Project extension information

The government of Canada, through the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and the International Model Forest Network Secretariat (IMFNS), and FAO have agreed to support a 12-month regional model forest “bridging initiative” to

  • Prepare, in consultation with relevant partners, the framework and terms of reference for the establishment of a Regional Model Forest Center for Asia-Pacific (RMFC-AP);
  • Seek donors to support the RMFC-AP;
  • Provide limited but targeted support to strengthen some of the existing model forests in the region;
  • Provide, where feasible, technical support to other countries interested in establishing model forest;
  • Organize regional consultations to share experiences and lessons learnt from developing model in the Asia-Pacific and other regions; and
  • Develop strategies for strengthening and furthering the application of the model forest approach in the region.


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The FAO / Government of Japan Regional Model Forest Project (GCP/RAS/177/JPN) that ended in February 2003 had demonstrated that “the core attribute of model forest-voluntary partnership – is a workable concept, and constitutes a unifying framework and an important forum for communication amongst various stakeholders. The model forest approach appeared to be a sensible way forward to help integrate the multi-function dimension of natural resource planning and management. It can provide a logical extension and a means of scaling up existing programmes such as community-based forestry in countries of the region” (Terminal Evaluation Mission Report).

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In May 2003, a regional consultation was hold in Hua Hin, Thailand to develop a logical framework for the proposed RMFC-AP, and review the progress of the existing model forests. Participants included representatives from the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia; EU/UNDP Small Grants Programme to Promote Center (ICRAF-Chiang Mai), IMFNS and FAO. The provisional development and immediate objectives of the proposed RMFC-AP are:

Development Objectives:

Forest and land / other renewable resource protected, conserved and used on sustainable base for the benefit of rural communities and the larger society in the Asia-Pacific region.

Immediate Objective:

  1. Country-led initiatives towards field-level implementation of sustainable forest management through the application of the application of the model forest approach facilitated and supported.
  2. sharing of experiences and knowledge on sustainable forest management and the model forest approach facilitated with a view to facilitating linkages to the national forest programmes, influencing policies and practices, and networking with the national forest programmes, International Model Forest Network and other related initiatives.
  3. A regional network to support model forest initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region established and operationalised.

Meanwhile, the “bridging initiative” and IMFNS are providing limited, targeted support to strengthen the Lin’an, Ulot and Ngao Model Forests. A regional consultation on the development of monitoring and evaluation system for model forest is planned for January 2004 in Thailand.

Model Forests and the Model Forest Approach

A model forest 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 model forest area - supported by appropriate information, can participate in decisions on how the model forest area and its natural resources should be used and managed. The cornerstone of each model forest is a partnership of stakeholders with different perspectives on the social, economic and environmental values of the forest, who meet regularly to exchange information, views and ideas on the activities in the model forest area; and current or expected impacts. The process of promoting sustainable forest management through the development of model forests is referred to as the Model Forest Approach to sustainable forest management.

Model forest partnerships do not carry any executive authority over the stakeholders, but provide a forum for them to exchange information and views, including how they are impacted upon, positively or negatively, by actions in the model forest area. Each stakeholder retains the right to act as s/he 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 shift from the traditional “top-down” approach to a more consultative and transparent approach in the use and management of forest and land resources, and in the way people think and act.

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The impacts of model forest initiatives are substantial, touching on good governance, sustainable economic development and diversification, and improved policy-making processes, leading ultimately to improved policy. Model forests also have potential as demonstration and training areas for national forest programmes. They 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, developing criteria and indicators (C&I) to measure progress toward sustainable forest management, etc.

The model forest approach has shown itself to be highly adaptable to a range of ecosystems, forest types, and political jurisdictions, while addressing local issues. Model forests 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.

Fundamental model forest attributes:

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  • Partnerships must be voluntary and include key land owners, users and other stakeholders represented in the model forest 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. 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 model forest are demonstrated.
  • 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 model forest.
  • Magnitude of land base (usually based on watershed boundaries). The model forest area must be large enough to incorporate the full range of forest uses and values, and for the outputs from the model forest to be able to influence policy.
  • Scope of activities undertaken should reflect the realities and needs at the local and national levels.
  • Replicable, adaptive and responsive to continuous, long term monitoring and improvement.
  • Organisational 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.
  • Commitment to build and share a knowledge and experience base within the partnership, and with others across the network of model forests.

Uses and applications of model forest:

  • Demonstration of appropriate best practices and processes for operational scale sustainable forest management.
  • 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 programmes, 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 can change over time.
  • Partners are individuals, groups or organisations working together to address issues of mutual interest.
  • A partnership is a relationship with two or more organisations working together, on “equal” terms, towards an outcome of mutual benefit. In the model forest context, “equal” refers to having the opportunity to present a point of view or to raise relevant issues in a partnership forum. As model forest partnerships do not carry any executive authority over the stakeholders, “equal” does not refer to any voting process for executive decision-making.
  • All partners are stakeholders but not all stakeholders are partners. As model forests 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 model forest approach are demonstrated. Partners who consider that they are not benefiting from the model forest process may decide to stop being partners.

Where partnerships can fail:

  • 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 participation among partners.
  • 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.


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Where model forests have struggled:

  • 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 model forest without stakeholders.
  • Insufficient core support from national level.

Model Foreste in Asia

  • In China, the Lin’an Forestry Bureau, Zhejiang Forestry College and Chinese Academy of Forestry initiated development of the Lin’an Model Forest in 1997, with assistance from the International Model Forest Network Secretariat and Canadian Civil Society Program, reinforced by support from the FAO/Japan Regional Model Forest Project, IMFNS and USDA Forest Service from Feb. 2000 to Feb. 2003, and the current FAO/IMFNS “Bridging Initiative”.
  • In Myanmar, the Forest Department initiated development of the Paukkhaung Model Forest in 1999, with assistance from the Japan International Forestry Promotion and Cooperation Centre (JIFPRO), reinforced by support from the FAO/Japan Regional Model Forest Project from Feb. 2000 to Feb. 2003. A second model forest site has been proposed at KyawPadaung in the Dry Zone of the country.
  • In the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources initiated development of the Ulot Watershed Model Forest in 2000 with support from the FAO/Japan Regional Model Forest Project, IMFNS and USDA Forest Service, reinforced by the FAO/IMFNS “Bridging Initiative”.
  • In Thailand, the Royal Forest Department initiated development of the Ngao Model Forest in 2000 with support from FAO/Japan Regional Model Forest Project, IMFNS, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and USDA Forest Service, reinforced by the FAO/IMFNS “Bridging Initiative”.
  • In Indonesia, the Ministry of Forestry and Inhutani I initiated development of the Labanan Model Forest in East Kalimantan in 1999 with support from the EU-funded Berau Forest Management Project (which terminated in May 2003) and IMFNS. There is also interest to develop model forests at Margowitan in East Java, and at Malinau Research Forest (with CIFOR), East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
  • In Vietnam, the Forestry University of Vietnam, Ministry of Agroculture and Rural Development, initiated development of the Kim Boi/Luong Son Model Forest in Hoa Binh Province in 1999 with support from JIFPRO.

Other Model Forest Initiatives

The International Model Forest Network (IMFN) was announced by Canada at the Rio (UNCED) conference in 1992. The idea was to take a novel partnership-based approach to SFM, then being pioneered in Canada, and work with interested countries and institutions outside of Canada to test its broader application and effectiveness. Model forests involve complex relationships between people, communities, industries, governments, donors and other groups. Someone has to plant the initial seed, to inform and assist the various stakeholders, to play honest-broker, and to support the initial interactions among the potential partners. That’s the rationale behind the IMFN.

Since the first international model forests were established in Mexico and Russia nearly 10 years ago, the International Network has grown to include more than 20 sites either in existence or under development in about 15 countries around the world, in addition to the 11 model forests successfully operating in Canada. Another eight countries are actively exploring the concept. The IMFN continues to demonstrate and share successes in finding innovative, low-cost, long-term solutions to the challenges facing SFM advocates and practitioners. Already, model forests cover nearly 28 million hectares. That’s an area larger than the United Kingdom using the model forest approach to find working solutions to sustainable forest management!


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The Regional Model Forest Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean (RMFC-LAC) was launched in 2002, integrating programmes in Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic and the International Network from a base at UNDP in Santiago, Chile. Its main purpose is to support and expand Latin American model forests through their national programmes; and, to support networking and take advantage of comparative strengths to accelerate introduction of best practices to SFM.

Given equally strong growth in the number of model forests in Asia, work is also now well-advanced to establish a regional center there. In the medium-term, model forest development is also proposed for Africa where several inroads have been made. If additional funding can be secured, opportunities clearly exist to support the expansion of the Network to other developing countries and regions. A number of international donor agencies (Japan, GEF, and the European Union) and international organisations and NGOs (UNDP, FAO, CIFOR and WWF) are currently providing support to a range of IMFN activities at the site and regional levels.

last updated:  Friday, December 2, 2005