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Origins and Scope
Limits of the study
Context and Contrasts

Origins and Scope

At the 16th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, agreement was reached on the preparation of an "Outlook Study" for the region. The overall function of the Study is to assess the status, trends, and outlook for the forestry sector to 2010. This involves a series of related studies which consider the relevant components impacting on the region's forests, and the need for future work.

This paper looks at the situation which exists in a representative group of Asia-Pacific countries with regard to their forest resources. From this basis, the future is examined in order to identify the need for changed legislative frameworks within those countries, if they are to maximise the benefits from their forest resources.

In order to achieve this, first we must look at each country to determine the forces that have shaped their present forest industry. We must then examine the forces at work today and extrapolate these forward to the future. Concurrent with this we must consider what is desired for the future, and identity the gaps between the desired future and the likely future if no changes are made. This should then allow us to identity what changes are required to reach the desired state, and how those changes may be influenced.


In a study such as this there are a number of forces and behaviours at work that we need to consider. These include:

· the role of governments in developing legislation;
· the history of development and settlement within a given country;
· the political and economic attitude of the country both past and future;
· economic and social parameters; and
· the key nations that influence the country.

These factors must be seen in the context of human development and demand within each country. The issues faced by most countries today are a direct reflection of competing demands for resources (of which the forest is a major resource) resulting from significant and ongoing increases in population.

Limits of the study 1

1 This section has been introduced by the editor.

To review such important factors and forces poses challenges even where time and resources are abundant and a study is focused on only one country. In this case, attention is spread over many countries and only information readily accessible in a desk study has been used. The constraints which this imposes need to be recognized in reading this report. Given appreciation of these difficulties, the author has refrained from passing judgement on situations studied or making definitive recommendations for action to address perceived weaknesses. Instead, possible options for response are set out which readers are at liberty to take on board and to reflect upon regarding possible relevance or applicability to their own countries. The ideas so proffered are intended to create a basis for dialogue on the issues facing the countries reviewed.

Context and Contrasts

The review results are presented under individual country profiles. Before exploring each country in this profile, it is useful to consider why each was chosen from the large number of countries which make up the Asia-Pacific region, and to compare and contrast them both among themselves, and with those not studied.

The Asia-Pacific region as covered in this outlook study extends over a large area of the globe from about latitude 50° north to 50° south, and from Pakistan in the west to the island nations of the South Pacific in the east. The countries range from China, with about 20% of the world's population, to island states with less than 100,000 people. Geography ranges from low altitude, flat lands, to the mountains of Nepal, and climate from equatorial tropics to the almost Arctic climes of China and Mongolia.

The inter-relationship between human development and forests has shown remarkably similar patterns throughout the world, and through time. This can be generalised to the following phases:

· Man the hunter/gatherer, living within the forest - small populations, having limited long term impact on the forest.

· Development of agriculture, requiring clearance of forests to make land available for other crops. As those crops become permanent (as opposed to shifting cultivars), or as the fallow periods diminish, the forest is effectively removed forever, or at least severely degraded.

· Escalating demand for both industrial wood and fuel wood, as populations rise and they become more urbanised, and demand or desire improved standards of living.

· Severe depletion (in both quantity and quality) of natural forests, resulting in the need to replace supplies with either imports (commonly sourced from another country's natural forests), or plantations, or a combination of both.

· Recognition of the need for sustainable forest management.

While the countries of the Asia-Pacific region are in various stages of this progression, there is always interaction, and there are no clear parameters by which to measure the progress. The types of parameters commonly used to measure this type of progression include GDP; hectares of forest per capita; forest product self sufficiency; etc.

Placing each country on a continuum as measured by each of these parameters gives a very confused picture indeed. Further, these types of parameters largely ignore the fuel wood and non-wood forest products which are so important to many people.

This study, then, attempts to profile a group of countries which collectively display the range of major phases described above and applicable to the selected countries as follows:

· Phase One - the "hunter/gatherer" situation - is present in parts of Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and other Asia-Pacific countries. However, the world's rapid population growth and incursion into the natural forests for timber and land is resulting in the rapid demise of this phase.

· Phase Two - development of agricultural land from forest - is currently the major cause of deforestation in most countries in the region. Indonesia and Thailand are examples. Ironically, the majority of countries where this is not currently the cause of significant deforestation have already passed through this phase, and have lost substantial areas of natural forest, for example, New Zealand.

· Phase Three - the increasing urbanisation and demand for industrialised wood or resultant products - is occurring throughout the region, but in particular the tiger economies of Asia.

· Phase Four - severe depletion can be seen in many countries including Thailand, Western Samoa, and the Philippines. There has been depletion of the both the area of forests and the quality of the remaining forest. The resultant dependence on large scale plantations is seen especially in New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines and on imports in Thailand.

Recognition of the need for sustainable forest management is occurring throughout the world. Many countries of the Asia-Pacific region are recognising the need for sustainable forest management, but are only beginning to grapple with the meaning and implementation of it.

New Zealand provides one model - that of a dichotomous system of forest management. The two components of the system are protection of the majority of the remaining natural forest, and fibre production from plantations or tree farms of introduced species. As a result, New Zealand has a significant wood surplus, and the opportunity to practice sustainable forest management in its broadest sense.

Of the countries studied, Papua New Guinea is arguably at the other end of the spectrum. There remain significant natural forest resources which, given the right policy and enforcement framework, could be sustainably managed to provide a full range of forest products. Further, the large area of forest and relatively small population means less pressure for forest conversion to agriculture.

The other countries tend to fit between these two extremes - with moves in thinking towards sustainable forest management, development of plantations to provide alternative fibre sources, and increasing recognition of non-wood forest products.

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