Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Chapter 2 Conventional Forest Management Plans and Collective Forest Management

This chapter identifies some of the problems which arise when conventional types of forest management plans are used in collective forest management situations in developing countries.

The formats of the forest management plans in use in many countries today originate in earlier concepts of “forest working plans” where timber production was the main forest management objective10. Such plans need relatively high levels of technical and financial inputs by forest managers to prepare and implement them.

There have been some modifications developed to FMP formats which recognize the increased importance of multiple-objective forest management for CFMs11 as well as their different capacities and needs. However, significant elements of conventional FMPs have usually been retained as the basis for the legal transfer of management responsibility. Often there has been no meaningful adaptation of FMPs to small-scale and/or non-timber operations and the capacities and needs of collective forest managers. In addition, government approval of FMPs often requires the legal acquisition of land title and formal registration as a forest management body - again creating a barrier which CFMs can struggle to overcome.

2.1 Emphasis on the plan rather than the process

Most CFMs consist of people of a rural community working together to manage a defined forest area. In such a situation, the process of preparing a forest management plan is equally, if not more important than the final output i.e. the FMP itself, because the planning process is an opportunity:

Conventional FMP formulation does not normally recognize the importance of process – particularly participatory processes, the aim being solely to produce a plan (as a document) which directs the way in which the forest is managed. Applying this “document-driven” approach to collective forest management frequently results in plans being prepared for collective forest managers by forest services rather than by the collective managers themselves. This results in a lack of “ownership” of the final FMP and consequently a lower level of understanding and commitment to implementation, with the possibility that the plans may neither actually reflect the real needs of the collective managers, nor an agreed strategy to achieve these.

Experience of working with CFMs in many different situations has shown that the FMP document itself is not always a good indicator of either the progress being made with respect to sustainable forest management nor in terms of the institutional capacity of the group to address issues of livelihoods, poverty, equity and lack of capacity amongst members. CFMs with technically poor quality FMPs may under some circumstances be very successfully managing their forest and addressing difficult institutional challenges, whilst CFMs with what appear on paper to be good quality FMPs may in fact not be following them.

2.2 Lack of planning “logic”

It is common to find FMPs for CFMs which include very broad management objectives (often identical for every separate plan in a region) followed by a detailed list of management activities which do not bear any immediate relationship to the achievement of the stated objectives. This is a result of two main problems:

Firstly, the objectives are broad because no attempt has been made to derive real local (or site-specific) objectives from locally identified problems or opportunities. Often the objectives e.g. “to conserve forests” are simply lifted from national policies or guidelines. Development of locally derived objectives would require a much more detailed analysis of local needs, trends and potentials which frequently does not take place. The concept of site-specific objectives (where there are different management objectives for different patches of the same forest) is rarely encountered.

Secondly, management activities are often either developed as a “wish list” with no guarantee that they will ever become a reality, or are driven by the availability of resources (often financial resources). This is a common situation under joint forest management in India where the value of participatory planning at village level is somewhat undermined by centrally developed and funded “schemes” which forest department staff are expected to deliver via village forest committees (VFCs) in order to achieve predetermined physical or financial targets. The result is that most plans are very similar despite significant local differences.

2.3 High costs

Conventional FMPs usually require detailed forest inventories and demarcation. This can result in an excessively high planning cost which collective forest managers may not be able to afford. For example, in Cameroon the development of a simple forest management plan (Plan Simple de Gestion - PSG) for a community forest of 3,500 hectares costs between US$ 1.4-5.7/ha (Fomete, 2000) with additional costs of preparing a community forest application from US$285 to US$1,500 per application12. As a result many community forestry management groups in Cameroon are unable to fund the forest survey they legally require for their management plan (Djeumo, 2001).

Similarly, government community forest management guidelines in Bolivia indicate that forest inventory usually costs between US$ 30-32/ha for smaller (100 ha) forests to US$ 6.4-8.5/ha for larger (10,000 ha) forests13. These high costs prevent forest-dependent communities from acquiring a formal Community Forest Management Agreement unless they can obtain funding support from external donors.

Costs can be reduced where local people participate more in plan preparation (e.g. in Kompia14 in Cameroon where costs of PSG development was reduced to US$ 1.3/ha) and through self-financing initiatives such as the sale of timber from private lands to cover the costs of planning (although in Cameroon this is now unlikely to happen because of the prevailing dependency on externally funded projects). Other communities in Cameroon have entered into arrangements with logging companies who cover planning costs in advance. However, such agreements can weaken the bargaining power of communities with logging companies with the result that the companies involved in such deals may pay very low prices for the timber they extract (Dubois, personal communication).

External financial support for preparation of forest management plans has perpetuated this problem. For example, Municipal Forestry Units (Unidad Forestal Municipal - UFM) in Bolivia rely heavily on external projects such as BOLFOR15 to shoulder such costs whilst UFMs which do not get such external support cannot afford to support local forest managers in the forest management planning process (Pacheco, 2002). In Cameroon few, if any, community forests have been created outside donor-supported initiatives (Dubois, personal communication).

2.4 Prescriptive silviculture

Forests have conventionally been managed for national benefits by government forestry agencies. This has led to an assumption that management objectives under newer collective forest management arrangements will remain the same despite the fact that many developing countries now have forest policies specifically giving priority to local benefits. As a result, objectives may not be locally derived or reflect a livelihoods-oriented perspective (i.e. they are usually timber-production or conservation oriented). This tendency is then reflected in the silvicultural prescriptions included in the management plans which tend to be more narrowly focused on those activities which would have been applied had the forests still been under government management as opposed to favouring more innovative approaches such as multiple-objective, multi-storey forestry or NWFP16 production

Forestry technical knowledge within government forestry agencies has generally focused on silviculture for timber production, (often emphasizing the use of exotic species). As a result, there is very little extension support available to advise on silviculture for multiple products such as firewood or fodder grass or NWFPs such as mushrooms or honey. This then limits the scope and availability of forest management options which can be applied by CFMs. For instance, in Nepal, operational Plans for community forests tend to be timber-oriented because a lack of appropriate technical support has tended to discourage flexible, multiple-use forest management, based on objectives identified by forest users themselves.

This reduced emphasis on the livelihood aspects of silviculture and forest management has tacitly induced and favoured over-protection of community forests – a situation commonly observed in Nepal. A survey in the Koshi Hills showed that “active” forest management involving harvesting of forest products through lopping, pruning, and coppicing was only taking place in 19% of the community forests studied, whereas simple protection was very widespread (Branney et al, 2001). This situation is exacerbated by a lack of confidence among forest users over implementing harvesting and benefit-sharing arrangements. Many forest user groups find it is easier to “ban” all harvesting than to elaborate local arrangements for sustainable forest harvesting and put into place a control system based on negotiation between all potential forest users. This seriously limits the potential for real livelihoods benefits and poverty alleviation through forest management by forest user groups.

Although the need to promote multi-purpose forestry for livelihoods is becoming officially recognized within many forest policies, the knowledge generated specifically for livelihood-oriented multi-purpose forestry by official forest research institutions is still limited. Technologies concerning multi-storey mixed forests, domestication and sustainable use of various NWFPs, and small-scale forest enterprises are still not commonly available at the frontlines of forestry extension. Forest managers generally have limited scope and choice over possible management options for their forests even though they are invariably expected to prepare a forest management plan. As Barandun (2001) points out, real dialogue with local stakeholders is often non-existent when negotiating new extension services. Centralized and formal research systems do not fit in well with livelihood-oriented forestry which is meant to respond to the very diverse and site-specific aspirations of forest managers. The extension services need to work in a way which supports and responds to CFMs helping them to identify and generate site-specific knowledge which would inform their decision-making.

2.5 Overloaded field staff

Prescriptive and technically demanding FMP requirements result in an increased workload for field staff of government forestry agencies because they are required to have significant inputs into producing them. This has important cost implications since government staff themselves require additional field allowances (often unavailable) to do such work with CFMs. Operational plans in Nepal are frequently hastily prepared because staff cannot spend enough time with each FUG. The example of Nepal presented in Box 1 illustrates this.

This overburdening of field staff also discourages review and amendment of operational plans because additional work is required each time changes are made. In Nepal, whilst the Forest Regulation of 2051 (1995) says "User Groups may make timely amendments in the Work Plan relating to the management of the Community Forest, and shall inform to the District Forest Officer regarding such amendments (Chapter 5, Clause 26)", in practice this rarely happens. This leads to rigid plans which cannot easily be amended as the needs of forest users develop17 and as a result, operational plans even if they are recognized as being deficient cannot easily be improved.

2.6 Lack of business orientation

The prevailing approach amongst forestry professionals supporting CFMs tends to be one more geared to resource creation than maximizing livelihood benefits. Business planning; processing; transporting; marketing; and financial management, all necessary to strengthen small-scale forest enterprise, are usually absent even though CFMs may need information or direction to enable them to become entrepreneurs – particularly if their objectives include income generation. However, Arnold (2002) challenges the notion that many of the poor presently engaged in low productivity forest product activities could gain access to modern sector markets because most of these labour intensive and low productivity activities generate very low returns and will have to be abandoned as labour costs rise or because they are produce goods that cease to be used as incomes rise. If this is the case, it simply reinforces the argument for giving more attention to business planning as part of the FMP to ensure that such enterprises are soundly based.

Commonly, the experience and skills in small-scale business planning which can be provided by support agencies such as forest extension services or NGOs are also limited.

2.7 Inflexibility

Conventional forest management plans are often treated as rigid blueprints prescribing everything which can be undertaken in a forest area with little scope for flexibility. In practice, forest managers may find this approach unrealistically demanding, in which case they may look for loopholes to circumvent problems. For instance, in Venezuela, about 50% of timber produced from natural forests

is exploited through Annual Permits of Extraction (Silva, personal communication). These are given to private landowners to exploit timber on their own land and do not require the application of sustainable forest management techniques. There are few limits on the amount of wood extracted (WRI, 1998) and, according to Centeno (1995), the majority of the industrial extraction of timber based on these permits leads to deforestation and degradation.

In Bolivia, as in many countries, the regulatory system has largely been designed with large-scale forest concessions in mind, thus leaving CFMs with many disadvantages. Transaction costs for small-scale timber producers to be recognized as local forest user groups are relatively high as are costs of inventories and forest management plans, especially in relation to the expected returns. The slow process of municipal forest reserves demarcation (see 2.11) also limits the opportunity for these groups to request forest concessions. As a result, some small-scale timber producers persist in illegal logging and farmers obtain clear cutting authorization based on a land-use plan for agricultural purposes in order to justify logging because this involves less cost than that for a forest management plan (Pacheco, 2001).

2.8 Skills and Methods required

Conventional FMP, with their emphasis on resource quantification and data, are often culturally and technically inappropriate for rural people in developing countries where numeracy and literacy rates are low. For example, forest inventories to produce quantitative baseline information and to calculate sustainable harvest levels and annual allowable cuts of timber or NWFPs are often too alien to be meaningful to local forest dependent people. Similarly, the tools and equipment used e.g. compasses, relascopes, computers serve to alienate local people from forest “professionals” rather than actively involving as participants them in FMP preparation.

Apart from being time-consuming and often unnecessary, as Makarabhirom and Raintree (1999) point out, such methods may be counter-productive and even harmful to villagers. For example, in relation to NWFP management in Lao, quantitative survey methods may be a poor substitute for traditional decision-making processes, and run the risk of encouraging “token participation” in an externally imposed process which is poorly understood by villagers. Many quantitative methods used in forestry are not very relevant to the thinking processes of rural people, and since they cannot be done without outside assistance, they promote dependency rather than self-reliance. It is sometimes forgotten that quantitative forest survey methods are a means of making decisions rather than being an end in themselves. If this is understood, then the possibility of basing decisions on other non-numeric information can also be recognized and incorporated into forest management planning processes.

Normally, FMPs for CFMs are required to be produced as written documents. Not only does this present a problem of understanding where the official language and forestry terms e.g. inventory18 are unfamiliar to local people, it also means that writing becomes the task of elite individuals or forest service staff, thus disempowering most members of the community. Even typing and copying documents can become a major constraint in rural communities.

In four FUGs studied by Malla et al (2002), committee members could not understand the meaning of inventory in their operational plans, let alone the ensuing calculations of the maximum sustainable cut. Many measuring units, as well as the language were incomprehensible to Forest Guards as well as users. As a result, the inventory was not actually “used” for management purposes, but remained primarily an evaluation tool for the District Forest Office.

The problems caused by externally imposed methods can only be addressed when it is recognized that local people’s values and beliefs need to be fully incorporated into forest management planning and decision-making processes often as a “.. mix of indigenous and outside knowledge and values” Haverkort and Hiemstra (1999). Whilst it may be easy to ignore local people’s values until “they have been examined and declared valid by conventional western science” (Balasubramanian, 1999) because they are hard for outsiders and professionals to digest e.g. “ancestors are satisfied”; “spirits are felt” 19, the same values are often considered as being “non-negotiable” by local people because they are so fundamental to their livelihoods and a sense of self and security (Edmunds and Wollenberg, 2002). Therefore, local forest governance is unlikely to succeed unless local people’s criteria are fully accepted and taken into consideration.

2.9 Imposition of regulations

The type of information required to be included in forest management plans is often pre-determined under government laws and legislation regardless of whether this is actually needed by CFMs. Usually the prescribed information requirements of management plans far exceeds the minimum actually necessary for livelihood-oriented forest management20.

Unnecessarily prescriptive regulations on forest management planning can act as a means for imposing external controls and impositions on local communities – the effect often being to reduce access to forests by the poorest, most forest dependent households whilst allowing better access to outsiders or elite groups.

Makarabhirom and Raintree (1999) express concern that detailed NWFP inventories in Lao might encourage over exploitation by local NWFP traders who may move in (often armed) and exhaust the resource in short time once stocks are publicly known. Article 25 of the Forest Law (1996) in Lao states that: “the harvesting of timber and other forest produce can proceed only in surveyed and inventoried production forest areas for which there is a forest management plan”, and “the harvesting of other forest products such as mushrooms, roots, tubers, shoots, leaves, flowers, barks, resins, gums must be carried our according to specific regulations issued by concerned agencies”. Imposition of such controls over resources which villagers generally believe they have traditional rights to collect from the forest without seeking permits, may adversely affect the livelihoods of the poorest forest-dependent people. In fact there may be times when there is no reason to take the risk of making inventories of NWFPs because such information is not needed by local users who actually manage them (Makarabhirom and Raintree, 1999). Forests are often the last resort of the most marginalized and the landless in local communities because their use is not well-regulated. They offer room for maneuver for socially weak people simply because of their de facto open access. Insensitive regulation during forest management planning can therefore have unexpected outcomes on these vulnerable groups.

2.10 Predetermined local forest governance structure

Regulations on CFM usually predetermine the local institutional arrangements. In many cases, such regulations provide little room for accommodating a diversity of culturally appropriate group structures and decision-making processes (i.e. indigenous forest governance systems)21. In many countries, formal registration as a local forest management group is a prerequisite for the approval of an FMP (e.g. Brazil, Cameroon, Nepal, Laos and Bhutan). Often the legislation which defines the legal entity of a forest management group is not governed by forestry laws but by co-operative/social association laws for example Village Forest Committees in India are now being encouraged to register under the Societies Registration Act (1860) to provide them with legal backup.

If it a requirement of an FMP application and approval process to create or formalize such groups, this may cause informal forest management groups (both traditional and recently established) to lose control whilst replacing them with less familiar and potentially inappropriate institutional structures. Whilst informal local forest management institutions may feel the need for better official and legal recognition of their status, there is also a danger of potential conflicts and “hijacking” of their own locally induced systems of forest governance by inflexible and excessively rigid governance arrangements formulated through government regulations (e.g. Suryanarananan and Kothari, N.D; Shackleton et al, 2002). Inclusion of informal or indigenous forest governance into formal frameworks may create institutions that have little legitimacy among actual forest users.

2.11 Slow processes of handover and registration

Where formal registration as a local forest management group is a prerequisite for the approval of an FMP, this process can be very time-consuming and demanding. For example in Bolivia, it takes about one year (in some cases up to 20 months22) for official acknowledgement and approval of local forest management groups (Asociaciones Sociales del Lugar -ASLs). Furthermore, a given ASL has to have been in existence for at least for 5 years to be authorized to apply for ASL status. It is likely that it may take a long time before forests are allocated to ASLs by municipalities because they often have insufficient forest reserves for allocation and because the process is subject to the slow progress of the conflict resolving programme of National Agrarian Reform Institution because a given forest must be free from land conflicts23. These obstacles seriously hinder the expansion of community forestry in Bolivia (Pacheco, 2001; 2002). Similar problems exists in Honduras where the approval process by AFE-COHDEFOR24 for revision of forest management plans25 may actually take up to one year while the regulation set by AFE-COHDEFOR specifies that the approval procedures should take no more than 60 days (Alvarado, personal communication).

Formal registration can also be used as a means to maintain implicit government control over forest resources. A forest user group in Nepal which had been waiting for official acknowledgement of their status for 7 years in the year 2000 (Branney, personal communication). Under such circumstances local forest users are subject to de facto veto26 by the forest department. In some countries financial support is provided to the FMP formulation process and in order to provide this support, communities or individual forest managers must first be established as a legal entity.

10 Recknagel (1913) states that “the prime object of any forest is the growing of timber…”. The concept of “management plans” as opposed to forest working plans is a more recent development.

11 “CFMs” in this study means any normally resource-poor groups of people (e.g. community, community based enterprises) who actually manage, use and take care of forest.

12 These figures are for forests of 3,500ha. However, the size of the forests does not much influence the costs of application.

13 According to: Cuadro 7: Costo total estimadode un inventario forestal de reconocimiento en base a los precios, Normas técnicas para la elaboración de instrumentos de manejo forestal comercial (inventarios, planes de manejo, planes operativos, mapas) en tierras comunitarias de origen (1997), Resolución Ministerial No 136/97.

14 Philippe Auzelle, personal communication quoted by Dubois (2000)

15 Project of Sustainable Forest Management funded by USAID

16 NWFP is used instead of NWFP through out this paper following standard FAO terminology.

17 Under the current guidelines, the OP cannot be reviewed until two years have passed since approval. It has even been proposed recently to extend the minimum period between reviews to the full five years of the O.P. (Malla et al, 2002).

18 The forest resource inventory became a compulsory component of FUG Operational Plans in 1999 (Malla et al, 2002).

19 For example, a case study shows ancestors play a crucial role in natural resource management and local knowledge generation in Northern Ghana (Millar, 1999). “Satisfaction of ancestors” is a crucial criterion in natural resource management in this case. Another case study also shows that “communities take good care of trees planted in the traditional spiritual context and that their survival rate is high” in Shona society in Zimbabwe (Gonese, 1999).

20 In this paper, ”livelihood-oriented forestry” means forest management mainly for domestic/subsistence use, supplementary income generation, and use of the forest as a security net or last resort of the poor in the time of shock. It therefore includes protection, use for consumption and some forest product sales.

21 See also Lindsay (2002) who describes problems of the “over-standardisation” trap in participatory forestry legislation along with the “whose vision of community do we use” conundrum and the “local democracy will swallow up our forest committee” anxiety.

22 From acquisition of legal personality to the final qualification by Ministry of Sustainable development and Planning (Ministerio De Desarrollo Sostenible Y Planificación)

23 Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (INRA)

24 La Administración Forestal del Estado – La Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal

25 In this case, these forest management plans are required for commercial timber production.

26 Some forestry laws [e.g. Cameroon, Laos, Cambodia (draft)] include a “silence clause” whereby the if plan once officially presented to the authorised forestry authorities is not reacted upon after a give number of days, the plan is taken as “approved” and can start to be implemented. Other countries (e.g. Nepal, India) do not include such a clause nor provide for the payment of compensation ("penalty clause”) where delays are caused by the government. Refer to Lele (2000) for the implications of this in India.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page