Previous Page Table Of ContentsNext Page


Our concern here is the interaction between communities, farmers and forest reserves. The traditional idea of a reserve is of course to prevent or minimize these interactions. The reserve is a tenure regime designed to exclude community use. This section of the paper explores the origins of the extensive state forests under this tenure regime in the Third World, then turns to alternative, more interactive tenure models which an assessor may wish to consider. Farmers do in fact utilize reserves, legally or illegally, and to ignore this fact is to risk miscalculating costs and benefits of new tree planting initiatives.


There is a long tradition of conflict between the state and local communities over the control of forests. It was one of the matters at issue in the Magna Carta (Cox 1905: 6, 12; Hinde 1985: 28) and one of Karl Marx's early writings concerned the struggle between national and local powers over the right to use forest land in the Rhineland (Linebaugh 1976). A recurrent theme of colonial forestry, especially salient in the former British colonies in South Asia and Africa, is that forests must be shielded from growing use driven by demographic pressure. The major tenurial initiative of this period was the establishment of forest reserves. Private and communal tenure of forests were thought to pose a serious danger to conservation and sound exploitation, and it was considered that the state must take over control and carefully regulate use. The forests had become resources to be protected by the state against their former users.

But the state is sometimes an inefficient forest manager. Governments may lack the will to protect their forests, or their authority may simply collapse. For example, when the Uganda fell into chaos, forest guards' salaries were no longer paid. The former guards were directly involved in the widespread encroachment and settlement in the reserves (Makerere Institute of Social Research and the Land Tenure Center 1988). It may be more viable in some cases to create proprietary interests--rights to limited use of the forest--which give local communities and individuals an interest in sound husbandry of the forest reserve.


As population pressure around forest reserves has increased, there has been a growing interest in ways to provide at least partial livelihoods for some citizens from the reserves, consistent with sound management. In the case of natural forest reserves, which sometimes have limited commercial potential because of their mix of species, policies of exclusion of traditional users have been increasingly questioned. At certain population levels and ecologically sound use levels, these forests provided part of the livelihood for traditional cultivators and herders. Why can they not continue to do so?

Some interesting models for such use have been developed. Since 1983, in the Guesselbodi Forest Reserve in Niger, a management plan has been in place whereby the Forestry Service licenses individual woodcutters from the area to cut wood in sustainable amounts to sell to a local marketing cooperative. All income from the sale of wood by the cooperative is distributed on an equal share basis among resident villagers. The Forestry Service controls grazing and illegal harvesting. As the following excerpt from Lawry indicates, the Guesselbodi model appears to be working well and is promising because it casts local people and the state in a collaborative mode.


Residence in the forest is an option in commercial forestry situations. These have labor needs which can often best be met by workers resident in the forest. Under a system developed in Thailand and known as taungya, limited numbers of traditional cultivators were allocated areas to be reforested, where they could provide labor for tree-planting and at the same time cultivate their subsistence crops among the young trees. Once the canopy closed, they would move on to another area to be reforested (Goswami 1982). During the colonial period, the system was transferred to Africa and Latin America.

The tenurial basis of taungya is a contract between the Forestry Department and the participant (King 1968). While taungya provides cultivators access to land scheduled for afforestation, the system has usually provided only the most temporary tenure in a particular piece of land, and access to land for cultivation for only as long as there was land to be reforested. The current trend in Thailand is to provide cultivators with more secure tenure within the forests (Boonkird 1978; Goswami 1982; Boonkird et al. 1984). A titling program for farmers on "forest land" has been introduced, as is indicated in the excerpt by Pragtong which follows.

Where tenure is insecure, inefficiencies result. In Indonesia there is a tendency for those employed in the taungya system to damage the young trees, in order to prolong their access to the forest land for their crops (Soerianegara 1982; Peluso 1989). Similar problems have been noted in Ghana (Benneh 1987). In the Ikalahan area of Luzon, the Philippine Bureau of Forest Development in 1974 "released" 14,730 hectares on a 25-year lease to the Kalahan Edticational Foundation, to be managed under an agroforestry plan for the watershed by a local board of trustees. An evaluation conducted in the seventh year of the project indicated substantial acceptance of some elements of the land use control plan and a marked decline in tenure insecurity (Aguilar 1982).

Reforestation of denuded "forest reserves" can sometimes be accomplished through the introduction of agroforestry systems with appropriate incentives for individual households. At Betagi in Bangladesh, a forest reserve had been completely deforested through encroachment and timber theft, sometimes with the collusion of officials of the Revenue and Forestry Departments. Landless laborers were later settled on a group leasehold basis and replanted the land. Now, after years of struggle against local elites who sought to take the land from them, the households have been given twenty-five year leaseholds. The level of conflict which has accompanied this process makes an important point: rights are easily lost and "must be reestablished every day" by their exercise (Fortmann and Bruce 1988: 338-341).

Guesselbodi Forest Reserve: Niger

The USAID-funded Forest and Land Use Planning (FLUP) project in Niger provides several useful lessons on appropriate state and local roles in common property management. Guesselbodi is a 5,000-hectare forest reserve 25 km east of Niamey. It was extremely degraded and overgrazed when FLUP began work there in 1981. A management plan was put in place in September 1983. The plan combines promotion of ecological objectives (sustained forest production) with generation of economic benefits for the local population through marketing of fuel wood in Niamey. From the outset, the project gave strong emphasis to management and organizational issues. What evolved was a division of responsibilities for forest management among the Forest Service, a local cooperative established for marketing wood from the forest, and individual woodcutters granted rights to cut and supply wood to the cooperative.

The Forest Service (with significant technical assistance from FLUP) is responsible for overall management and control of the forest. It establishes technically acceptable harvest rates, supervises tree planting and forest-management activities, and supervises forest guards, hired from outside the area to control grazing and illegal harvesting.

The cooperative (established with assistance from CLUSA) has been granted exclusive rights to collect and market all harvestable wood in the forest, consistent with the management guidelines established by the project. Income from sale of wood is distributed on an equal-share basis among resident villagers.

The cooperative in turn grants permits to local woodcutters to harvest 3 wood. Cutters pay 1,000 CFA per month to harvest a maximum of 25 m of fuel wood each. Approximately 150 woodcutters work the forest reserve at any given time.

The Guesselbodi model provides an appropriate mix of state and user roles. Here the state established overall use standards and grants use rights to a credible local group (the cooperative) which can organize utilization for the benefit of local residents. It is important to note that the state retains its rights over determining harvest rates and other management policies. Importantly, the state takes an active role in the enforcement program. Rigorous enforcement of rules against overuse by local residents is something the cooperative would have difficulty doing.

Steven W. Lawry, "Tenure Policy and Natural Resource Management in Sahelian West Africa." draft (Madison: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, January 1989), at pp. 6-7.

Titling of Forest Land in Thailand

As there are a great number of farmers in the forest land, the Forest Village program cannot cope with the whole of the forest land tenure problem. Moreover, the Forest Village program has been labeled a high cost project because of its integrated nature. Also the Forest Village is a means to carry out large scale forest plantation and it has to be attached to a forest plantation project of the government. Problems of forest land tenure not addressed by the Forest Village program have called forth a new program, the so-called S.T.K. (Sit Thi Thamkim or "Right to Harvest") Land Certificate program.

The S.T.K. Land Certificate program has been promoted since 1979. The program is designed to accept and work with the actual land holding of the farmers in the forest land. The deteriorated forest is divided into two zones, the upper watershed area and the land suitable for agriculture. The upper watershed area is protected while the land suitable for agriculture is offered to individuals through S.T.K. Land Certificates. The certificates for each individual will be for not more than 2.4 ha. Those who have claimed more than 2.4 ha will be permitted to keep this land on a temporary basis, as provided by the government. The tree planting program has been encouraged for those farmers who hold more than 2.4 ha. Twenty percent of the extra land will be planted with free seedlings provided by the government. The land and tree tenure will belong to the farmers and can be transferred through wills but cannot be sold (Royal Forest Department 1981). As of 1984, 607,945 ha of forest land has been offered to 366,517 farmers under the S.T.K. Land Certificate program (S.T.K. Office 1985).

Komon Pragtong, "Land Tenure and Agroforestry in Forest Land in Thailand," Regional Position Paper on Asia, in Land, Trees and Tenure, ed. J.B. Raintree (Madison and Nairobi: Land Tenure Center and International Council for Research in Agroforestry, 1987), at pp. 248-249.


The above examples are cited to provide a sense of the range of situations in which communities and individuals establish tenure in the forest reserve. Such tenure arrangements in reserves may not be viable where the value of the forest is as a source of genetic diversity. In these situations protection by the state may have to be the central strategy for preservation, though tenure adjustments in surrounding areas may relieve pressure on the reserve. Nor are such arrangements common. Indeed, the situation upon which the appraisal team is most likely to happen is that of illegal use of a forest reserve. It is possible, however, that arrangements can be made to legitimize sustainable use of the forest reserve. Such arrangements can establish a local constituency for good husbandry and create a buffer against encroachment on the reserve. Alternatively, access to wood products from the reserve must be taken into account in planning community forestry initiatives outside the reserve. It will, for instance, be difficult to get local communities to incur costs to grow trees--such as food crops which might otherwise have been produced on the land--when wood products are available for free (if illegally) from the reserve. On the other hand, more plentiful wood production outside the reserve can decrease pressure on the reserve.

But how do we assess tenure as a factor in this situation? We can assess use, but how can tenure be a dimension of illegal use, when the concept of tenure implies a right to use a resource? The answer lies in the multiplicity of legal regimes noted early in this paper. The "reserve" of national law may be the "commons" of customary law. There are reserves in Africa the gazetting of which local users are hardly aware. Use of this "commons" may be subject to rules which can provide a basis for sustainable use of a forest reserve.

In small groups and key informant interviews, use and perceived rights to use can be explored. A line of questions along these lines might be tried, utilizing a traditional designation for the locale of the reserve rather than some term which implies "reserve:"

In household interviewing, questioning should as usual proceed on a species basis. The form provided on page 69 for the commons can be used here, with allowances for the extent to which the community recognizes that its rights to use the trees have been rendered ambiguous by state declaration of a reserve.

Where one does find more organized use of land and trees in reserves, the relevant questions must be framed in light of their particular circumstances. The particularity of the details of these arrangements may be conveyed by King's summary of the terms found in taungya contracts in the excerpt provided below.

To summarize, there is a strong tradition in many Third World countries of the state as a forest guard. But state enforcement powers are often weak, in which case it is preferable to seek proprietary alternatives, local communities and/or individuals are given use rights, providing a local constituency for sound husbandry of the forest reserve. During an assessment, models along those lines may be noted. They may involve relatively sophisticated schemes for reserve management such as Gusselbodi, but most often they involve illegal use of a reserve. Where this is the case, examination of tenure issues must begin with a recognition that customary law may assign the reserve the status of community property, and exploration of tenure issues along the same lines as in the case of a common may provide the needed information for community forestry design.

Terms of Taungya Contracts

The forester permits the cultivator: (a) To hold forest land free of rent, (b) To plant farm crops among the forest trees, (c) To plant farm crops in an area specially allotted to him in addition to that among the trees, (d) to reside on the forest estate, (e) To pasture stock, (f) To cut, collect, and remove free of charge from the area allotted to him all timber and firewood below a certain size, provided that he uses it himself, (g) To make charcoal free of charge.

The cultivator agrees: (a) To clear all land allocated to him, (b) To burn the felled area, (c) To cut pegs for the planting of forest species, (d) To plant forest trees or sow forest seeds among his agricultural crops, (e) To weed and tend the tree crop, (f) To extinguish any fire in the forest area or its vicinity, (g) To construct and maintain firelines at his own expense, (h) To construct and maintain bridle paths at his own expense, (i) (missing in original ed.), (j) To "beat up'" the forest plantation at his own expense, (k) To place all weeds after harvesting along contours to prevent erosion, (1) To deposit a certain amount of money against breaches of the agreement, (m) To undertake work in other parts of the forest estate, or other jobs, for a specified period, (n) Not to plant certain specified agricultural crops, (o) Not to plant agricultural crops within specified distances of the tree crops, (p) Not to engage in certain types of weeding practice, (q) To maintain such standards of personal hygiene as reasonably conforms with the standard laid down by the Chief Conservator, (r) To register all members of his family resident in the forest estate with the Forestry Officer, (s) Not to allow any person other than a member of his family to pass the night in his dwelling house without written permission, (t) To pay to the authorized officer such proportion of the proceeds of the sale of crops harvested from his farms not exceeding 10 per cent, for payment into the forest Welfare Fund, (u) To sell surplus produce only to such syndicates or traders as are approved by the Forest Department, (v) Not to prepare any alcoholic liquor in the forest area without written permission, (w) Not to construct any house or building in the forest reserve without authority.

In addition to the conditions listed above, there are usually provisions: (i) Prohibiting the transfer of rights or the subletting of the land allocated; (ii) Regulating the period of notice needed for termination of the license; (iii) Taxing the compensation payable by the cultivator in the event of any breach of the terms of the agreement; and (iv) Allowing the payment of rewards and bonuses to competent cultivators.

K.F.S. King, "Agri-Silviculture, The Taungya System," Forestry Bulletin, no. 1 (Ibadan: University of Ibadan Press, 1968).


Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page