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Common property resources (CPRs) have become a topic of considerable scholarly research and attention over the past quarter century, particularly since the famous 1968 article in "Science" on "The tragedy of the commons" by Garrett Hardin [35] and more so since Ciriacy-Wantrup and Bishop's 1975 article on "Common property as a concept in natural resources policy" [ 17]. Academic interest in common property is much older, with some European and North American studies dating back many decades. Of note is commonfield management in medieval England and early New England [8, 72; see also 6,13,281.

At first it was historians who studied the commons and common resources but by the 1970s these resources had become a focal point for environmental economists and natural resource specialists. Today, intense interest in CPRs spans the full spectrum of socio-economic sciences, especially in relation to international research and development. The literature is now full of accounts of common management at the local level over a wide variety of natural resources, including land, water, grasslands and pasture, fish and wildlife, forests, trees and forest products, and others.

Just a decade ago, our knowledge of collective natural resource management was still in its infancy. Today, there are numerous published accounts incorporating insightful description and analysis and many more accounts are found in the unpublished literature. One category of special attention within the CPR literature is common forest resources (CFRs). This study of CFRs from three world regions - Asia, Africa and Latin America - brings much of that literature together for the first time in the form of an annotated bibliography. The regional authors demonstrate both the great diversity and the strength of CFR management forms and functions, and the great potential of collective action, often with national or international sponsorship, to promote sustainable tree and forest resource development.


A focal concept in international research on common property is Hardin's premise of "tragedy" in the commons [35, 361. On the subject of livestock herding on common grazing land, Hardin views the herdsmen as victims of a basic human impulse which leads them to maximize benefits even in the face of declining resources and diminishing social controls.

At which point, they conclude that "Freedom becomes tragic" [42, p. 3-4].

But to a growing number of researchers and development practitioners dealing with CPRs, it is clear that Hardin's notion is rooted in cultural bias and based on a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding, with potentially dangerous consequences. Fernandez [24] notes that Hardin's revelation is limited by the Western liberal instincts through which humanity is seen as inherently self-interested and unable to cope adequately with the complexities of managing common resources.

In spite of this, according to Bromley and Cernea [11], the idea of the tragedy of the commons has become the predominant paradigm in international development; "it appears explicitly and implicitly in the formulation of many programs and projects and in other beliefs and prejudices derived from it" [p. 6]. These authors point to a fundamental confusion between "open access regimes", epitomized by lack of structure or control, and "common property regimes", in which group size and rules of behaviour are specified. "The `tragedy' is of open access, not of commons, per se" [p. iii].

Notwithstanding the many case studies which confirm the basic fallacy of Hardin's theorem and provide empirical evidence to counter his argument by showing highly successful collective management of CPRs [42, 59 and Chs. 2-4, below], many experts continue to attribute many kinds of environmental degradation to people's inability to control their greed. As an example, a development adviser working in the Himalayas in the mid-1970s adopted Hardin's premise to explain the "tragedy of the hills" [62, 63]. The actions of the mountain people, he asserted, epitomize the "green apple picking phenomenon" in which, if a farmer perceives a tree as common or public property, he is most likely to be the first to harvest its produce for personal gain, even if that product is not fully ripe or ready [62, p. 1821. The implied result is rampant deforestation.

This view of circumstances in the Himalayas was supported by a statement often repeated in the literature for its startling effect, that the kingdom of Nepal had lost half its forest cover since 1950 and that by the year 2000 no accessible forests would remain [76].

By the 1980s, this perception had spread the effects of this deforestation far beyond the mountains, to the plains downstream in India and Bangladesh. The victim, the farmer, was blamed for massive deforestation in the hills, and by extension also for causing massive flooding along the lower Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.

This image of the manmade double tragedy of the hills and plains was too simplistic, if not entirely wrong. A 1989 report to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) argues convincingly against the "unjustified macroscale claims that a few million subsistence hill farmers are undermining the life support of several hundred million people on the plains" [64, p. 45]. Himalayan degradation is not as severe or as harmful as assumed and has only little if any relationship to the natural and historically cyclical floods on the plains below. It bears little relationship to the ability or inability of the Himalayan farmer to preserve the watershed forests. Instead, the hill people historically have exhibited considerable ingenuity in organizing collective management systems to conserve and sustain tree and forest resources on which their subsistence and survival depends [1, 2, 14, 25, 26, 31, 44, 48, 49, 50, 51].

The Himalayan case is not unique. Attributing tragedy to virtually all the world's forest commons is tragically common, as pointed out by accounts in this study. Many examples of misperceptions about people's inability to effectively manage the forest resources appear in each of the regional chapters. Perhaps the most important outcome of this compilation of the literature is the invitation to re-examine the conditions under which systems of collective management of common natural resources, in their many forms, can be successful.


During the 1980s, the demand for more knowledge about common property resource management (CPRM) and collective action grew rapidly. International researchers and development workers felt a need to organize themselves to exchange knowledge and insights. In 1985, an international conference on CPRM was held at Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of the US National Academy of Sciences [59]. One outcome was the creation of a CPR Network for the study and dissemination of information about community-based resource management. The network and its CPR Digest have greatly improved communications between professionals, including policy-makers, administrators, researchers, educators and developers. The overall goals of the network are to improve the conservation and wise use of common resources and the well-being of the people who depend on common resources for their livelihood.

In 1989, the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP) was formed in response to expanding world-wide interest and to further scholarly exchange of knowledge. Many other international organizations, associations and networks located throughout the world support this movement through complementary interests in social and community forestry and agroforestry, participatory rural development, tree and land tenure, environment and policy studies, indigenous resource management systems and indigenous technical knowledge (ITK).


Several centuries of colonial rule and several decades of international development efforts lead to the observation that success seems to correlate with the small and the unique rather than large models or formulas, localized action rather than central control, innovative institutional response rather than "interventions", locally appropriate designs rather than sophisticated scientific designs or technology, and active rural participation, working "with" rather than just "for" the local people.

A belief in the viability and utility of local, collective, natural resource management regimes guides this study of CFR management. One of the lessons of the regional studies is that the potential to save and sustain the world's tree and forest resources exists in large measure in the traditions and actions of rural societies. The danger lies in responding impatiently to perceptions of "global tragedy" by trying to fit inappropriate state, regional or global formulas to local environments and socio-ecological circumstances. Outside control often has a deleterious impact on traditional and indigenous systems of management. Forest nationalization or the privatization of forest commons can deprive the local poor of tree and forest resources on which they depend, sometimes even for their survival.

Bromley and Cernea note the "striking systemic failures of nationalized land and state-centralized management control" and suggest that in such failure may be "one of the most important development lessons of the last half-century" [11, p. 25]. Many state governments in the developing world are simply not well enough equipped with the technical resources or experience necessary to adequately undertake successful forest management, with its interrelated scientific, institutional and indigenous factors. It is often difficult to substitute effective new resource management systems for the traditional local institutions which have been displaced [11, p. iii]. As noted in Swift [68, p. 7], "At the very best of times, states have generally proved unable to lead or guide local resource management efforts, and in the present international economic crisis, states have even fewer resources to do this." In addition to the lack of technical resources, in virtually all the countries of the region, rapid population growth slows or blocks attempts to curb ecological disaster through sound development.

All of the regional accounts agree on one thing: there are no global solutions. Local ideas and action are more likely to succeed in saving and sustaining the resources of the world's forests. There is a need for more appropriate, socio-culturally sensitive local means, a combination of finding locally appropriate solutions, appreciating and using the rich indigenous knowledge of ecosystems that local people possess, encouraging and empowering rural people to work harmoniously and collectively to manage natural resources and creating suitable incentives for their long-term involvement (political will, rural rights, policy change, etc.).



Interest in CFR management systems is growing and expanding conceptually, as demonstrated by the number of recent studies. More attention is now being given them, especially in international development, by national and international research and development agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and peasant and farmer organizations. The authors of the regional CFR reviews in this report describe many promising programmes and projects directly incorporating the skills and wisdom of local people. They merit attention for the lessons they can teach us about success and failure. In Africa [Ch. 3], they include externally sponsored projects in Niger, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. In Asia [Ch. 2], various community forestry development projects are described from India, Nepal, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. In Latin America [Ch. 4], a description is given of projects from Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil and Honduras.

The three regional studies are rich sources of data. Some possible frameworks for analysis of such data are described and discussed in the literature. Many are quite similar, borrowing to one degree or another from the model devised by Oakerson [56], which posited four mutually exclusive data sets or components for analysis: technical and physical attributes, decision making arrangements, patterns of interaction and outcomes or consequences (see "Some principles of collective management" in Chapter 2). However, due to the impracticality of applying them to large bodies of literature in such a broad study, none of the regional authors has applied the models rigorously to their data.

The following chapters discuss a wide variety of conditions and perceptions about tree and forest resources and their management, emphasizing the historical circumstances and sociological and institutional arrangements that affect CFR management in particular situations. Technical factors, often even the silvicultural aspects, are given less weight than the social side of management, the human and institutional context. This concern with the social context can be compared to the botanist's "provenance studies", the standard experiments used to discover geographic variation patterns in the genetic makeup and adaptation of tree seeds [75, p. 23], allowing the better selection, use and management of seeds and seedlings appropriate to specific soil and climatic regimes. Social foresters seek to analyse, understand and predict questions of "social provenance", i.e. the various interwoven social, cultural, economic, political, historical and other factors that affect human choice and the use and management of tree and forest resources.

Several social provenance questions suggested by the regional literature are noted here, in a suggestive but by no means exhaustive list:

What are the conditions of tenurial empowerment? How easy is it to understand and implement the laws, policies and plans that deal with resource management? What obstacles exist, how are they avoided? What opportunities exist, and how are they met?

These and other such social resource questions are important to more fully understand the context of CFR management.


The purpose of this study is to bring together and discuss the relevant literature on CFR management from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The regional studies, which include extensive annotated bibliographies, were designed to identify, describe and analyse traditional (i.e. local), largely collective forest management systems, and the role of externally sponsored assistance, particularly through projects.

Each of the regional authors has approached the topic by highlighting certain themes, some of which are unique to a single region. Local systems of CFR management are described, followed by a discussion of contemporary systems influenced by extralocal agencies such as governments, development agencies or NGOs. Key issues are highlighted, such as systems of tree and land tenure, the reactions of rightholders to change, the general erosion of traditional rights, and measures taken to assert old rights or establish new ones. In Africa, for example, clearing and planting the land leads to recognition of ownership. This system of creating tenure through labour can suggest new approaches to understanding forest encroachment in the sub-Himalayas, privatization of commons in India, forced transmigration in Indonesia and rights of indigenous and peasant groups in Latin America.

The discussion is keyed to regional bibliographies of both published and unpublished materials, contributing the identification of a large and important body of previously inaccessible or hidden literature. The authors also give recommendations for the future, suggesting topics for further attention by researchers and developers.

An important similarity between the regions discussed is that they were colonized by European powers until the mid-20th century. Colonization had various but generally similar (and usually negative) effects on traditional and indigenous systems of tree, woodland and forest management. Colonial policy tended to undermine traditional systems of tenure, both private and collective, regarding trees, woodlots, forests, pastures, water sources and other landed resources. Forest management on commons, in particular, was often severely disrupted by colonial policies. Sources of local knowledge about resources and ecosystems were lost due to inappropriate policies and development procedures.

In the post-colonial period, many rural forest managers and users find that outside forces continue to have an impact on them. These include internationally funded forest resource development programmes and projects, support to indigenous rights movements and village or peasant organizations, various Debt Swap for Nature programmes (especially in the Latin American countries) and recent innovative models for community forestry in South Asia.

Although many similarities in experience certainly exist at the regional and sometimes country levels, there are also great disparities and differences between them. Each region must be examined and understood in terms of its own unique histories, resource bases and local cultures. This makes comparison difficult except at a very general level and thus a clear definition of concepts becomes important.


In examining the three regional studies as one global study, several questions arise, for example: What is communal forest management? How does it differ from community management? From collective management? From other forms of forest management under the control or jurisdiction of user groups? What exactly is forest management? What does traditional forest management mean? As the study leads into the literature on common property resources, questions also arise about the intrinsic nature of property, resources, tenure and access.


There is some confusion in the literature about the social forms of group management of tree and forest resources. The terms "collective", "community" and "communal" management are often used indiscriminately, as if they meant the same thing. In this study, "collective" refers to all types of group or supra-individual behaviour, e.g. when two or more individuals come together to manage a resource base or enterprise. "Collectivity", sometimes used interchangeably with "user group", means any aggregation of people exploiting a resource. "Community" and "communal" forms of group management are both collective forms and can be called by the generic term "user group" management but between them there are distinct and important differences.

A community is defined as "the people living in one place, considered as a whole" (Oxford Dictionary), or "a body of people living in the same place under the same laws" (Webster's Dictionary). The sense of wholeness or jointness is at the root of the meaning of community. It helps answer just who is included in a particular collective management system. While "community" implies a "whole" people living in one place or otherwise together, "communal" means "between different groups in a community" (Oxford). Community refers to an entire village, town or other socially and usually spatially bounded unit, while communal implies restricted membership, access or distribution of benefits to sociologically discrete parts of a community. Castes, ethnic groups, tribes, clans, chiefdomships or lineages, or religious, political or socio-economic groups or factions (e.g. peasant organizations) are examples of communal groups. A communal entity is a readily definable sodality existing within a larger community. (Fig. 1.1)

Terms like tribe, clan and lineage as commonly used in the African context are, at best, quite vague, with sometimes indistinguishable definitions [Ch. 3, "Owners of natural woodland ..."]. Likewise, the term "caste" has various meanings within South Asian society. Latin American usage of terms such as "indigenous" as contrasted with "Mestizo" is also important [Ch. 4, "Local systems of forest management"], as are the sociologically distinct boundaries between lands and resources identified as belonging to ejidos or communidades.

The distinction between community and communal is important when considering who has access to a common resource, and how its products or benefits are distributed. Community management regimes defined here are based on the assumption that there will be an equitable distribution of resources among all members within the whole group. Under communal management, while distribution may be relatively equitable within the defined sub-group, inequity is implied within the community because "outsiders" are excluded, although they may live in the same community as friends and neighbours, or even as relatives, if the communal unit is a non-kin based political or economic group.

The degree of social inclusion/exclusion practised or implied also distinguishes community from communal management behaviour. In common property terms, the issue is relative access, whether the commons or resource is more open or more closed to categories of people. In systems of communal forest management, access is more closed, reserved exclusively for members of the in-group and no others. By contrast, where community forest management is practised, access is more open, more inclusive of the whole; i.e. all members of the community, including smaller sodalities that may exist within it, have rights of access following mutually agreed upon rules concerning times and types of use.

Figure 1.1 Categories of Community Forest Management


Management means the organization and control of an enterprise or undertaking. In this study, forest management refers broadly to the organization and control of, access to and utilization of trees, woodlots, plantations and natural forests, and associated resources, including the benefits derived from them or from their productive, extractive or industrial enterprises. There are three distinct aspects of forest management:

On the technical side, the overview in Chapter 4 provides an example of scientific forest management from Synnott [69, p. 74]. It includes "the regulation of shade and canopy opening, treatments to promote valued individuals and species and to reduce unwanted trees, climber cutting, refining, poisoning, enrichment and selection. For Synnott, the term `management' involves the setting of management objectives, yield control, protection, working plans, felling cycles, concessions, roads, buildings, boundaries, sample plots, prediction, cost control, annual records and the organization of silvicultural work."

Sometimes agroforestry is included among technical definitions of forest management. Agroforestry is defined by Denevan and Padoch [20, p. 1] as a "sustainable management system that combines agriculture and/or animals with tree crops and/or forest plants on the same unit of land, either sequentially or simultaneously" [quoted in Chapter 4].

On the institutional side, forest management implies a combination of organizational and technical arrangements generally agreed upon by the users and, in projects, the sponsors. By including the "institutional" element, we highlight the sociological context of management which is critically important but frequently ignored in the technical forestry literature. Fisher defines forest management, incorporating both the technical and the institutional, as "a set of technical and social arrangements involved in the management of forests, including the protection, harvesting, and distribution of forest products" [25, p. 1].

A more all-encompassing definition, must also include reference to indigenous practices. These are typically non-technical, "non-scientific" and sometimes not highly institutionalized. While indigenous management always implies some form of organization, it usually mirrors or is defined by the social structure of the group. It is usually not well understood or is ignored by state agencies or development projects, which may even deny its existence or importance.

On the indigenous side, the overview in Chapter 4 defines forest management, based on the Latin American experience, as the ways in which rural people harvest, use, take care of, reproduce and improve their forests or trees and associated resources such as wildlife, water and plants, in order to attain yields sustainable over the long term. This flexible use of the concept is necessary due to the diverse ways in which communities utilize forests. This is so especially in the Amazon Basin, where indigenous forest systems and management strategies are predominant but this definition is, of course, applicable the world over, wherever local people manage and utilize the forest ecosystem.

Given the wide variety of CFR experiences covered and the global nature of the study, forest management defined here includes all three aspects: a set of institutional, technical and/or non-technical, indigenous, arrangements based on elements of scientific and/or folk knowledge, referring to organization, control, access, utilization and distribution of benefits of the forest ecosystem. This includes trees, woodlots, plantations, natural forests and associated floral and faunal species and other resources and productive enterprises, such as agriculture (agroforestry), pasture and wildlife.


Throughout the literature on community forestry management, frequent reference is made to local systems of organization and control, described, sometimes in the same context, as "indigenous" and "traditional" in contrast to those which are externally sponsored or linked. The tendency not to discriminate between what is "traditional" and what is "indigenous" has been noted by Fisher, especially for Nepal, which accounts for a disproportionate amount of the literature on the subject of community forestry. In attempting to bring greater clarity to the terminology, Fisher provides the following set of discrete definitions:

Two types of systems can be referred to as externally sponsored and indigenous systems, respectively. The two types represent two ends of a continuum. In reality, many systems have elements of both internal initiative and external sponsorship. The crucial point is the location of the initiative for setting up an organization or for institutionalizing a set of rules or practices. An organization may be set up by villagers, as a response to external conditions, and may then be supported by outside agencies. It would be an indigenous system by the definition used here.

Although many writers do not make this distinction, it is also useful to differentiate between indigenous and traditional systems of forest management. "Traditional" implies antiquity; "indigenous" does not. It is possible for an institution to be indigenous (native-born) without being long established. Furthermore, something traditional is not necessarily indigenous [25, p. 3]. Fisher bases these definitions on Webster's Dictionary in which "traditional" is defined as "based on an order, code, or practice accepted from the past" and "indigenous" means "originating or developing or produced naturally in a particular land or region or environment" [25, p. 3].

"Indigenous" is also used to refer to a people regarded as the original inhabitants of a place. In Latin America, for example, the term is commonly used to refer to Indian peoples who are the descendants of the original inhabitants prior to European colonization. The same meaning holds for descendants of the original inhabitants of the other two regions covered by this study, i.e. ethnic groups of Asia and tribal groups of Africa.

In all three of the regional studies, the authors frequently comment on the role of external sponsorship of forest management regimes. In some instances, outside sponsorship has resulted in promising and sometimes remarkable success in restoring and sustaining forests and forest resources. In other cases, however, the successes are fragile and unsustainable over the long term, without outside aid to maintain them. Those which engage local people as partners in forest development appear to have the most success in creating sociologically appropriate management systems capable of sustaining forest resources.

Participatory forest management is not new. For example, Mol and Wiersum note that in Nepal, in recent times, and in Indonesia and India, during colonial and recent times, concerted efforts have been made by governments to engage local villagers in the management or co-management of resources through various council and committee structures, with mixed success. The long-term success and benefits of some of these ostensibly participatory management schemes is still unclear but perhaps the seeds already sown through local control and appropriate organizational structures will bear fruit. Often, when left to their own devices, local people, using indigenous and appropriate innovations, have checked ecological degradation unaided.

Another current concern among environmentalists and development specialists is the loss of biological diversity, especially from tropical forestry environments. An aspect that is usually overlooked is the concomitant and no less serious loss of cultural diversity in the form of indigenous knowledge of ecosystems and highly localized understanding about the intricate relationships between forest flora and fauna and man. Indigenous knowledge forms the basis of indigenous management and of the wise use of forest resources and ecosystems.

Indigenous approaches to management have the potential to help maintain biological diversity in the ecosystems of the world's remaining natural forests. National and international authorities, and especially NGOs acting in appropriately small and meaningful ways, have a unique opportunity to address the loss of both biological and cultural diversity, through their roles as external sponsors of forest management, research and development.


Despite dictionary definitions of property as something owned, or real estate, in any discussion of common property resources or "common pool" resources [33] more specificity is needed. Bromley and Cernea [11] and van de Laar [33] provide us with two of the best recent discussions of the concept.

Neither property nor tenure is simply an act of ownership. Nor are they "things" like land, trees or forests. Rather, property and tenure both pertain to rights, relationships, responsibilities and duty [11, 39].

Property is "a right to a benefit stream that is only as secure as the duty of all others to respect the conditions that protect that stream. When one has a right, one has the expectation in both the law and in practice that their claims will be respected by those with duty" [11, p. 5]. Hence, it is the use of land or some other resource in relation to others that is the central theme in property definitions. Put another way, property is "a social contract that defines an individual and an object of value vis-à-vis all other individuals" [11, p. 21].

The bare fact of ownership, then, is not as critical as the relationships with, and the expectations of, others who are associated with it. The right to use or not to use a property, or resource, implies inclusion and exclusion, i.e. rights of access. Relative access differentiates between private and common property. Common property implies relatively open access, at least to the group to whom it is common, while private property is the legally and socially sanctioned ability of one or a few individuals to restrict access and exclude others [11, p. 12]. Bromley and Cernea go even one step further to assert that the difference between common property and private property is not so much the nature of the rights and duties involved as it is the number to which inclusion or exclusion applies [11, p.14].

The situation with property, as noted, is not unlike that for tenure. However, tenure deals mostly with rights and duties, and is less concerned with numbers per se. Bruce [ 12] describes three basic tenurial systems: private holdings, commons and government reserve. Commons are typically localized, while government reserve is a special kind of restricted public commons, with proscriptions dictated from the centre (the state). If we view private and common property on a continuum, private property falls at one end, defined by the most delimited rules of access and the most restrictive rights of use. Common property takes up the rest of the continuum, with the commons of a whole community at the far end and communal commons and government reserve falling somewhere in between.

Resources are a fundamental aspect of property use and property rights. It is the basic concept with which a study such as this must begin. All discussion and debate on common property relates directly to resources, natural and social. In this study, natural resource properties, especially trees and forests, receive the most direct attention. In general terms, natural resources are defined as "naturally occurring, needed by an organism, population, or ecosystem" for energy conversion or "used to satisfy man's need, including air, soil, water, native vegetation, minerals, wildlife, etc." [65, p. 109].

"Social resources", sometimes called "non-natural" [65] refers to the organizational forms, rules and sanctions, relationships and responsibilities that societies define, demand or expect. These are "available through social, economic, or political processes, such as labour, capital land ownership, water allocations, laws and regulations, technical expertise" [65, p. 135].

Finally, there are intellectual resource properties, which include the technical expertise and scientific knowledge of such specialists as professional foresters and social foresters, as well as the indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) or folk knowledge that is acquired, possessed and used by indigenous peoples, sometimes in combination with scientific knowledge. These economic, political, socio-cultural and human resources of the forest should be among the principal topics of future CFR research and development.


Swidden is a form of land preparation practised by over 250 million people worldwide on 30 percent of the world's cultivable soils, especially those under tropical forests. It is also known in English as "slash-and-burn" or "shifting cultivation". Swidden is defined as "an agricultural system in which fields are cropped for fewer years than they are allowed to remain fallow" [53, p. 267].

In swidden cultivation, apiece of land is cleared by removing trees, brush and other vegetation by cutting, followed, after a period of drying, by burning. Large logs are sometimes removed to serve other purposes, and their stumps left behind. The burning brings about important and beneficial changes in the physical properties of the soil. For example, it kills parasites and pathogens that are detrimental to crop growth and production. Certain beneficial nutrients are deposited as ash while others, such as nitrogen and sulphur, are dissipated as gas. Both swiddening and annual burning of forest and brushland patches to increase grass production in herder societies are practical and important forms of forest management.

Misconceptions about swidden agriculture abound, mostly due to a lack of understanding of its long-term cyclical nature. It is often perceived as archaic and environmentally wasteful, practised by primitive peoples on inferior soils. Recent studies, however, have countered many of these notions.

A common misconception is that swidden fields are simply abandoned after the nutrients in the soil are exhausted. Quite the contrary is true: swidden fields, when managed under traditional conditions, are left fallow for varying periods of time to allow regrowth of the forest, an aspect of critical importance and value. The land may sometimes appear to be abandoned and wasted, while in fact, forest farmers reap many secondary benefits, such as wild foodcrops and medicinals, during the years when a swidden field is left to recover naturally [61].

In this study, to counter the biases of such misunderstanding, it was decided to modify conventional terminology by referring to swiddening practices as systems of "swidden-fallow". This is to underscore the importance of the productivity of the system during all of its cycle. Swidden-fallow systems have been described in the literature as rational and productive methods of farming the forest. One of its proponents describes it, in summary, as follows:

"...a pioneering system used by peoples lacking capital resources and economic privilege [through which] the nutrients accumulated in the forest biomass are made available to crops on a periodic basis. It is a conservative measure that, when practised according to tradition, preserves forest complexity and provides sustained yields. [It] is not only economically sensible but also ecologically sound. [And] the new forest that it helps to create provides a higher net yield for humans" [53, pp. 267-2741].


In undertaking a study of this nature, involving authors with varying disciplinary, theoretical, practical and institutional backgrounds and experience, a certain unevenness in method and perspective can be expected. The authors attempted to balance their work nationally or sub-regionally but this was not always possible. In some regions and countries, war and civil strife, combined with a shortage of historical or contemporary development activity in forest management and the suspicions of governments towards outside researchers, has restricted our knowledge and appreciation of local circumstances. In Asia, for example, the literature is weighted heavily towards three countries, India, Nepal and Indonesia, all relatively open societies allowing international, national and local involvement in collective forest management projects and with a strong academic interest in the design and the results of projects. By contrast, due to the recent and disruptive civil unrest, the countries of Indochina have been virtually closed to outsiders, and thus have remained by and large ignored by researchers and passed over by developers.

The historical record is often also biased according to the interests and activities of past colonial agents. While some colonial officers, for example, kept detailed records of tree, woodland and forest management traditions and activities, others did not. Some researchers of the past focused on organizational matters in regard to resource management while others recorded more technical factors of species and growth. The Asian and Latin American literature reflects a great interest in the practice of collective forest management. The African literature has a species-specific bias tending towards small woodlots and, in many instances, the relatively intense management of single species, and even of single trees. Even where collective action was a prominent feature in social control and utilization of natural resources in parts of Africa, some ethnographers have neglected to record the social organizational and tenurial facts of tree or woodland management.

Some national or regional experiences in tree and forest management are well published and accessible. Others are buried in a morass of field trip reports, project papers, evaluations, etc., and are often inaccessible or unknown outside of colonial libraries, ministry files or donor agency offices. Access to the literature is made all the more difficult by the weak institutional memories resulting from the frequent rotation of colonial agents, national foresters and international advisers. New arrivals rarely take the time to familiarize themselves with the details of past experience, and thus the accumulated knowledge is often relegated to old filing cabinets and all but forgotten.

This study attempts to fill this gap in part by including many excellent but unpublished sources. The literature reviewed comes from a variety of sources including books, journal articles, unpublished papers and documents. Altogether 363 references are annotated - 132 for Asia, 111 for Africa, 120 for Latin America. An additional 76 unannotated titles are given in the references to this chapter. CFR management experiences from 43 countries are described including 11 countries in Asia, 17 in Africa, and 15 in Latin America. Many regional and general references are also noted in each chapter.

Specific sources of some literature and the location of central repositories for most of the materials reviewed are noted in the introduction to the regional annotated bibliographies. The regional authors have generally used the facilities and materials available at their own institutions. For the author on Asia this is the Agricultural University Wageningen in the Netherlands, for Africa the Overseas Development Institute in London and for Latin America the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Readers of this study will surely identify literature that has been overlooked by our authors. Certain titles may be missing that, for whatever reasons, were not available to the authors, and important new titles are appearing regularly. Where this is the case, you are invited to correspond directly with the regional authors at their respective institutions, so that the literature and knowledge base for each region can be kept up to date.

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