The challenge of organizational development of public forestry administrations


In a dynamic society, contemporary organizations are increasingly facing pressures to be more efficient, effective, and responsive. Organizational adaptation is a major issue confronting the forest sector all over the world, especially in the face of rapid changes taking place in the larger socio-economic, technological, and political environment. Forests are no longer viewed as mere sources of timber but as vital life support systems encompassing much broader social, environmental, economic, and cultural values and functions. In accordance with these changing societal perceptions, the diversity and number of forestry stakeholders has increased manifold. The needs and aspirations of these "new foresters" have also therefore significantly expanded and diversified over the years. 

Growing pressures on forestry institutions                                                 

Society’s burgeoning demands on forests and the need to involve multiple stakeholders and their interests places enormous pressures on forestry organizations. With close to 80 percent of the world’s forests being publicly owned, forestry has traditionally been dominated by state institutions. Fundamental differences in the operating environments such as budgeting, decision-making, and accountability structures of public sector organizations force them to be run differently than their private or not-for-profit counterparts. In the wake of increasing pressures for transformation, these organizations are facing unprecedented challenges, ranging from simplifying complex and entrenched bureaucratic structures to altogether eliminating certain intricate and redundant policies. The process is complex and difficult especially when the objectives of equity, economic development, and ecological sustainability are simultaneously incorporated in management goals. Besides dealing with dynamic and complex ecological and social systems, the forest agencies are also required to operate in context specific situations that involve conceding a part of their authority and decision making power. Quite often, these situations result in slow decision-making, high transaction costs, and an overall sense of organizational inertia and inefficiency.

Emerging new challenges

With climate change emerging as the greatest environmental challenge of the twenty-first century, the critical roles forests and trees play in its mitigation and adaptation are now increasingly being recognized. Integrating climate change strategies with core forestry activities such as biodiversity conservation, local community participation, and poverty alleviation however poses yet another challenge to forest agencies in their efforts toward achieving sustainable forest management. Carbon markets including REDD, bio-energy, eco-tourism, and national forest programme development are some other factors that are driving institutional change. Addressing these emerging needs requires undertaking additional measures such as further decentralization and devolution, engaging new stakeholders including the private sector, and improved communication. At a broader level, contemporary forestry also requires upward integration of forest management with national economic development policies and programmes, synchronizing forestry with sustainable development, developing effective private-public partnerships, and actively engaging forest dwellers and local communities in forest policy implementation at the grass-root level.

Organizational adaptation

Forest agencies must adapt to become more flexible, responsive, and dynamic to effectively respond to society’s growing expectations of forests and forestry. Organizational adaptation is transformation of an organization to its changing work and task environment with a focus on continuous learning, innovation, and use and acquisition of new resources and alliances for enhanced performance. In particular, the recent trend toward decentralization requires the government agencies to change from hierarchical and top-down styles of governance to one that is more closely aligned with the principles of stakeholder participation and collaboration. Effective institutional adaptation also requires, in almost all countries, an enhanced ability to develop and implement policies related to climate change and REDD. These comprehensive approaches demand unprecedented action to create new institutional structures and strengthening the existing ones. Currently, however, only a few forestry organizations are prepared to undertake this burgeoning task.


last updated:  Tuesday, December 13, 2011