During the past two decades, essentially all members of the international community have reformed their national laws and policies in accordance with the principles of international environmental treaties, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) the Convention to Combat Desertification (1992) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992). All FAO member governments now officially promote sustainable use of their tree and forest resources. Nevertheless, most governments have very limited information about the effects of their recent changes in public policy concerning forestry and rural development in general. Have there been any substantial changes in forest use patterns and resource conditions as a result of the new policies? In what ways have forestry activities helped achieve food security and alleviate rural poverty?
To find answers to these questions policy makers need monitoring programs that go beyond the normal inventories of the biophysical resource and take into account the resource users as well. This is because the effects of public policy on forest condition cannot be explained without a thorough understanding of how forest users¿ decisions react to public policies (Gibson et al, 2000). Hence, information about forest users provides a link between forestry policies and observable outcomes on the landscape (Andersson, 2002). The challenge, then, is to make sure that the information that is gathered about forest users is both valid and reliable. How should the NFA organize its interview component so that accurate data is produced? That is the question that this chapter seeks to answer.