V. Forests and future directions

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In the past, national governments treated forests as bounded stocks of wood that could be enhanced, maintained or converted to improve national welfare. These earlier approaches made use of centralized ministries and sectoral policies to generate revenue and foreign exchange. Today, governments are recognizing that sources of wood are found beyond conventional forest jurisdictions and that forest benefits and services go beyond wood.

This broader view of what forests are and what they contribute requires national strategies and policies to integrate forests in rural development efforts and balance economic and environmental needs among local, national and international interests. Governments are searching for pragmatic policy frameworks that deal coherently with both the contributions of forests to development and the organizational structures required to make better use of these contributions. In this context, forests are now in the forefront of national policy debates about how to restructure economic and political systems and how such structural changes can be made consistent with national interests in local action, social and sectoral distribution and international obligations.

However, governments are also increasingly making commitments to policy norms that may not be compatible with one another: market liberalization, poverty alleviation, deficit reductions, decentralization, free trade, food security, global relations, privatization and sustainability. In this context, local, national and global policy interests in forests differ widely and, at all these levels, policies provide opportunities and incentives to increase or decrease forest goods and services. These sometimes conflicting expectations create difficult policy challenges in dealing with both the forest sector and national development.

Evolving concepts and shifting priorities are also placing additional strains on national capacity to manage individual forest units. For instance, sustainability in forestry has evolved from focusing on sustained yield of timber to a much broader concept of managing ecological processes, environmental services and economic and social goods. Like the concept of sustainable development, incorporating this broad range of values into sustainable forestry management is appealing, but difficult in practice. The approach to sustainability depends on the perspective adopted.

In addressing the wide spectrum of priorities between local and global perspectives and responding to interest groups which may have competing objectives, trade-offs are inevitable. Critically important issues of equity and morality arise when the interests and welfare of local communities, with limited options and capacity to find alternatives for their subsistence differ with national or international priorities. Consulting and compensating those who are poorly served by the priorities selected is essential; the public must be involved in setting priorities.

For all these reasons, national governments are challenged to mesh people's needs with national and global interests; to use policies that determine forest conditions in ways that help improve opportunities for people and communities; and to understand better how interactions among sectoral policies and macropolicies influence people's use of forests and the consequences of such use on national development.

This final section examines the practical ways in which nations are attempting to resolve these complex issues. For instance, by: introducing new types of community forestry programmes; strengthening organizational and analytical capacity to carry out sustainable forestry management; and making use of international strategies to move forestry forwards.

Community forestry

Recent experiences at the local level, in community forestry programmes, provide lessons in new forms of local governance aimed at addressing the interests of people who depend on the forest. There is now a need and an opportunity to invest these lessons in arrangements that also capture the intersectoral and macro policy relations that determine what people do with forest resources.

Until the early 1970s, central governments tended to blame rural communities for forest destruction; local communities over-harvested fuelwood, allowed livestock to overgraze and illegally converted land to crop agriculture. Local needs increasingly conflicted with national needs and, during much of this period, governments responded by nationalizing forests, restricting local access, curtailing community rights and introducing police authority. Over time, this authoritarian approach displaced community-centred cultures, broke up well-established common property resource traditions and resulted in increased forest destruction.

State control meant keeping people away from forests. Agriculture and forestry were considered separate and, to some extent, mutually exclusive land-use activities. However, it became evident that the expansion of state control and curtailing of community rights ignored fundamental linkages between the forests, agriculture and people as integral components of the rural ecosystem. Food security, income, nutrition, employment, energy sources and overall well-being of rural families were linked to the forests.

During the 1970s, as the importance of these linkages became more apparent (and as attention focused increasingly on rural development issues) new types of national-local cooperative forestry activities emerged. Governments an donors realized that deforestation would not be solved through technical interventions and state control. A broader approach, involving local communities, was needed to address the social, economic, and demographic issues related to rural societies. This reassessment prompted policy-makers to ask several basic questions, such as: What should be the prime concern, communities or forests? Are communities to be used for forestry development or should forests be used to facilitate community development?

The answers to these questions resulted in a new approach that attempted to integrate forestry and communities into a single framework of policy and action, especially in areas with endemic poverty and severe forest depletion. The reoriented policies and programmes aimed at supporting forestry for people and encouraging rural populations to participate in forestry and conservation efforts. Community forestry is the well-known umbrella term for these participatory activities, which include farm forestry, social forestry, joint forest management and extractive reserves. There are subtle distinctions among programmes, but all involve a form of forestry that is based on local interests and depends on community participation - not industrial timber production. Community forestry attempts to account for diverse situations by strengthening local stakes in management. Nonetheless, community programmes and activities must operate in the context of national-level approaches that involve uniform policy structures. For instance, macro and sectoral policies affect local-level forest use by influencing such factors as: i) the level of competition for non-forest land uses (agricultural, grazing and industrial uses and the relative prices for their products); ii) ease of access to forest products (unguarded public forests, low-cost agricultural wood, commercial fuels and other fodder sources); and iii) access to markets and availability of services. Community forestry activities attempt to work within this policy context by directly influencing the use of individual forests through formal and informal agreements between the government and local groups.

Community forestry arrangements are often in the form of contracts which establish the terms of the programme (e.g. who invests what and how the products are distributed) and the participants' relative capacities to provide and control resources and technical expertise.

The overall policy environment creates opportunities for using forests opportunities that vary from site to site while the contracts determine the means and extent to which these opportunities are fulfilled.

Community forestry experiences from around the world illustrate diversity in: the products harvested; the organization of local users; the politics surrounding access; the initial conditions; and contractual arrangements. The variety of products, services and interested parties makes it difficult to classify cases and policies into successes and failures. However, it is evident that different types of users can cooperate and manage programmes, plant trees and restore forests.

On the other hand, as a result of top-down planning, many projects more accurately reflect planners' perceptions of people's needs rather than local people's ideas of their own needs. A recent FAO review of community forestry notes several patterns that differ from what had been assumed or intended by the planners:

Other studies question community forestry achievements and some of its aims. Criticisms include the following: people did not participate to the expected level; the extensive practice of monoculture has been ecologically destructive in some cases; many fuelwood plantations produced industrial and commercial timber rather than relieving fuelwood shortages; and a weak commitment to gender equity (many programmes treated the household as a unit) has worsened rather than strengthened women's economic position and productivity (see Box 24, joint forest management in India).


India's current forest policy emphasizes the subsistence needs of forest dwellers and encourages people's participation in programmes and projects to manage and utilize forest resources. State governments involve village communities and voluntary agencies in the regeneration of forest land through a programme called joint Forest Management.

The programme's components include: i) identifying target groups and areas of degraded forest as well as the linkages between the two; ii) organizing and consulting local people for planning purposes; iii) using policies to empower local people; iv) defining authority and responsibility among the participants for forestry initiatives; v) supporting institutional development; and vi) monitoring, evaluating and adjusting the programme. More than 1.5 million degraded forests in ten states are now under joint Forest Management.

This approach became necessary as policy-makers recognized that a forest can only remain stable if it produces enough to meet the demands placed on it by humans and animals. By the end of the 1980s, research suggested that the demand for forest products was outstripping supply by a factor of almost four to one. For example, 235 million m of firewood were consumed, while the sustainable level of consumption was 58 million m ; and some 90 million cattle grazed in forests with a maximum carrying capacity of 31 million cattle.

Past attempts to correct this unsustainable situation were hampered by contradictions between national forestry policy and forestry legislation. Examples include, property laws that provide disincentives to undertake tree farming; the absence of legal means to ensure that property rights and concessions, including grazing, are limited to carrying capacity; policy statements that customary rights of tribal communities and other people living within and near forests should be fully protected, but no support provided by the government; and policy statements that grazing fees should be levied as a disincentive to maintaining large herds of non-essential livestock, but no actual enforcement.

Although joint Forest Management is a significant departure from earlier approaches, evaluations suggest that much work is needed before a genuine shift to participatory planning from top-down planning and decision-making happens. So far, few states have actually consulted local people about sharing benefits from and authority over forest areas.

In the states of West Bengal and Gujarat, forest protection groups are demanding at least So percent of the returns from timber pole harvesting instead of the 25 percent provided by the state. Forest regeneration through community protection requires little monetary outlay by the government because most of the costs are borne by the local people. Some of these costs include: the considerable labour inputs of local people; the forest produce for subsistence needs which cannot be collected while the forest regenerates; the risk of being assaulted by timber smugglers or others with vested interests; and damage to crops and homes and injuries to people caused by increased wildlife in the regenerating forests.

Despite the risks and costs to stakeholders, virtually none of the state joint Forest Management resolutions have empowered local people to maximize sustained benefit flows to themselves or to punish forest regulation offenders.

To date, commitment to gender equity is the weakest aspect of India's joint Forest Management programme. Most of the programme's state resolutions treat the household as an economic unit and assume that benefits accruing to it are shared equally among family members (despite widespread evidence that this approach does not work). Consequently, there is a danger that the contributions of women conserving and using trees and forests will be lost if only men are consulted and considered as the main actors in community organizations.

Some states have specifically asked for "a man and a woman" per household, or joint husband/wife membership in local organizations. During recent discussions with female and male programme members at three project sites, women requested that 50 percent of the shares be given to them directly, since they do 50 percent of the work. For instance, the de facto exclusion of women from decision-making meant that firewood did not emerge as a major issue in joint Forest Management. Consequently, women are forced to reduce the amount of time they spend on other productive activities because they must walk longer distances searching for cooking fuel. Their alternative is to switch to poorer fuels. When women help decide on priorities, such problems are avoided or more quickly resolved, hence gender equity is essential to better tree and forestry management.

The experience with community forestry offers some important lessons. First, just as different branches of the government often support conflicting uses for forests (such as agricultural expansion, timber production, watershed production, government revenue or local economic development), community interests differ and conflict among activities, users, user groups and communities (see Box 25). Because access to political power and economic opportunities are not uniform within a community, it is not surprising that some groups fare poorly under arrangements intended to benefit local users as a whole. This is especially true for women who are often responsible for collecting fodder, fuelwood and food items from the forest. In these cases, women are penalized by forest management policies designed to promote forest growth by reducing access to forest products .87 Addressing these concerns through national policies is feasible but may inhibit local Initiatives. It is more effective for women to decide on their own priorities and negotiate these with competing interest groups.

Second, the more successful examples from around the world point to the need to lay out explicit contracts where the returns to the parties are roughly proportional to the respective levels of investment and risk. Arrangements whereby the state government tries to collect most of the benefits create local opposition. On the other hand, arrangements with large subsidies for local users often attract considerable attention from politically powerful individuals. Even if the usurpation of rural resources can be controlled, highly subsidized projects are financially unsustainable and are rarely replicated.

Capacity development

Community forestry successes underline the advantages of strengthening the capacities of local groups and NGOs involved in forestry activities. Capacity development is needed for individual participation, communal management, comanagement with government forest services or joint ventures with private sector groups. Local and provincial groups need expanded education, skill training and funding for national forest services.


Canada has an affluent society, a low population density and a forest cover of 454 million ha. However, the forest is remote to most Canadians - by far the majority of whom are urban. Furthermore, the forest is 94 percent publicly owned and most forested areas are managed by industrial firms distant from urban centres.

Nevertheless, over the past decade Canadians have become increasingly involved in forestry issues. Significant concern about how forests are managed has been raised by environmental groups, aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities and research scientists. Many of these groups agree on four issues: that forestry has focused on timber production at the expense of all other interests; that communities should be involved in forest decision-making; that there is too much reliance on single forest-based industries, which leads to economic instability in rural areas; and that forestry practices such as clear-felling, pesticide use and road construction are environmentally damaging.

Responding to these issues through public policy is a complex undertaking because there are many stakeholders with specific concerns. The government tends to have separate mandates for managing forests, wildlife, fisheries, aboriginal affairs, community and rural development and so on. As a result, a comprehensive policy is difficult to establish and tradeoffs are made through legislation and regulations rather than discussion. Multiple legislative and policy constraints on timber management lead to conflicting requirements, onerous administrative efforts and disputes. it sometimes appears that the government has acted according to bureaucratic rules rather than using common sense.

These problems have forced provincial and federal forest agencies to seek new strategies and programmes that aim to integrate more public values into forest management. This new approach includes removing barriers between institutions with different mandates, moving to a forest management philosophy that includes all values and is not focused primarily on timber and pursuing cooperation among the various agencies and stakeholder groups so that they seek common goals.

The question, then, was how to translate this vision into a reality. Legislation, policies and guidelines were in place while licences, tenures and harvest rates were all strictly controlled. To attempt to change all these things at once was impossible, particularly since there was no clear idea of what would replace them. Therefore, it was proposed that Canada establish a series of working-scale projects aimed at effecting a transition from conventional forest management to sustainable development.

These projects were to be known as Model Forests. Each would be managed by a partnership of key stakeholders - industry, community groups, government agencies, environmental groups, academic and educational institutions, aboriginal groups and private landowners, among others, depending on geographic location; each would be a working-scale project (100 000 to 1 500 000 ha in size); each would demonstrate the integrated management of key values and would utilize state-of-the-art technology and ecologically sound forestry practices. Scientific research would be a key part of the programme of activities. Groups were invited to form partnerships and submit proposals. These proposals included a common "vision statement"; they described forest management goals and identified activities to achieve specific objectives. Ten projects were recommended to Canada's Minister of Forestry in June of 1992, and all were accepted.

Developing local and national capacity in forestry requires human resources with improved skills and capacities to formulate and implement policies, strategies and programmes; and improved institutional arrangement for economic development.

Evidence suggests that all countries need to improve their capacity to manage the growing demands on forest resources and increasing obligations to the international community. While it may be more urgent in some developing countries and those undergoing the transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economy, it is also necessary in the industrial countries. Although encouraging examples of organizational reforms and adjustments exist on a limited scale, every country faces challenges to achieve the kind of balance between development and the environment agreed to at UNCED.

Adjustment to more muItisectoral activities is required by forestry sector organizations in all countries while forest services find more effective ways to collaborate with NGOs and people's organizations. These adjustments, along with increased demands for forest resources, require more personnel with professional and technical skills and a broader range of capabilities.

FAO identifies six specific areas that require special attention to capacity-building: the ability to collect, analyse and use sectoral information for policy formulation, planning, priority-setting and programming; the capacity for dialogue and cooperation among sectors, institutions and the increased range of interest groups whose development strategies and programmes need to follow approaches to sustainability that are complementary to those for forestry; the capacity to promote sustained participation by rural communities and to provide them with adequate support, including extension; the capacity to identify, prepare, negotiate and secure funding for projects and programmes based on the demonstrable value of forest contributions; the capacity to adapt policies, laws, tenures, institutions and attitudes as well as to transform skills for effectiveness, especially in former centrally planned countries undergoing market-oriented reforms; research and technological development and research extension on the broad range of technical, socioeconomic and policy issues relevant to forestry development.


In addition to significant roles for forestry in Chapter 11, Combating deforestation; Chapter 12, Combating desertification and drought; Chapter 13, Sustainable mountain development; Chapter I 5, Conservation of biological diversity; and Chapter 10, Integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources, UNCED addressed forestry issues in three conventions.

The international dimensions

Evolving global interests in forest conditions (for carbon storage, biodiversity, wilderness, etc.) are increasing the level of international involvement in forest governance. international funding for forestry increased from $400 million per year in the mid-1980s to more than $1 billion in the early 1990s. During the last decade, a variety of new international arrangements emerged, including: international forest management protocols, debt-for-nature swaps and subsidized plantation programmes; tradable permits, quotas and quasi-market schemes for carbon storage; scientific, political, technical assistance and financial programmes to expand resource availability and increase national investments through capital and technology transfers; and freer trade and market liberalization.

UNCED devoted considerable attention to the world's forests. The conference drew up a non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, known as the "forest principles".

Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 focuses on deforestation, and forestry is an important element in other chapters dealing with desertification and drought, sustainable mountain development and the conservation of biodiversity (see Box 26).

The forest principles can be considered as a code of good stewardship applicable to all forests. They respect national sovereignty over forests and request all countries to adopt sustainable patterns of production and consumption. They also point out the multiple functions and uses of forests and the need for a balanced view of the issues and opportunities for their conservation and development.

Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 highlights four programme areas: sustaining the multiple roles and functions of all types of forests; strengthening capacities for planning assessments and systematic observations of forestry and related programmes, projects and activities; promoting efficient resource utilization and evaluation techniques that incorporate the entire range of values provided by forests, forest lands and woodlands; and enhancing, protecting, conserving and managing degraded areas. The UNCED Secretariat estimated the total annual cost of these programmes to be $30 billion.

The responsibility for implementing UNCED agreements rests with national governments, while the commitments made by NGOs, local communities and private sector groups in each country will determine the rate of progress.

FAO has identified several levels of action:


FAO and UNEP are two of the UN agencies working on forestry-related projects. Since 1945, FAO has been mandated to deal with forestry and has cooperated with member countries in rural development, policy analysis, institutional strengthening, plantation forestry, community forestry, participatory forestry, sustainable forest management, education, training and the production of scientific education and global statistics on forestry. it provides an important forum for discussion on global and regional forestry matters, through meetings such as the biennial Committee on Forestry (COFO) and the Committee on Forest Development in the Tropics. UNEP seeks to promote environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially acceptable sustainable rural development through coordinated projects in desertification control, reforestation, energy resources and soil conservation.

In 1985, FAO, UNDP, the World Bank and WRI established a global forestry strategy aimed at increasing public awareness about the plight of tropical forests and at mobilizing human and financial resources with a view to halting tropical deforestation. Initially named the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) and then renamed the Tropical Forests Action Programme (TFAP) in 1991, this strategy provides a framework for national programmes for sustainable forest utilization and for harmonizing and strengthening international donor cooperation. The TFAP placed emphasis on management and planning within the context of overall land-use development as well as the involvement of rural people. In many ways, this was a landmark agreement which explicitly recognized the importance of national leadership, multidisciplinary approaches and the involvement of forest-dependent people and NGOs. More recently, TFAP activities have led to a shift from donor coordination and project activity to a more long-term programme, emphasizing country capacity and policy advice on the conservation and sustainable development of forests.

The world Bank is the largest single multilateral forestry sector lender; up to 1991 it had provided nearly $2.5 billion in loans to a total of 94 forestry projects. its new forestry policy document identified two main challenges: i) the prevention of excessive deforestation, especially in the tropical moist forests; and ii) action to meet increasing demands for forest products and services for the rural poor in developing countries through tree planting and the management of existing forest resources.

The World Bank's 1991 forestry policy paper pledged that future evaluations would distinguish between projects that are environmentally protective or small farmer-oriented and those that are purely commercial. It also promised that its lending in the forestry sector would be subject to commitments by governments to sustainable and conservation-oriented forestry. One condition laid down is that "the World Bank will not under any circumstances finance commercial logging in primary moist forests".

The ITTO, whose members comprise the world's major tropical timber-producing and timber-consuming countries, commenced operations in 1986. It was established as a commodity organization with its main focus on the development of a sustainable trade in tropical timber. It was recognized that a sustainable trade would only be achieved if there was a sustainable resource, and thus the organization focused many of its efforts on the sustainable management of tropical forests. One of its efforts in this area consists in encouraging the achievement of the objective that all exports of tropical timber come from sustainably managed forest resources by the year 2000.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). Founded in 1892, this institute links forestry research institutes into a global network of interest groups. Its Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC), begun in 1983, supports training and self-teaching programmes and information services and promotes interagency contacts.

The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Based in Bogor, Indonesia, CIFOR was established in February 1993 as a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). CIFOR's focus is on the conservation and improved productivity of tropical forest ecosystems, with programmes in natural forests, open woodlands, plantations and woodlots and degraded lands and important components for the strengthening of national forest research institutions in tropical countries.

The International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). Since its establishment in 1978, ICRAF has undertaken global agroforestry research and now collaborates closely with CIFOR. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, ICRAF is currently promoting "Alternatives to slash-and-burn" in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). Formerly the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, established as a separate body from FAO under the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), the IPGRI is mandated to deal with the conservation of biodiversity and the germplasm of forestry species.

The World Wide fund for Nature (WWF). This international NGO is highly concerned with forestry issues. it has a range of programmes on biodiversity, conservation and sustainable management as well as others in countries throughout the world.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN). This international union has a mandate to promote action and to seek support for projects related to environmental protection and resource management. As in the case of WWF, the IUCN's activities are not directed by members in individual countries.

Actions within the forestry sector alone cannot secure sustainable conservation and a wise use of forests. Success in the implementation of UNCED follow-up activities requires the promotion of follow-up actions in other sectors that influence forestry, especially agriculture which is the single largest cause of deforestation in the world.

Forest resources are in the forefront of national policy debate about how to restructure economic and political systems and how such structural changes can be made consistent with national interests in local action, social and sectoral distribution, international obligations and sovereignty. Perspectives and demands of politically diverse groups are proliferating, placing significant strain on current institutions and policies. However, this political mainstreaming of forestry issues has involved productive debates, leading to innovative responses to public concerns.

Redirecting public policies to achieve efficient and sustainable forest management requires significant changes. However, UNCED's consensus on forest principles represents the first-ever commitment of responsibilities beyond national boundaries. The formidable challenge ahead is to turn these principles into practice. The contributions of forests to national development will depend on how well this challenge is met.

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