups and associations. Locally based small groups, bound by a common interest, can be found in forestry and allied activities. They are informal and mostly temporary associations of woodcutters, fuelwood collectors or charcoal makers. In general, they have little impact on the rural scene.

Outside interest groups and associations in forestry and related areas can be of great help in supporting rural movements and campaigns. In recent years there has been increasing involvement of non-local interest groups and associations in forestry. An example is the Green Belt Programme of the National Council of the Women of Kenya. Some of these groups may find it difficult to gain the confidence of rural people and governments. However, the importance of their role, provided it is properly directed toward pressing problems, should not be underestimated.

A free and balanced interplay of private and local organizations in forestry at the rural level is a necessary condition for the development of forestry for rural welfare. Unfortunately, in most cases, the situation is characterized by an isolated bureaucracy, profit-oriented private interests and a scarcity of local organizations. The overall impact on forestry is severely adverse.

The new ideology of integrated rural development carries an implied criticism of existing institutions at the rural level and suggests a coordinated multidisciplinary approach and multi-sectoral operations. If this is to be achieved effectively, it is necessary to involve local organizations in planning, decision-making and control. This implies the promotion of appropriate local organizations through financial support, extension, training, technical assistance and a system of incentives. Resources and skills available within the private sector can be used to complement other development efforts.

It is also essential to equip the public forestry administration with a philosophy and purpose consistent with the development needs of the community. A new approach that is flexible, includes an understanding of human behaviour and is free of patronizing attitudes would be best suited to mobilizing popular support and commitment. In short, strong political will should be present. The successful cases in this regard are all examples of immense political will.


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