8.1 Proposals (see also Annex 3 for specific proposals for a few countries)
8.2 Problems of the Proposed Paradigm
8.3 Implementation of the Proposals
In the context of what we have described above, we conclude that no half way or incremental measures can eliminate the problems that the past mistakes have led to. There is no avoiding the fact that all forests have to be returned to the people who should be given the authority to manage it. And this complete devolution has to be to the people who are the users, who inhabit in or near the forests it, and who have a stake in its survival for their own survival, This is a drastic change which we will refer to as 'Forest Reform' hereafter.
8.1.1 Development of Political Will
8.1.2 Change in policy and legislative rules and regulations
8.1.3 Structural Change of the Forest Department
The first and most important change required to bring about forestry reform is to develop appropriate political will of the government. This does not happen overnight. Seldom it is self propelled. If it was otherwise, the desperate forestry situation and the lessons learnt from the experimentations carried out in the last thirty years or so in Asia and the Pacific would have moved the forest politics towards significant devolution of forest management authority to the users by now.
Fortunately, the political environment in respect of forest conservation has improved in the recent years. This has been brought about a number of factors. These include presentation of periodic data by the FAO about the pace of deforestation in different countries (FAO, 1993), surge in activities of the international organisations to respond positively to global deforestation (Kenton and Miller, 1991) such as the Man and Biosphere programme of 1972, the World heritage Convention of 1972, the Tropical Forest Action plan of 1985, establishment of International Timber Trading Organisation in 1983, Biodiversity Conservation Strategy programme since 1989, the Global Biodiversity Convention of 1984 and the latest Rio Conference of 1993 and its subsequent support activities. The other suitable factors are the press and the journalists drawing attention to the problem of increasing tropical deforestation, the eruption in the number of international and local green NGOs and social activists, and local forest users' demand for more say in management of natural resources. Apart from some publications (and the last factor), others have not indicated what needs doing first. Participation of people and devolution of authority to the local people always find a place in the recommendations but as one of the many and thus lose its overriding importance.
Much more pressure than what is exerted at present is required to be built in the above processes by different organizations to change the political will of the concerned governments to bring about forestry reform to decentralize in favour of local people. As of to day, unlike that on Amazon forests, Costa Rica or Ivory Coast examples (Caufield, 1986), there are few circulars, papers of books providing sufficient scientific information about the contribution of peoples' participation in conservation of Asia Pacific forests. Most that we have to-day are anecdotal although there are now enough of collected data to be presented. The FAO, UNEP or UNESCO should take this publication project immediately and get it circulated urgently for the different political people to take note of it. This publication, to be followed up by periodic report, will play the role of promotion of devolution like the FAO's data has played in the recent past on drawing attention to intensity of deforestation.
Presentation of data alone however will not be sufficient to bring about the change. The political will has to be altered politically. The global conventions and conference have to first place the subject of forest reform as the top of the agenda and then to try to ensure its adoption by the countries attending the convention. This is a difficult task but at present sufficient emphasis to and prioritization for reform has not been made. We believe an Asia Pacific convention for forest reform in favour of peoples' participation is an urgent need.
Adoption of a few resolutions in the convention alone also is insufficient. Ensuring its implementation will mean continuous prodding and pushing through political means, economic incentives and technical support as is done for other global issues such as global warming, atomic energy pollution etc.
Although all the countries in Asia Pacific countries need to be attended to the proposal suggested above, the countries which have large forests and are still continuing to manage centrally should get more attention. These are the group 2 countries as per our classification.
Adoption of the political will should be followed with changes in the forest policy, legislation of required acts and framing of rules thereunder. There is a contrary opinion that enactment is not necessary but an understanding has to be reached with the people about their rights. We think that this may be done to get a kick start but eventually an enactment will be necessary. This is so as the peoples rights have been too often removed without their consent and approval.
Forest Policy should clearly state, no matter what the category of forests, that the first charge of forest is the satisfaction of the subsistence of the local users and the excess only available for national needs. The forests that should be so designated would include the production and conservation forests as well. The usual argument that these categories should be excluded misses the point that without people supporting production and conservation objectives, the forests are eliminated in due course. Protection by forest guards, police and the army are cost ineffective and fail in the endeavour.
The forest enactment would have to specify the tenure of the people on the forest land and its products with the only caveat that the land will not be converted to any use that does not consider forestry as its major element. The tenure may be for complete change of ownership to the people or for usufructship for a period renewable at regular intervals. The law should also provide penalty for unlawful activities. The 'people' should be defined as the community comprised of all the households inhabiting in one village or hamlet as the case may be, situated in the forest or in its fringe. Each village will have a specified forest area linked to it for their exclusive management/ownership rights as the decision may be.
The rules under the enactment should, among others, include a cut-off date when the transfer of tenure to the people in the whole country would be completed. This is important as otherwise it may take ages as it is happening in Nepal. Besides, the rules should envisage preparation of a plan (called microplan in India, management in other countries) to manage the forests in a sustainable manner. The rules should clearly mention the benefits, rights and responsibilities of the managing group., which should be incorporated in the management plan. The villagers' managing group has to be small in size, not more than about fifty households in order that the equity in the group can be easily established. In case a village has more than fifty households, the households should be further grouped so that each group remains within the specified number and have a forest of their own. Olson (1971) argues quite convincingly that even if the interest of different numbers is the same, large groups do not function for the common good. Hence, establishment of small groups is an important element and must find a mention in the rules. Even the small groups if they so desire, would have the right to engage as long term landholders groups of families or individual households amongst them for managing parts of their forest resources. In China, some villages follow this procedure referred to as 'responsibility system' for management of collective forests with good results. The concept of individuals managing forests is untested in most parts of Asia but individual families, even as owners of forests, have managed forests for a long time in Germany. (Klose, 1985), in Swiss Alps and in other countries of Europe without any forest deterioration. Gender problem and problem of poor households particularly of the landless, marginal farmers and indigenous people should be paid special attention in the rules so that their participation is not in any way neglected. The official personnel such as the foresters should not be a part of the group. In the beginning of the whole process, they may be authorised to oversee the operation from outside with an advisory and monitoring role.
With the progressive transfer of the forest to the local people, the function of the forest department would have to change substantially. This would require structural change of the department. The main function will comprise technical extension, training of the forest management groups in forest management skills, assistance in preparation of forest management plans, forest research, disseminating market information and monitoring of contractual agreement if any between the government and the local people about forest management. It will also arrange investment for agroforestry in blanks and in farm forestry. On the other hand, it would be divested totally of protection functions excepting for some forests left out from the ambit of community forestry such as protection forests.
The new structure of the department to cater to the demands of the functions enumerated above would be two tiered, the upper tier consisting of a number of specialists and the lower tier of many small units, the number of the latter depending on the number if village management groups. The connection between the two tiers will be non-hierarchical, the upper tier responsible in respect of transfer of research findings, market information, providing resource persons for training and problems arising from contracts. The smaller units will be more or less independent and will be responsible for all other functions of the department.
The paradigm suggested above have some genuine problems and objections to face. One problem often cited by the protagonists arises from a misunderstanding. Management of the commons has been described as tragic and there are examples all over Europe and Asia supporting this theory. It is for all to see that the reserved forests managed by the government (say, in India), have fared much better than what was not reserved, i.e., those left as village forests without being allocated to any specific community. There is a common apprehension among bureaucrats and technicians of forestry that devolution of forest management, as is proposed now will return tragedy of the commons a second time and will lead to forest annihilation faster than at present.
In fact, the present proposal is exactly opposite to what is described as common property in literature. Our proposal is to delimit the forest area for a limited number of families to look after it. It means "communalisation" of a property, excluding all others from its use. It is a form of privatisation, the only difference being that instead of the property being owned by an individual, the property is to be owned/used by a private group. In content, it is in no way, different from a private company with many share holders. In form however, it is more democratic as we are proposing that the group stays away from the concept of the small managing board or the managing director, as is the practice in a company. In our proposal, all the share holders, i.e., all the house holds will be members of the managing committee and will be active participants to its decision.
The second is an apprehension that with rising population, which is a reality in many Asian countries, the forests allocated to a village, will eventually be too small to cope up with its subsistence demand. This may be true of some of the countries which have already destroyed much of the forest such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It may also be true for even the countries with much forests which are often much uniformly distributed. For example, Indonesia has sufficient forest area but Java island suffers from its shortage. So is the Indo-Gangetic alluvial areas of India. The only answer to this problem is that the government and the people will have to find alternative sources of energy and economic dependence over time. For example, in Nepal, in some parts of the border regions with India, the forests have receded miles away from the villages. The villagers have now transferred their dependence for energy on the agricultural residues and the farm trees. Transfer of responsibility to people for forest management does not, in any way, worsen the problem.
Another tremendous problem is the possibility of migration of people to villages as soon as the concept of allocation of forest areas to village house holds is accepted. There will be claimants and counter claimants to the property, some coming from the indigenous people as part of their ancient domains (e.g., Thailand and Philippine), and others from the old and recent migrants.
One basic mistake being done with the new devolution initiatives is the emphasis being placed on investigating into the rights of the local and indigenous people to provide them with the rights of forest management. This approach, supposed to be moral, appears to right a wrong that has been done over a few centuries. This approach has resulted in bureaucratic tangles, claims and counter-claims and has reduced the pace of transfer to a trickle. The authorities have not accepted the fact that devolution of authority to local inhabitants (whether they had or had not the rights of traditional "adapt"), is an alternative and only possible paradigm which ensures forest protection and its sustainable management. What is required is to take the decision of devolution, follow it up with linking certain area with the village people living near it and come to an agreement about their role and the role of the government in its management. While this looks like a tall order, it, in fact, is not. The local inhabitants are its users and its claimants as well. And they are the best custodians of forestry. It is quite possible that in some cases there will be disputes which have to be resolved between the claimants with government playing a mediating role. Such conflicts have arisen in a large way between the Amerindians, the rubber tappers and other forest dwellers in Brazil. They have now formed a coalition of 'peoples of the forest' to fight together in many issues (Miller and Tangle, 1991). The counter claimants have become one. Similar solutions will appear for the Asia Pacific countries. There will be however more conflicts between the concessionaires and the private, or the community right holders. In such cases, the government has to go by the decision about devolution of authority, namely favour the local people.
Another problem that the authorities will have, is in respect of the existing concessions. This is important now in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea etc. Attempts to modify the procedure with concessionaires providing economic benefits to the villagers or as Repetto (quoted by Kenton and Miller, 1991) suggests of increasing the lease period so that the concessionaires have a stake in the forest development, will not work. The problem is not only the concessionaires doing the damage. The more important issue is keeping away the people who normally should be the decision takers in respect of these forests and be its beneficiaries. The whole concession system has to be dismantled in a sufficiently rapid pace as is being done in Thailand and Philippines and replaced with devolution of forest management to the local people.
Revenue from the forest is the second largest source of earning of the Indonesian Government. The forest revenue is equally important in many other countries of the Asia Pacific. Between 1979 and 1982, the government of Indonesia earned $ 1.6 billion from its timber cutting concessions (Miller and Tangley, 1991) best part of which went to the foreign companies. Withdrawal of the concession would obviously place the country in a serious monetary problem. But in the long run, the country would not only recoup which it will lose in the short run but will enhance its income from the forests. The communities which will eventually become the forest owners/managers will be required to pay taxes on the income that they will make from the forest management. The forest will be sustained and hence the income will be perpetual. The biggest gain will be the improved indirect benefits that the forest provide such as less flood, erosion etc. as also the direct economic benefits through other forms of forest revenue such as eco-tourism.
One challenge that the government will face is the difficulty inherent in total restructuring of the forest department. The forest department has to transform its activities from resources managerial function to technical extension functions, more akin to the agriculture department. Although it will take a few years before the complete change over takes place, this complete transformation has to be carried out. The time required by the existing structure is to train the communities in their new responsibilities.
Further to this need of change of the structure is an undiscussed apprehension amongst the foresters that they will not only lose their power but also lose their occupation. Need of relinquishing power is the biggest psychological and material hurdle for most of the foresters to accept the new paradigm of community take-over. This is where the general administration has to take the lead to realise the government decision. It can not be left to the forest department to change. In respect of technical staff requirement, the number of foresters is expected to increase except that their role, if employed by the government, will be advisory. Other foresters will be employed by the communities to manage their forests technically. In America, the Amerindians engage highly qualified foresters to advise them on their forest management. In Switzerland, the cantons engage foresters to advise the private farmers about their forest planning and management. There is no reason why it will not be repeated in Asia Pacific.
Transfer of forests to the local people may bring another apparent problem to the fore. The village managing group being small and the forest at their disposal being little, the entire silvicultural and harvesting operation will change dramatically. The groups will also have less fund to invest, even if credit is arranged by the Bankers. As a result, at least at the beginning, there will be a sharp drop in production, reintroduction of old harvesting technology including manual operation, animal transportation and so on. This ideas may look regressive but there is no other way of reducing the damage that the present mechanisation had brought to the forest floor and the residual forests. But over time, the production will increase as the groups gain experience and the technology turn appropriate to the task.
In the realm of social aspects, there are a number of problems that will need special attention. It is a well known fact that the traditional structures even among the indigenous people have not performed morally and democratically to its former standard. In Papua New Guinea, as discussed earlier, some of the leaders have sold away, for their own benefits, the forest rights of the households without consulting them. There are also instances in Arunachal Pradesh of India where the village leaders have agreed, against pitiful compensation, to allow unscrupulous plains people and mill owners to harvest forest in their name. The new legislative structures at the village levels, that many countries have evolved, are also not functioning well, except in bits and pieces. Transfer or forests with devolution of authority to these organisations will attract misuse of power. It is essential that the transfer is made to a totally new structure. The question that may be logically asked is why should the new structure be more effective than its predecessors.
The new structure will be different from the others in a few characteristic discussed earlier but needs reiteration. These characteristics will help secure members' participation and save the organisation from being usurped by a few as has happened in the existing ones. First, it will be a small body not more than fifty households composed of all the households of the village or a part of the village. The 'smallness' will allow all members to know each other well and to express his/her views. Women and the poor will particularly be encouraged to talk. The government officials including forest officials will not be members of this body. A social activist or an NGO in the committee at this stage will however, be included to act as a catalyst. Second, the committee will not have an elected or selected managing group. Rather, all the members will comprise the management committee. This will obviate the present problem of only the rich and the vocal members of the village getting a foothold in the managing committees. The fallout of this form of structure is that the decisions will be participatory and the process transparent. Third, all decisions will have to pass through this committee before being operational. The social activists will help the committee to make their own rules for protecting the forests and undertaking the routine work. The forest management will be however, carried out as per management plant to the prepared in consultation with technical foresters.
The implementation of 'Forest Reform' is a large task which can not be handled by the forest department alone for a number of reasons. The department is engaged in multifarious activities and can not provide the required attention that the one time high pressure reform task needs. Further, the forest department staff, as discussed earlier, has reasons to be somewhat reluctant to accelerate the process. In addition, the department is not equipped with the specialised knowledge that the reform will require.
A separate agency has to be created temporarily to handle the task. The agency should be constituted of officials of the national/provincial survey and mapping department, forest department, land reforms department and social workers preferably from NGO community. The head of the this department should be a suitably authorised administrator. The mandate of the agency will be to complete the task of transferring the forest to the local people as provided in the law within a target date. The target date will naturally vary from country to country depending on the present state of decentralization. For example, Indonesia and Malaysia will take much more time than say India and Nepal which have already some part of it on the rail. It has to be realised by the country that the agency will be substantially a big one to handle the task.
The task of the agency will be to complete the following main works:
a) To publicise nationally, regionally and locally, the decision taken for 'Forest Reform', and to explain the system and the caveats by local meetings in villages.
b) To separate the forests into two major categories at the first level of classification, namely community forests and protection forests. The protection forests will only be those which are to be left undisturbed and unmanaged at present because these have no infrastructure and also are not degenerating under the present usage. These may include such forests which few people use and if used for shifting cultivation, has acceptable fallow periods. Substantial areas of Pacific Island forests will come under this category. The agency will then separate the community forests into two categories, the production community and the conservation community forests. This operation of categorisation will not be difficult as in most of the countries, these divisions have already been made. The conservation community forests will include what is presently segregated, as biosphere reserves, national parks, sanctuaries etc.
c) The major activity in respect of production community forests will be to link specific villages with blocks of forests they are presently using. This linking process, at this time, will not be subject to mapping and preparation of management plans. The demarcation between forest blocks will be done by geographical features and approximate sketching of these features in the presence and with the help of village people who have common boundaries of their forest blocks. These approximation may later create a few conflicts but seldom as much as foresters apprehend or some social scientists emphasise in treatises in conflict resolution.
There will be problems between old traditional users, new and local migrants. The social activist in the agency will have to take the leading role in their resolution. In the case of conservation community forests, individual units of conservation (for example, a biosphere reserve or a sanctuary) has to be linked with all the villages that are contiguous to it and who have a stake in the reserve. In other words, the reserve unit will be linked to a group of villagers rather than one village as in the case of production community forests.
d) Concomitant with the demarcation and forest- village linking, teams of planners will spread out to support the villages to form committees, to assist them make their own rules and regulations, to train the members of the village in basics of forest protection and management, and to assist the committees in preparing the management plan. The planners will include the forestry officials, accounts people and social activists. The planning will see to it that the plan is so made that the forest production, be it of timber or of nontimber forest products, can be sustained over time, that it allows the subsistence support of the village as its first goal followed by marketing for economic gain as the second goal. Indigenous technology should be encouraged to be adopted in the plans. If the forest is such that it can not be planned as a separate economic unit, the social workers can advise the members to make a unified plan with the contiguous units. This is being done in the Hubei province of China for their community conservation areas. The members can do the plan implementation on their own or engage contractors to carry it out. Where they feel necessary and can afford it, they can engage foresters to do the monitoring for them.
In the case of conservation units, the planners have to provide examples of how the villagers can benefit economically and from subsistence point of view by maintaining the objectives of the forest unit. There are now many examples in the world where this is being done successfully. One example is the Annapurna National Reserve of Nepal. The other is that of Korup National Park of Cameroon of Africa (Kenton and Tangley, 1991). In any case, it is a great challenge to innovation that the foresters have to face and come up with a solution to influence the village committee members to adopt.
e) Once the above tasks are completed, the agency can be disbanded and the foresters can take over the technical back up of the committees. The mapping of different units may now be undertaken and completed over a period. The foresters will also undertake research on topics specially those that are required by the committees to increase their economic gains sustainably. We believe that the topics will be much spread out than now and will include a lot of non-timber forest products.
We can not say that the prospect of acceptance of our proposal of forest reform by decentralization to the village level by the countries is excellent, but we also believe that if all the outside and inside forces of goodwill make a concerted move, adoption is within the realm of possibility. The international agencies with their financial incentives and scientific and technical support, the rising voices for conservation by the social activists and ecologists, the spreading demand by the indigenous and local people for establishment of their rights to be saved from ecological disaster and above all the recognition by the administrators and foresters that something needs be done urgently against deforestation make it a suitable time to go for a drastic reform. No further tinkering with the problem will suffice.