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The social dimensions of forestry's contribution to sustainable development

J.E.M. Arnold

E Michael Arnold is with the Oxford Forestry Institute. Oxford, UK.

An adaptation of the position paper prepared for the Eleventh World Forestry Congress, "Social dimensions of forestry's contribution to sustainable development ".

A forestry extension worker on an FAO project in Colombia discussing seedling management with local farmers in a community forestry nursery

Forests, trees and livelihood systems

Household livelihood objectives are likely to include secure provision of food and other essential subsistence goods, cash for purchase of outside goods and services, savings and social security. Other components could include concern to reduce critical risk factors, and local social, cultural and spiritual considerations.

Forests and forest products are linked to household livelihood systems in a variety of different ways. The principal features of these links are well known, and therefore the main focus of this section will be on how patterns of use and dependency are changing, and on the implications of such changes.

The nature and implications of change

Changes in subsistence use

In some situations subsistence use of forest products appears to be dwindling, as people rely to a greater extent on food purchasing, or as famine relief programmes become more effective, or as improved supplies of food crops have diminished the need to depend on forest foods. In Vanuatu, for instance, the introduction of the sweet potato, which can be planted at any time and produce an edible crop within three months, and manioc, which can be left unharvested for up to two years, has made the traditional emergency foods of wild taro, arrowroot, wild yams and saga virtually obsolete (Olsson in FAO/UNDP, 1991).

Other changes that reduce the role that forest food plays in household nutrition may reflect penetration of rural markets by new food products, changing tastes or decreased availability. However, the latter may reflect changes in the availability or allocation of a household's supply of labour rather than a physical shortage of the product. As the pressures on women's time gets greater they may no longer have as much time for gathering forest foods. As the value of labour rises with increasing wealth, the opportunity cost of continuing to spend time gathering foods, rather than purchasing them, becomes increasingly restrictive.

A decline in the use of forest food can also reflect reduced knowledge about its use. As children spend more time in school than in the fields and the bush, the opportunity to learn about which plants can be consumed, and which cannot, is reduced. Sedentarization is another widespread change that distances people from the food sources they used to be familiar with, constraining people's use of these foods even when they are still available and important for dietary balance (Melnyk, 1993).

However, a more frequent cause of reduced subsistence use is likely to be shortages. These may be physical shortages caused by overuse, shortages caused by increasing restrictions on access to supplies, or economic shortages as a result of rising costs and growing competition for supplies. The need of the poor for income from forest product activities can result in the diversion of supplies from their own consumption to the market. A recent village study in Viet Nam, for instance, found that forest vegetables, bamboo shoots and mushrooms that were collected and eaten by wealthier households had to be sold in poorer households in order to be able to buy rice (Nguyen Thi Yen et al., 1994).

Some changes in subsistence use therefore reflect choice. part of the process of evolution to a different livelihood level in which forest inputs have a lesser role. Some are responses to pressures that make it less possible for the household to maintain the same level of use. However, it is clear that, in general, subsistence use continues to be very large, even where people are becoming increasingly integrated into the market economy. Also, the buffer role of the forest - as a food and fodder resource that enables people to survive periods of agricultural shortfalls - continues to be very important.

Changes in income-generating activities

Patterns and causes of change. In some situations, households are becoming more reliant on income from tree product activities, while in others they are moving away from involvement in them. At the same time, some kinds of forest product activities are expanding while others are stagnating or declining. If interventions to foster development of forest product activities that contribute to household income are to be effective, it will be important to be able to identify and understand these differential patterns of change.

Some general patterns can be identified. In situations where population is growing faster than per caput incomes, forest product activities emerge largely to absorb people unable to obtain income, or sufficient income, from agriculture or wage employment. This situation is likely to be characterized by labour-intensive, low-return, typically household-based activities. In situations where per caput incomes are rising, growth is more likely to be in response to demand, and low-return, labour-intensive activities tend to give way to more productive and remunerative activities such as vending, trading and activities to meet growing and diversifying rural demands. At that stage, production and selling of forest products increasingly shifts from a part-time activity by very large numbers of people to more specialized year-round operations by a smaller share of the population (Liedholm and Mead, 1993; Haggblade and Liedholm, 1991).

Some indication of how particular types of forest product activities are likely to evolve may be gained by looking at how their characteristics match these alternative scenarios.

Characteristics of product and market. The level of output in some activities is changing because of the nature of the product and of the markets into which it is sold. Although some products have large, diversified and stable markets, others face highly volatile markets, or demand that is seasonal and subject to sharp price fluctuations. Production of some of the "extractive" products for industrial markets, for instance, is susceptible to major changes in market requirements, and to shifts to domesticated or synthetic supply sources.

The large component of forest products activities in the rural sector reflects the size of rural markets for these products, and the dispersion of these markets across large areas with a relatively poor transport infrastructure, so that they are more effectively supplied locally (FAO, 1987). In many countries these product trades are much larger, involve many more people and are likely to evolve in less disruptive ways than trade in products serving external markets.

Characteristics of the production or distribution process. The evolution of some activities is conditioned by the fact that features of their production or distribution process can either enable or prevent an increase in size of the component enterprises, or add extra value by diversifying into additional stages of the process, or organize the process more efficiently. Types of activity that are likely to continue to be viable as improvement in rural infrastructure exposes rural producers to competition from urban producers are likely to be those with characteristics that favour local production, such as those based on dispersed raw materials and small markets; those with high transport costs; or those where the economics of production favour the small scale, such as handicraft production (FAO, 1987).

Features of the individual enterprise. Other reasons for growth or decline are to be found within the individual enterprise. The opportunities to generate income from forest product activities may require managerial or particular technical skills, or access to capital or credit, and will therefore be available only to some. Success or lack of success can also be strongly influenced by location, for example proximity to markets. Another powerful factor is the availability, and relative attractiveness, of alternative ways of earning income.

Consequences for the poor. The information outlined above strongly suggests that, while some activities can thus provide a strong basis for livelihood systems, others provide at best short-term opportunities, or generate only marginal returns to those engaged in their harvest, and many involve high levels of risk. Many will not survive as costs rise and competition intensifies. While they provide some support, they do not provide a basis for improving livelihood standards.

The concentration of the very poor in such low-return activities, with poor prospects, presents a quandary for support programmes and policies. It may be more fruitful to help people to move out of such activities into occupations with better income-earning prospects than to encourage them to invest in attempts to improve productivity or expand sales in a stagnant or declining area of business. On the other hand, as long as there is no better alternative they need to try and extract as much return as possible from these marginal income-generating activities. It could be necessary to make different provisions for supporting those for whom forest activities provide a safety net, and those for whom they could provide a means of livelihood improvement (Falconer, 1994).

A second area of concern relates to constraints that the poor often face in being able to exploit such opportunities as are available from forest-based activities. The poor may not have access to the skills, technology or capital necessary in order to be able to benefit from the opportunities presented by markets. Or they may be dependent on traders or other intermediaries for access to those markets. The benefits, and sometimes control, thus then accrue to the wealthier and more powerful within communities, or to outsiders. Again it is likely to be necessary to provide different forms of assistance to those with different needs end potentials (Arnold et al., 1994).

Changes in patterns of access to forests and forest outputs

Pressures on common pool forest resources. Nearly everywhere users of forest products are faced with a decline in the size or quality of the resource from which they can obtain their supplies. Much of the decline in forests used as common pool resources has come about because of economic, demographic and social change increasing population pressure, market opportunities and pressures, the option of purchasing rather than producing certain goods, agricultural technologies such as adoption of tractors which enable the cultivation of larger areas, increasing capacity to capture benefits through privatization and changes in rural labour availability and allocation.

An equally important set of factors that can have negative impacts on people's access to forests are policies, legislation and actions by the agencies of the state. Perhaps the most pervasive form of state intervention has been expropriation of forest and woodland as forest reserves or some other form of state property. At a minimum this involves replacing users' rights to the forest with a more limited set of privileges to use specified forest products, usually governed by restrictive regulations that are enforced at the whim of the officials of the responsible government department (Lynch and Talbott, 1995; Davis and Wali, 1993; Shepherd, 1992).

Another form of state intervention affecting access to and local control of forests has been that of governments increasing their control over local activities. This has not been confined to forestry, but has had a particular impact in this sector because the state has usually been unable to provide effective control over such large areas. Existing systems have therefore been undermined or suppressed, but have not been replaced by an effective alternative (Thomson in FAO, 1992; Shepherd, 1992).

In many situations, therefore, the circumstances favouring local collective control and management no longer exist, or are much weaker. However, some local management systems have survived, at least in part. From his analysis of 176 specific common pool resources in the dry rainfed plain areas of India which exhibited at least one instance of local concern to protect them, Jodha (1990) suggests that small size, isolation and maintenance of traditional social sanctions are village-level factors associated with preservation of common property management. More specifically, greater distance from market centres, smaller and more visible common pool resources, less occupational change, less factionalism, less socio-economic differentiation and less dependence on state patronage were found to be important in this respect.

Managed fallow, enriched forest, etc. In many situations fallow land, farm bush and, although less frequently, even the forest itself are actively managed by local users to conserve or encourage species of value. The babassu palm in northeastern Brazil has long been integrated into local farmers' shifting cultivation systems (May et al., 1985), and farmers in the floodplain forests of the Amazon area manage them to favour the more economically valuable species they contain (Anderson and lords, 1992).

Planted trees on farms. Planted fruit-trees appear everywhere at an early stage in agricultural settlement, and as natural tree stocks diminish the amount and range of tree planting by farmers generally increase (Arnold and Dewees, 1995). Tree planting may be explained as being one or more of four categories of response by farmers to change (Scherr, 1994; Arnold and Dewees, 1995):

· to maintain supplies of tree products as production from off-farm tree stocks declines owing to deforestation or loss of access;

· to meet growing demands for tree products as populations grow, as new uses for tree outputs emerge, or as external markets develop;

· to help maintain agricultural productivity in the face of declining soil quality or increasing damage from exposure to sun, wind or water runoff;

· to contribute to risk reduction and risk management in the face of needs to secure rights of land tenure and use, to even out peaks and troughs in seasonal flows of produce and income, and in seasonal demands on labour, or to provide a reserve of biomass products and capital available for use as a buffer in times of stress or emergency.

Subsistence use of forest products is evolving but is still essential. in the photo: a woman tanner In Sri Lanka with wood for fuel

Two of the most important factors likely to affect farmers' decisions about tree management are the influence of subsistence and market opportunities and constraints, and the relationship between tree crops and the farm household's availability of land, labour and capital. Most farm-level tree management is found to be primarily to meet household needs. Trading in tree products usually develops as local markets for them emerge, as shortages appear, as increasing demands on the time of household members leave less time for gathering what is needed to meet household needs, and rising cash incomes allow some the option of purchasing rather than gathering or growing. This is achieved initially by increasing the quantities of products being produced for the household. Adoption of trees as a crop grown primarily to supply urban and industrial markets is more likely to be practiced by farmers in areas where the process of agrarian change has evolved further towards greater involvement in commodity markets and an entrepreneurial approach to agriculture based on cash crops. In these markets, however, farmers can encounter forms of competition and policy constraints that can make it difficult for them to compete (Dewees and Scherr, 1996).

Historically, the place of trees on farms has usually been shaped primarily by increasing pressures on limited amounts of arable land. However, as farm households have increasingly to depend on income earned from off-farm employment, labour rather than land is widely becoming the main resource limitation determining farmer options. Because the growing of trees requires lower inputs of labour to establish and maintain than most other crops, such shifts in the ratio of labour to land can encourage greater reliance on tree crops in a number of different circumstances. However, where trees lock up significant amounts of land, tree crops may be an option mainly for those who do not rely on that land for household self-sufficiency, such as larger farmers or those with sufficient off-farm income (Dewees and Saxena, 1995).

Implications for the poor. The information summarized above indicates that, partly because of changes in the quality, access and cost of gathering and production from forests, and partly because market and other pressures are more readily met from resources under the control of the household or the individual, many of those who can do so have been reducing their reliance on the forest as a source of the products they need, but maintaining or increasing output from farm tree, bush and managed fallow.

However, the shift from forest to farm is only possible for those who have access to land, end sufficient resources to work the land. In addition, In many situations poor farmers still need to look to off-farm resources to help supplement what they can produce on-farm. Where fallow cycles are declining, bush fallow is likely to be diminishing as a resource. Not all the landless can find, or find enough, wage employment. For all of these, and others, common pool forest resources, and local management and control regimes that enable rural people to use these resources in an ordered manner, continue to be important. This helps explain the recent revival of interest in this form of governance, and the initiatives to strengthen them, or to reinvent them in forms more likely to be compatible with contemporary needs and constraints.

A farmer waters a fruit tree (parinari) he has incorporated Into a smallholding in Malawi

It has been increasingly evident that, although many earlier collective regimes have declined or disappeared, in the face of demographic, social, economic and political change, many contemporary situations contain elements of common property. That this is so is still often not adequately recognized; probably because of a failure to understand the complexities of a particular tenure situation, or because these have been obscured by policies and practices biased towards privatization or control by the state. Evidence has also been accumulating of indigenous initiatives to revive, or to create new, common property regimes during recent times (Arnold in FAO, in press).

Rights, control and the institutional support setting

Choice among forms of governance

As has already been noted earlier, much of the change that has had adverse effects on those who rely on forest and forest products for important inputs into their livelihood systems has been due to the weakening and sometimes withdrawal of the users' rights of use, and the erosion and breakdown of the control systems that enabled them to exercise those rights in a regulated and sustainable fashion. In this section we look at some of the main issues that arise in initiatives to stem and reverse this trend.

It is often unclear which institutional models might be appropriate at present in situations marked by the increasing conflict and less commonality of purpose as well as the increasingly ineffective conflict resolution mechanisms that such policies and practices engender (Neumann, 1996). Some of the problems that arise stem from failure to distinguish between property rights to use a resource and the rights related to the resource itself (Ostrom, 1990). This becomes particularly important in understanding the situation of forests, where much of the resource is owned by the state, but most use is by individual, collective or industrial entities frequently with multiple users exercising rights to different products or to use at different times of the year.

Another important area of misunderstanding relates to the relative merits of private and common property. The preference for private property that underlies so much of the transfer out of common property rests on the argument that only private property rights ensure that the holder will use the resource efficiently and responsibly. However, much of the debate about privatization assumes that private property is synonymous with individual ownership. This overlooks the fact that much private property is held by business partnerships, shareholder-owned industrial corporations and other collective entities. As access to use of common property is also confined to members of a defined user group, which excludes other potential beneficiaries, it therefore has some of the attributes of shared private property in the sense that it secures for the group the same use rights as private property. Thus, private property and common property are more usefully seen not as being mutually exclusive, but as two types of property with a good deal in common (Bruce in FAO, 1996b; McKean and Ostrom, 1995).

The right side of this hill in Madagascar has been protected under a common property management system

Historically, common property regimes have evolved in places where the demand on a resource is too great to tolerate open access use any longer, so that property rights in the resource have to be created, but some other factor makes it impossible or undesirable to allocate the resource itself to individuals (McKean and Ostrom, 1995). Because management of forests as common property is by definition situation-specific tied to individual local user groups or communities - most research and attention focuses on the micro factors that bear on its functioning at this level. Investigation and intervention has mainly been concerned with interrelationships between the resource, the community, local institutions, etc.

However, the success of local solutions is ultimately governed by broader political, economic and institutional factors that determine whether or not common property is an appropriate option. If their influence is not understood, and taken into account, there is a danger that interventions are put in place that try to sustain or create common property regimes and institutions that are not appropriate, or feasible, in a particular situation. This needs to be stressed, because all too many recent interventions have attempted to create or maintain systems based on local collective control in situations where political, economic and demographic pressures, of the kinds discussed earlier, make this no longer viable or appropriate.

The changes that need to be taken into account in assessing which forms of governance might be most appropriate need to include consideration of the implications of the trends in the use of and reliance on forest products discussed earlier. For instance, if the situation is one in which people are moving out of forest product activities, or should move out in the near future, will there then still be the basis, or need, for strong local control and management of the forest resource?

Given the extent of variation from situation to situation, there can be no universal models (Ostrom, 1990). This also needs to be stressed, because some of the main initiatives in support of collective management of forests have attempted to apply uniform solutions to many different situations, with poor results. Analysis therefore needs to be pursued within a framework that recognizes this diversity.

Local collective control

By definition, collective systems can only function if the group is organized, or can organize itself, to function collectively. A degree of coordination between users is necessary in order to create rules of use and to enforce them, and to provide individual members with access to inputs and services that are more effectively organized collectively. Other factors that are likely to affect the capacity of local institutions to organize to manage forests as common properly include: physical and technical characteristics of the resource, characteristics of the group of users and attributes of institutional arrangements (Rasmussen and Meinzen- Dick, 1995)

Characteristics of the resource. An important consideration in deciding whether a forest product resource is more appropriately controlled and managed by the group of users as a whole, or by individual users, is whether or not it can be effectively divided among the latter. McKean and Ostrom (1995) have identified a number of attributes of natural resources which favour placing property rights with groups:

· Resources that are simply indivisible or, like many forest ecosystems, have to be managed in their entirety in order to maintain the interactive environment needed to produce some of their outputs.

· Large resource systems, such as range and woodland in arid areas, in which there is much uncertainty about the location from year to year of the most productive zones.

· Resource systems with congested and competing uses, in which coordination among users is essential in order to cope with issues arising from multiple uses.

· Resource systems where group control and thus group enforcement of rules can be an efficient way to cope with the costs of monitoring otherwise porous boundaries and of enforcing restraints on use within those boundaries.

Others have also highlighted the role common property can play where productivity of the resource is too low to support private holdings. Where forest resources exhibit some or all of these characteristics, it is likely that they would be good candidates for management as common property regimes. In many cases it may be appropriate for forests to be held trader overlapping combinations of private, state and common property regimes (Bruce in FAO, 1996b; Campbell, 1990).

User group size and effectiveness. It has been widely argued that small homogeneous groups, confined just to those with similar views on the use of the resource, are more likely to be successful than larger groups. However, although the task of dividing responsibilities and benefits may favour small and cohesive user groups, the task of managing and exercising control over the resource may call for a larger body that encompasses within its boundaries all those with a claim on the resource. Powers of negotiation with the state and of protecting boundaries are also likely to favour larger bodies (Ascher, 1994; Agrawal in FAO, 1996a).

The benefits of size may also be achieved by "nesting" the user group in a larger local body, such as the village leadership group, a panchayat committee or the district council. Alternatively, user groups can come together to form larger associations, as some Nepal user groups are doing (Hobley, 1996a).

Equity, participation and independence. Another aspect that can require attention is the extent to which the interests of those who run or control the organization coincide with the interests of the forest user group, or groups. Elected local government bodies have often proved to be unsatisfactory in this respect because of their predominantly political and bureaucratic agendas, and because they generally covered much larger areas and populations than those represented by a forest user group.

An existing communal institution, reflecting social values from the earlier period when it came into existence, and longstanding and entrenched patron-client relationships within a community, may also not adequately reflect the current interests and concerns of all its present users. In particular, there can be continued widespread exclusion of, or failure to involve properly, women and other disadvantaged groups (Hobley, 1996b; Sarin, 1993).

Creating new institutions can also be problematic in this respect. A recent study on the subject has stressed the importance of carefully weighing the potentials for basing a common property management intervention on existing institutions, even with some of the limitations outlined above, against the difficulties of creating functioning new institutions.

Conflicts and conflict management. With its multiple uses, and several categories of user or stakeholder, local-level use of forest and forest product resources is by its nature vulnerable to conflict and dispute. For instance, a community's right to exclude under a common property regime is likely to be challenged by others who want access to the resource, and not everyone within the community is likely to agree with the creation or conditions of the regime (Bruce in FAO, 1996b).

In their paper on the subject, Desloges and Gauthier (1997) summarize various typologies of community forestry conflicts. They point out that conflict or dispute can stimulate progress. Equally, conflict, if not resolved, can be very debilitating and can weaken or even destroy the institution involved. Effective institutional arrangements therefore need to have recourse to conflict management or dispute resolution mechanisms.

Coping with market pressures and opportunities

Market pressures, and opportunities, are among the more powerful factors affecting control and use mechanisms. As was noted earlier, commercial demand is likely to increase pressures from users both inside and outside the user group to use the resource, which can increase the likelihood of conflicts of interest and make the process of control more complex and difficult. This can cause a breakdown of the mechanisms for exclusion and control, leading to overharvesting and degradation of the resource. Where transactions have traditionally been based on reciprocity, exposure to market forces and market values can lead to an even more fundamental breakdown within a community (Chase Smith, 1995).

On the other hand, market opportunities, by giving added value to products, could increase the economic incentive to control their use and management. It has been suggested (McElwee, 1994) that, in balancing the positive and negative impacts of commercialization on their forest management and use practices: "communities who seem best able to adapt to commercialization are either those with flexibility in determining whether to participate, which allows control over the degree of change, or are those in which change has been less rapid".

The effects of the market in fact constitute not only one of the most important factors bearing on the links between people and forests, but also one of the most complex and least understood. In recognition of this, a recent meeting convened by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recommended this as a priority area for further research (CIFOR, 1996).

The role of government

Policy and strategy. As has been shown earlier in the paper, policies, legislation and the ways in which these are applied and enforced widely discriminate against local collective management of forests in situations where it would often appear otherwise to be appropriate. Effective local control, or joint control with the state, requires a willingness and ability by government to reverse this, and to legitimize and empower the local institutions, and help them enforce their rights. Because of the continued political weakness of communities by comparison with the power of governments, this is only likely to come about as a result of action at the centre.

Concern with the size and the role of government has recently been reflected in initiatives to halt and reverse the continuous accumulation of responsibility and power to the centre. This has led to moves to decentralize to the local level, and to devolve to the private and non-governmental sectors activities that they can carry out just as effectively and efficiently as the state. The increase in interest in local control and management of forest resources owes much to its relevance to these new priorities.

However, some of the consequences of the ways these new policies have been pursued can themselves threaten local users. For instance, the widespread titling of land to individuals in many countries of Africa, in pursuit of a thesis that this will encourage agricultural growth, threatens the complex of overlapping rights that previously enabled different categories of users to access some part of the resource on those lands (Neumann, 1996).

A more widespread concern relates to the extent to which the state actually relinquishes power and responsibility through some of these programmes of devolution. One observer has pointed out that "Recent decentralization activities within the forest sector in India could be considered to have led to greater penetration of the state into the village, without the villagers acquiring an equal degree of power to question the actions of the state.... In many situations, village forest committees established under joint forest management have effectively become an arm of the Forest Department, rather than being developed as independent organizations that could challenge the authority of the department" (Hobley, 1996a).

Such reluctance of the state to let go is widespread. Even in Nepal, with its unusually progressive policies and legislation, the state reserves the right to reverse the process of devolution of control over forest land to local groups and retains ownership of that land. Where real control has been transferred to local communities, some encouraging results have been reported (e.g. Wily, 1997).

Bureaucratic reform. One reason for such tardiness in implementing change is that it can be difficult for government departments to give up the power, status and control over budgetary and extrabudgetary resources and income that stem from their control over large areas of forest. Furthermore, in many countries these departments continue to be responsible for regulatory functions, and for direct management of large parts of the forest estate. The requirement of trying to combine this with transfer of control of parts of the forest estate to others creates understandable internal tensions and confusion (Gilmour and Fisher, 1991)

Another area of concern relates to the difficulties forest departments have encountered in adapting to management of forests as common property. Heavy promotion of participatory management, often at the urging of donors, has imposed pressures on the forestry bureaucracy that can be difficult to sustain. It has been argued that the needs for change have been promoted ahead of the capacity to implement them. The shifts in the demands put on foresters have been profound, and criticisms that they have failed to respond appropriately have often aggravated their problems. It could be desirable if there was now a period of consolidation, to allow more considered consideration of how best to deal with these issues (Vira, 1997; Hobley, 1996b).

Removing impediments to access to markets. Higher priority should be given to changing policies and practices that currently constrain farmers' access to markets, and that depress market prices for their tree products (Dewees and Scherr, 1996). These commonly include lack of market information, poorly functioning trading systems serving small producers, competition from subsidized supplies from state forests and plantations, fuelwood prices which are depressed by subsidies to alternative fuels and restrictions on private harvesting and trading of wood products. There is a danger that, by hindering farmer access to tree product markets, governments may inadvertently be interfering with the shift from a subsistence to a market economy.

NGOs and the support process

The rigidities and constraints that many forest services still confront in making the transition to a role that supports management of trees and forests by local people have resulted in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) coming to occupy an important role in many participatory forestry programmes. NGOs can play an intermediary role between state and users, can facilitate change at the village level and can act as trainers of government staff in community organizing skills. In the Philippines and Thailand, for instance, they have constituted an important part of institutional support groups that have played a key role in identifying and negotiating mutually agreeable strategies to pursue.

NGOs are becoming increasingly important for transfer of technology, for promoting public awareness and for enhancing stakeholders' ability to negotiate on forest resource management issues.

However, not all NGOs are better equipped or skilled or, more appropriately, motivated for such tasks than the government departments they seek to replace. Recently there has been increased awareness that some NGOs are pursuing agendas of their own (e.g. related to environmental issues) that are not necessarily congruent with the interests of the populations with whom they work.

At the same time, it has become evident that forestry departments are sometimes delegating tasks to NGOs to avoid having to do them themselves, i.e. in order to "avoid internal change" (Dove, 1995).

Improving the knowledge base

Throughout this paper we have drawn attention to the importance of improving understanding of what is happening and why it is happening. This is essential if it is to become possible to identify what requirements people will need, or wish, to meet from forests in the future, and what policy and other measures are most likely to ensure that they can. To this end, many aspects of the knowledge base must be worked on.

Many of the issues needing attention can only be adequately understood within a framework that takes account of the interrelationships between the different factors that affect the forest sector at the local level - social, ecological, economic, institutional, etc. Comparable data on a range of factors must be collected from sites in as many different situations as possible. This would provide both a more holistic approach to analysing these local situations, and also, as the number of sites and data sets builds up, a basis for making comparisons across different situations and over time.


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