Thematic study on Forest ownership and resource tenure

The thematic study was designed to collect, analyse and monitor data on forest ownership, resource tenure and related trends at the regional level in policy and law development.

This phase was a pilot exercise conducted in East and Southeast Asia. Similar studies are expected to be conducted in other regions. The objective was to develop and test a methodology for collecting and monitoring forest ownership and tenure data at the global level that can be integrated into the FRA 2010 process.

The exercise has been implemented on two levels: a regional level, with a pilot survey conducted in 17 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam) and a national level, with eleven country-specific case studies (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam).

Results and main conclusions

• Forests remain public to a great extent (86 percent), with limited differences among countries, and mostly under the direct control of central governments (79 percent).
• Devolution of management responsibilities to local communities involves no more than 10 percent of forests (18 percent if small-scale forest holders are included). In general, rights are devolved for degraded forests.
• Short-term management agreements prevail over long-term ones.
• Despite the examples provided by some countries – known for their well-established traditions of community forestry, joint forest management and private forestry– the scale of these schemes remains limited. Forests and the forestry sector do not generally offer a more diversified and adapted system of tenurial arrangements than can be seen in the rural development context.
• Some emerging trends are the allocation of forests to private households (China and Viet Nam) and the interesting, but still limited and very recent granting of long-term agreements (100 years) to private companies (Malaysia).
• The forestry sector seems slow to adapt to current trends such as decentralization and greater stakeholder participation. Instead, it tends to react to shocks in extreme ways (e.g. logging bans), which further weaken tenure rights.
• In many countries, resource users and managers still have only a vague understanding of their roles, responsibilities and rights: poor management is often the result of limited knowledge and capacities.

A strong recommendation emerging from the study is that awareness must be increased of the implications of forest ownership and tenure on forest management and poverty reduction. It is expected that FRA 2010 could contribute significantly to this goal.

Understanding forest tenure in South and Southeast Asia

Forestry Policy and Institutions Working Paper 14

Forest tenure assessment

last updated:  Friday, January 18, 2008