The reason why formal tenure is sometimes unenforceable (and why devolving tenure to local communities is such a rare process anyhow), is that forests are valuable and attempts to change tenurial arrangements are almost always strongly contested. The question is how politically marginal people can make the contest more even. The emergence of community forestry as a social movement in some countries (Gilmour and Fisher 1997), the increasing advocacy role of NGOs and the development of networks of forest users13, are elements in a trend towards the increasing ability of forest dependent peoples to engage in the contest.
13 One example is the Federation of Community Forestry Users in Nepal (FECOFUN), described by Shrestha and Britt (1997).
There is obviously a trend towards greater policy commitment in many countries towards more collaborative/participatory approaches to forest management (although much of this trend remains at a rhetorical level). This shift is reinforced by pressure from various donors. International NGOs such as IUCN and WWF also advocate and support initiatives in this direction.
Although there are signs that people are taking (and, sometimes, being given) greater control, there are opposing trends and opposing forces. In opposition to the trends towards increasing local control and responsibility, there are trends towards an increasing globalization of the economy which make it difficult for governments (particularly small governments) to place restrictions on economic activities and timber companies are developing a multi-national aspect which makes them difficult to resist or to hold accountable.
The international and national environmental movements are also rapidly becoming more influential. From the point of view of forest dependent peoples this is a mixed blessing. Some environmentalists see forest dependent peoples as natural allies. Others see them as an enemy.
Discussions of options for people-forest development tend to focus heavily on improving production or setting up long-term management plans, as if the essential continuity of 'dependency' remains unquestioned. It is important to avoid an 'essentialist' view of people who depend on forests. There is nothing unchanging or inevitable about the patterns of relationships. As Asia continues to become industrialised it is likely that far less people will depend directly on forests for their livelihoods. At the same time those who remain dependent may become more dependent and more marginalized.
To sum up, several key (and sometimes competing) trends can be identified in people-forest relationships:
· Economic development, both at the national level and in rural areas, will provide economic alternatives for many people who currently rely on forests for all or part of their livelihoods.
· Collaborative approaches to forest management are increasingly becoming incorporated in forest policy in Asia.
· Unless there is a greater recognition of the claims of those people most heavily dependent on forests (especially those resident in forests), large scale commercial exploitation of forests is likely to lead to increased impoverishment and marginalization for some groups.
· Parallel with the trend towards collaborative management and decentralisation, there seems to be a trend towards internationalisation of economies, which will continue to weaken the bargaining power of some groups.
If these are the main trends, what options exist for the future?
A key point arising from the insistence by Byron and Arnold (1997) that people-forest relationships need to be disaggregated, is that there are different development options for people in different categories. Box 4 sets out these options as identified by Byron and Arnold. The typology of options is a valuable contribution, particularly because it illustrates how inappropriate it is to apply panacea solutions to different situations. The stress on the need to involve people in identifying where they fit in the typology and what options they desire, is crucial. Again, the question of power (defined as a meaningful role in decision-making) remains central.
The impossibility of suggesting a 'most likely scenario' for the future was noted at the beginning of this paper. There are some obvious trends (often in competing directions), but the long term outcomes are a matter of speculation and the outcome is likely to be different in various countries, depending on the outcomes of contests between the various actors. There are signs, although this may be more of a pious hope than a realistic prediction, that forest dependent peoples will gain much greater say in the management of forests in the future. If this happens, it is likely to be beneficial in terms of more sustainable management of forests and in terms of the livelihoods of these people.
Box 4 - Development Options for Forest People in Different Situations
The essential question for any government or development agency anxious to help those called "forest-dependent people" is what would one do? Firstly, we would argue strongly that there is no general panacea or formula, but rather that a detailed assessment needs to be prepared, by (or at least with) those people concerned. This assessment would cover the complete range of the relationships between the people and the forests which they use and/or manage, the current limitations to their livelihoods, and the potentials and desire for change. However, a number of broad overlapping, types of situation can be identified:
· Forests continue to be central to livelihood systems: local people are or should be the principal stakeholders in these forest areas; meeting their needs is likely to be the principal objective of forest management, and this should be reflected in control and tenure arrangements which are centred on them.
· forest products play an important supplementary and safety net role: users need security of access to the resources from which they source these products, but are often not the only users in that forest area; forest management, and control is likely to be best based on resource-sharing arrangements among several stakeholder groups.
· forest products play an important role but are more effectively supplied from non-forest sources: management of forests tends to be geared towards agro-forest structures; control and tenure need to be consistent with... individual (private) rather than collective (common property) forms of governance...
· participants need help in exploiting opportunities to increase the benefits they obtain from forest product activities: constraints in the way of small-holder access to markets need to be removed (Dewees and Scherr 1995); improved access to credit, skills, marketing services etc., may be required (Liedholm and Mead 1993).
· participants need help in moving out of dead-end forest product activities: helping provide them with new options, which are quite likely to be outside forestry."
Source: Byron and Arnold: 11-12