FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Myanmar: Towards legal community- and smallholder- timber production

International conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working to develop opportunities for legal community and smallholder timber production and improve Community Forestry (CF) and smallholder timber revenues in Myanmar. The Project is assessing the opportunities for and constraints to legal community and smallholder timber production, developing guidelines and recommendations to improve CF and has already begun piloting some of these suggestions in target communities in northern Kachin state and the Tanintharyi region in the far south of the country.

In the buffer zone bordering Tanintharyi Nature Reserve, in Dawei district, for example, Local Forest User Groups learnt about Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) concepts and how to conduct a simple forest inventory; this was tested in the Hnan Kyae village community forest in Ye Phyu Township, Dawei district. The training session will help forest managers identify which trees can be harvested without compromising the long-term productive value of the forest. The training tested a new, low-input concept for a simplified inventory method that can be learnt by community forest managers in about an hour, the results of which can be analysed by the group manually, without need for support. The method has proved so popular that trainees in Kachin state have already undertaken full inventories in ten community forests, providing the first ever township-level overview of the productive capacity of CF.

Until now CF in Myanmar has largely been perceived as a subsistence activity, but sale of sustainably and legally harvested products is already practiced in other countries in the region and has potential to help fund SFM.

“FFI has been supporting community forestry in Myanmar for several years, through direct implementation and evidence-based policy advice. CF clearly holds great potential for sustainable rural development and biodiversity conservation in the country,” explains Mark Grindley, Terrestrial Programme Technical Advisor/FLEGT Project Manager.
"This project takes advantage of EU FLEGT programme support to further strengthen CF by looking at how legal, sustainable timber trade can help cover management costs and increase financial incentives to CF managers, and ultimately support further expansion of this promising initiative", adds Grindley. It has also raised the profile of CF legality in the upcoming FLEGT negotiations, as well as forest sector reform in Myanmar more widely. Above all, the project’s efforts have the potential to generate substantial income for local communities and thereby improve lives and livelihoods".
Recent Government interest in FLEGT moreover is providing an unprecedented opportunity to clarify community rights over Community Forest (CF) timber and in turn promote the expansion and sustainability of CF, including fostering the growing momentum for improving the commercial prospects of CF and CF timber. In this context, the project is providing input into the revision of the main legal instrument for CF, the “CF Instruction”, and is drafting CF management guidelines based on experiences from neighbouring countries, thereby filling an obvious gap as clear guidance for CF managers that has not existed since the Instruction was promulgated in 1995.

The National Community Forestry (CF) Instruction in Myanmar (1995) provides communities the opportunity for 30 year licenses to manage state forests lands for natural forest protection, mixed agroforestry and timber production systems. However, the Government currently provides no clear guidance on CF management, or guidelines on harvesting, marking and chain of custody guidelines for CF timber. The Government’s recent declared interest in FLEGT issues and the initiation of the VPA process is an opportunity to provide clarity on these issues.

Forest inventory training – understood as the systematic collection of data and forest information for assessment and the corresponding estimate of the value and possible uses of timber – is viewed as a key conduit towards sound forest monitoring, transparency, traceability and good governance more broadly. It is equally an important facet required to sustain ecosystems, so that harvesting can be planned to avoid damage to the forest structure and the removal of more wood that can be sustainably produced.