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Executive Summary

This working paper aims to present and stimulate thinking about some of the constraints imposed when conventional forest management plans (FMPs) are used for participatory forestry. It describes recent approaches to address these constraints, mostly based on a study of forest management plans in 22 countries4. 

The study also focused on some promising experiences in simplifying forest management plans for livelihood-oriented5 and enterprise-oriented forestry.

Traditionally, FMPs were developed primarily for large-scale timber concessions, and thus focus on the requirements of large scale timber and production-oriented forest management. The formats of such FMPs require forest managers to have high levels of technical and financial capacity. In many countries these conventional FMPs are also applied to small-scale and/or non-timber operations without fundamental adaptations, posing a number of problems to collective forest managers (CFMs) and those supporting them. These problems include: high costs; time delays; low-quality participation and participatory processes; overloaded frontline extension services; inadequate support for marketing and financial planning; poor levels of understanding of CFMs of the completed plans; limited focus on benefits for forest-dependent poor through insensitive regulations; inflexibility of local forest governance structures and problematic handovers of state forest to communities.

This working paper shows that some FMPs are simpler than conventional FMPs although there is much variation in the level of simplification taking place. However, many of these FMPs are still too complicated for CFMs and it remains difficult for CFMs to prepare such FMPs by themselves without receiving significant external professional assistance.

The working paper clarifies the importance of distinguishing the following four possible functions of FMPs:

1. An output of an interactive learning, capacity-building and negotiation process

2. A technical guide for management planning, implementation and monitoring

3. A legally required document

4. An instrument to describe and regulate local forest governance6 based on multi-stakeholder agreements

The FMP preparation process itself should be used as a catalyst for facilitating capacity building, negotiation and participation in order to achieve the following four elements which are crucial for successful local forest governance:

Trust amongst and between community-based institutions and in the local forest management governance framework needs to be built before any direct commitment to forest management planning. Until this happens, the preparation of a forest management plan is a formality for many, and might thus be largely irrelevant to the interests of truly forest-dependent people.

Rules and technical standards determining which resources to retain under central government control whilst often justified as a scientific necessity for management planning are often used as a means of maintaining or increasing central control over lucrative forest resources opportunities. A number of examples show that simple environmental standards in addition to social codes of conduct (e.g. benefit- and responsibility-sharing arrangements) are potentially a good substitute for overly complicated FMPs.

The preparation of FMPs should occur in a stepwise manner with capacity of CFMs being built gradually. It is not sufficient to prepare a FMP by simply following a checklist or through a series of participatory exercises lasting only a few days. If this is done, conflicts will not be resolved (and may in fact be initiated) and disadvantaged groups will be further disempowered. A sufficient period for internal learning, debates and negotiation is crucial for establishing a strong collective forest management institution

A number of relevant policy issues which affect the preparation and implementation of FMPs are also discussed. These include the inadequacy for many situations of legislation based on local by-laws; forest devolution in the wider political environment; overloaded government institutions and dealing with power differences within local communities.

Finally, an outline of the four main stages of an FMP preparation process and suggested contents for a simpler FMP are presented.

4 Relevant information (e.g. formats of forest management plans and/or relevant legislation) used for the comparative analysis were consequently collected from following countries: Cameroon, Gambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Senegal, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentine, Paraguay, Chile, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bhutan.

5 In this paper, ”livelihood-oriented forestry” means forest management for domestic/subsistence use, supplementary income generation, and “security net”/last resort of the poor in the time of shock. It therefore includes protection, use for consumption and part-time sale

6 In the context of this study, a working definition of governance could be “the structures and processes that determine the translation of policies and regulations into reality and the power relationships between the stakeholders involved in this process (Dubois, 2002, personal communication)”.

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