About the project

The Regional Project on Assistance for the Implementation of the Model Forest Approach for Sustainable Forest Management in the Asia Pacific Region (GCP/RAS/177/JPN, or RMFP) was launched in February 2000 and will run until February 2003. It is funded by the Government of Japan, executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Untied Nations (FAO) and has four participating countries, i.e. China, Myanmar, Philippines & Thailand.

The Project aims to contribute to the efforts of the four Project countries to sustainably manage their forest resources through strengthening their national and community-level capacities in the development and implementation of field-level model forests.

The field-level model forests will incorporate partnerships among all stakeholders, and "best practices" for sustainable forest management, taking into account the multiple uses and functions of forests, the many diverse demands placed on the forests and forest lands by various stakeholders, the need to balance economic, social and environmental considerations, and the special needs and priorities of each country.

The model forest approach emphasises

  • the inter-dependence of all the components of the broader eco-system;
  • the need to broaden the focus of forest management to integrated land use, and
  • the importance of involving all stakeholders in the planning, use and management of the resource base, and of achieving this through the development of effective partnerships of the stakeholders.

The main immediate challenge in the regional project has been to try to effect a change in the approach to the use and management of forest and land resources, from the traditional top-down, sectoral approach, to a more inclusive, consultative, multi-sectoral approach. This will require a significant change in thinking and behavior, and will take time to be more widely achieved.

The longer term challenge is to institutionalise or mainstream this approach so that it becomes an integral part of the planning and implementation process in the countries concerned.


A MF is a large-scale forest ecosystem, incorporating the full range of forest uses and values, where stakeholders - people with direct and indirect interest in the MF area - supported by appropriate information, can participate in decisions on how the MF area should be used and managed. The cornerstone of each MF is a partnership of stakeholders with different perspectives on the social, economic and environmental aspects of the MF area who meet regularly to exchange information, views and ideas on the activities in the MF area; and current or expected impacts. The process of promoting SFM through the development of MFs is referred to as the Model Forest Approach to SFM.

MF partnerships do not carry any executive authority, but provide a forum for stakeholders to exchange information and views, including how they are impacted upon, positively or negatively, by actions in the MF. Each MF partner retains the right to act as it deems appropriate. However, it is hoped that as partnerships develop, the decisions made by each stakeholder will consider the needs, priorities and values of all stakeholders. This will require a major change from traditional "top-down" approaches to the use and management of forest resources, and in the way people think and act.

The impacts of MF initiatives are substantial, touching on good governance, sustainable economic development and diversification, and improved policy-making processes, leading ultimately to improved policy. MFs also have potential as demonstration and training areas for national forest programs. MFs typically include collaborative efforts in forest research and practices, conservation and protection, education, training and capacity building, economic diversification and development, long-term monitoring, GIS applications, measuring progress toward SFM, etc. The MF approach has shown itself to be highly adaptable to a range of ecosystems, forest types, and political jurisdictions, while addressing local issues. MFs are developed according to a broad set of minimum defining attributes which allow them to maintain coherence, shared direction and multiple opportunities for mutually beneficial exchange.

"The core attribute of MFs - voluntary partnership - is a workable concept. ¿ The MF Approach appeared to be a sensible way to help integrate the multi-functional dimensions of natural resource planning and management. ¿ The RMFP is both relevant and timely." RMFP Terminal Evaluation Mission, April-May 2002.

Model Forest Attributes

Fundamental MF attributes:

  1. Partnerships must include key land users and other stakeholders represented in the MF area (e.g. industry, community groups, government agencies, NGOs, academic and educational institutions, national parks, private landowners, and others as appropriate), i.e. the partnerships must be local and inclusive - no agency can achieve SFM alone.
  2. Commitment of all partners to SFM. This requires not only an understanding of what SFM means but also what effective partnership entails, i.e. willingness of all parties to compromise on what they expect from the MF.
  3. Magnitude of land base (usually based on watershed boundaries) must be large enough to incorporate the full range of forest uses and values, and for the outputs from the MF to be able to influence policy.
  4. Scope of activities undertaken should reflect the realities and needs at the local and national levels.
  5. Organizational and governance structure in which partners with different values can work constructively together. The management process must be participatory and transparent, and support consensus building among the partners.
  6. Commitment to build and share a knowledge and experience base within the partnership and with others across the network of MFs.

Additional MF attributes:

  • Voluntary participation of stakeholders. Not all stakeholders may want to participate at the beginning, but the process should go ahead with a core group, which should increase as the benefits of the MF are demonstrated.
  • Demonstration of appropriate best practices and processes for operational scale SFM.
  • Replicable, adaptive and responsive to continuous, long term monitoring and improvement.
  • Used for research, training, education, capacity building and technology transfer.
  • Development of practical criteria and indicators at the local level for assessing the relevance and consistency of action taken, and for tracking progress towards SFM; and
  • Provision of feed-back into national forest and land use planning and policy processes.

      Stakeholders, Partners and Partnerships

      • Stakeholders are individuals, groups or institutions that are affected (negatively or positively) by, and/or can affect (negatively or positively), to different degrees, any given area, situation, resource, system, programme, process, etc. Stakeholders change over time.
      • Partners are individuals, groups or organizations working together to address issues of mutual interest.
      • A partnership is a relationship with two or more organizations working together, on "equal" terms, towards an outcome of mutual benefit. In the MF context, "equal" refers to having the opportunity to present a point of view or to raise relevant issues in a partnership forum. As MF partnerships do not carry any executive authority, "equal" does not refer to any voting process for executive decision making.
      • All partners are stakeholders but not all stakeholders are partners. As MFs are relatively large areas, it is necessary to begin the process of partnership building with a core number of stakeholders interested in becoming partners, and draw in new partners as the benefits of the MF Approach are demonstrated. Partners who consider they are not benefitting from the MF process may decide to stop being partners.



      Lessons from experiences elsewhere:

      Where partnerships have failed:

      • History of unresolved conflict among key interest groups.
      • Lack of clear purpose.
      • Unrealistic goals or deadlines.
      • Key interest groups refuse to participate.
      • Not all participants stand to benefit from the partnership.
      • Partnership is not equitable - some groups have disproportionate power over others.
      • Partnership is not needed because one or more groups can achieve goals on their own.
      • Financial and time commitments outweigh potential benefits of partnership.
      • There is a basic value conflict, and room for negotiation does not exist (and cannot be created).

      Where Model Forests have worked:

      • Solid support by key stakeholders
      • Meaningful, functional Director
      • Agreed upon strategy and programme of activity
      • Reflecting the priorities of stakeholders within the context of SFM
      • Proof of benefit and success
      • Satisfaction and recognition of partners
      • Allowing the process the necessary time to succeed

      Where Model Forests have failed:

      • Excessive expectations or demands
      • "Dictatorship of the research scientists" (monopolisation by one stakeholder group)
      • Partnership and participation without strategy - input without direction
      • Poor site selection
      • Top-down approach
      • Building the MF without stakeholders



      • China began developing Lin'an MF in 1997, with assistance from IMFNS.
      • Myanmar began developing a "model forest" at Paukkhaung Township in 1999, with assistance from JIFPRO (japan International Forestry Promotion and Cooperation Centre).
      • Philippines' decision to adopt a Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) Strategy and an ecosystem approach to land use management provided a firm foundation on which to develop Ulot Watershed MF.
      • Thailand began developing a "model forest" at Ngao Demonstration Forest (established in 1964), with assistance from ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organisation).

        Underlying purpose for establishing MFs:

        • Linan MF, China: to consolidate, improve and sustain an expanding NWFP-based economy, and to develop the first MF in the Chinese SFM network.
        • Paukkhaung MF, Myanmar: to implement sound and practical forest/land use practices to address shifting cultivation, land/forest use conflicts, and over-intensive/illegal logging, and to test application of the Community Forestry Instructions.
        • Ulot MF, Philippines: to effect optimal and sustainable use of forest and land within the broader biodiversity conservation context, and to build on national CBFM and ecosystems approach strategies, and existing community and people-oriented forestry projects.
        • Ngao MF, Thailand: to effect sound and practical forest and land use practices to address shifting cultivation, forest and land use for local communities, forest and land use conflicts, and over-exploitation of forest resources, and test the application of the (pending) Community Forestry Act.

        Two key principles of the RMFP are:

        1. Implementation of the Project in each country is the responsibility of the respective national agency. The RMFP assists countries by providing regional training opportunities, funding and technical support, information and experience from other Project countries and elsewhere, and assistance to secure additional resources from donors and other agencies, and
        2. Each MF will develop at its own pace. There is no single model and no fixed activities for MF development, and conditions in each country are unique, even though the MF framework is common.


        Regional activities

        • 1st inception workshop. 21-25 May 2000, Linan MF, China.
        • 2nd PSC meeting and RMFP workshop on developing partnerships that work. 19-22 Feb 2001, Chiangmai, Lampang, Thailand.
        • Workshop on field/MF-level C&I for SFM. 10-15 Jun 2001, Lin'an, China.
        • 3rd PSC meeting and regional MF workshop on C&I for SFM in MF. 25-29 Nov 2001, Yangon, Pyay, Myanmar.
        • Terminal evaluation of RMFP by 3-person team. 14 Apr - 11 May 2002.
        • Workshop to develop guidelines for measurement of MF-level indicators for SFM. 22-27 Apr 2002, Lampang, Thailand.
        • Workshop on "best practices" for bamboo and hickory cultivation and management, and ecotourism development. 31 May-12 Jun 2002, Lin'an, China.
        • Workshop on forest and related legislation, policies and practices and their impacts on SFM and the MF approach. 29 Jul - 2 Aug 2002, Tacloban, Philippines.
        • 4th and final PSC meeting and RMFP workshop (theme: "What Next?") 25-29 Nov 2002, Tacloban, Ormoc City, Philippines.

        Training opportunities provided to MF Project countries

        • INBAR Int.training workshop on sustainable bamboo management and processing techniques for small size bamboo enterprises. 4-16 Oct 2000, Hangzhou, China.
        • International ecotourism planning and management workshop. 30 Oct-2 Nov 2000, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, China.
        • CIFOR community-level C&I workshop. 16-24 Feb 2001, in Nepal.
        • RECOFTC facilitation skills for community forestry training course. 21 May-1 June 2001, Bangkok, Thailand.
        • International conference on community forestry: innovations and experiences. 25-28 Sept 2001, Chiang Mai, Thailand. ¨ RECOFTC international training course on managing conflicts in forest resource management. 5-20 Nov 2001, Bangkok, Thailand.
        • RECOFTC international training course on community-based tourism for conservation and development. 4 Feb - 1 Mar 2002, Thailand.
        last updated:  Tuesday, March 15, 2016