FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

New report published by RECOFTC highlights benefits of community forestry in times of crisis


Surveys conducted in seven Asian countries show that community forests boosted resilience across the continent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

A new report published by RECOFTC shows that millions of people across Asia have been better able to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions because they are members of community forests, with rights to manage, use and benefit from local forest resources. RECOFTC undertook the study in seven Asian countries in partnership with the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme in 2020 and 2021.

RECOFTC conducted surveys in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam, speaking to hundreds of people in total. Most interviewees reported negative impacts on livelihoods and food security following pandemic-related constraints such as travel restrictions, export bans, market closures and a consequential increase in the cost of imported food. By providing such products as wild food plants, medicines, agroforestry crops, firewood and timber, community forests reduced household expenses and generated income and savings. RECOFTC estimates that personal savings generated by selling timber and non-timber forest products from community forests helped about three million people in the lower Mekong region to cope during the first months of the lockdowns.

Several communities manage collective funds and revolving credit schemes that provide low interest loans to their members. Community forests with good external relations generated financial and material support from NGOs and government agencies to help those in need. Forest communities also benefitted from internal networks and communication to access and distribute information and supplies of masks and hand sanitizer.

Our research highlights the importance of expanding community forests and improving land tenure systems to ensure that local people have clear and strong rights over forest resources,” says David Ganz, Executive Director of RECOFTC. “Boosting support for community forestry should not only help countries as they emerge from the pandemic but also strengthen resilience to future shocks, whether in the form of future pandemics or the continuing impacts of climate change. Science tells us that both kinds of shocks will become more frequent unless urgent action is taken to address forest loss. Community forestry offers a route to addressing the causes and limiting the consequences of these global challenges at the same time.”

The report highlights community forestry success factors and presents recommendations on how to improve and maintain identified conditions. These include tenure arrangements, rights over resources, the size and quality of forest land allocated to communities and the capacity of community forest committees to manage credit schemes and access external support. The research also recommends ways that community forestry can feature in pandemic recovery plans and contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Read the synthesis report here.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the European Unions’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.

For more information :

FAO-EU FLEGT Programme


RECOFTC special report