Knowledge reference for national forest assessments - organization and implementation
2.2 Key issues in establishing an NFA organizationHaving discussed the role of the NFA organization and given the framework for the treatment in this paper, some key issues in establishing an NFA organization will now be discussed.
Links to users of data and information from the NFA are very important. The most important stakeholders should preferably be involved from the very beginning of establishing the organization. At later stages, the role of stakeholders may be formalized through steering committees or reference groups to the inventory and analysis activities. This link to users is very important since the rationale of the NFA lies in their interest in data, information, and analyses provided by the NFA.
Links to competence within the fields of resource assessment and modelling also is important. The introduction of certain data collection through interviews puts special requirements on communication skills and social science based techniques. It is likely that the NFA permanent staff mostly will be rather limited in numbers, due to limited resources. Thus, good knowledge exchanges and links with universities, research institutes, and similar organizations is a means to assure that the knowledge and skills needed in different parts of the NFA can be made available on a long-term basis. National experts may also be tied to steering groups or reference groups whereby the scope of discussions at such meetings can be broader.
From the above discussion, it may in many cases be advisable to establish the NFA organization in close proximity to either users or to established competence centers within relevant fields (or to both). In most countries there are several stakeholders with an interest in forestry and land-use issues. In case there are conflicts or disagreements between different stakeholder groups, it may be advisable to establish the NFA organization in a way so that the organization can be considered neutral and trust-worthy by all stakeholders. This would often point towards placing the organization close to universities or research institutes, rather than in the close proximity to any major users of data. This may be a good argument for not establishing the organization within some existing governmental organization that is responsible for evaluating the success (or failure) of the current forestry and land-use policies in the country. In such cases there might be a risk that the organization will not be entirely objective in the presentation of results. When different government organizations are responsible for different land use sectors (e.g. forestry, agriculture) there is also a risk that separate assessments are built up or that data collected by one of those organisations are not used by the other even if land use issues concern both.
The NFA organization needs an adequate mix of competences to work well. There will be a need for competence in the subject fields the NFA is established to monitor, i.e. there is a need for knowledge about what key variables should be included in the inventory, and what definitions and assessment methods to use. This may concern silviculture, forest management, agriculture, biology or other issues such as socio-economics. These people will be important both for planning the inventory and for interpreting and presenting results in an understandable manner. People with good knowledge in statistics are needed for designing the NFA, but also for analyzing results and developing functional relationships to be used in scenario modelling. Especially, there is a need for solid competence in sampling techniques. Nowadays, computer specialists are generally needed. In particular, such people are important in case field computers are used for the data collection.
last updated: Friday, March 12, 2004