Increasing community management of forests

Managing common forestry resources
Community forestry addresses both the ecological issues as well as the social, economic and cultural needs of forest-dependent communities. Community Forestry has become an umbrella term for local participation in forest management and includes such activities as establishing woodlots and tree farms, agroforestry, watershed protection, natural forest ecology, as well as income generation from forest resources. In 1978, FAO formally defined "Community Forestry" as "any situation that the community is intimately involved with forestry issues".
Community forestry has emerged as a resource for protecting and utilizing natural resources sustainably. The complex responsibilities of community forestry -- supporting local economies, protecting wildlife habitat, restoring watersheds and many others -- require skills outside the scope of traditional forestry. Community forestry has focused on clarifying and reapportioning land tenure rights to community groups, with specific management terms and conditions determined for individuals users.
The development of community forestry projects involves the participation of community members usually with multi-disciplinary teams of foresters, social scientists and technical skills advisors, such as soil scientists, hydrologists, and rural economists. These integrated teams conceptualize and coordinate the field planning, field work, preliminary analysis, design and intervention strategies, and final management plans. Participatory analysis tools have been designed to involve a balanced representation of people from the community, engaging people of various ages, gender and economic backgrounds. Participatory methods include land use and transect sketch maps, seasonal calendars, and Venn diagrams for identifying supportive social structures such as markets, organizations and institutions. Each of these participative activities elicits a wide range of information, such as preferred tree species and forest product uses, traditional resource management practices and tree and land tenure, as well as cultural and religious uses. These resource-use components are then integrated by the community forestry group into a management plan that addresses the overall goals and capabilities of the community.

The Forest Action Network has been formed in Kenya. The network collaborates with local communities to find ways of exploiting forest resources in a sustainable manner. The network is investigating how several communities have been able to conserve their forest resources using traditional management systems. The network also plans on working closely with the Kenyan government to develop ways in which communities living near forests can take part in the management of forests.

Deforestation is a severe economic and environmental problem in Mexico, as elsewhere in the world. In the state of Oaxaca the Huitzo community in the valley of Oaxaca, has suffered much deforestation due to commercial and domestic uses as well as fire. Through local effort the community has begun a reforestation project to combat erosion and reduced water tables. Another community, Yavesia, in the northern mountains, still has a large virgin forest, due principally to the community's refusal to sell wood to paper companies. To further protect their resources, a local women's group has initiated the installation of wood-efficient clay stoves.

The sustainable use of mangrove forests can effectively contribute to their conservation. The experience with an integrated conservation-development project in St. Lucia showed that charcoal producers using mangrove fuelwood resources in a Marine Reserve Area have successfully changed their harvesting practices, reversing a trend of mangrove destruction. The conditions under which this change occurred included strengthening the organization of local users and their resource-use rights, and building a community-based management system, leading to the avoidance of open-access conditions. Surveys of the mangrove, undertaken before and after management intervention, showed that while the mean stand diameter of the fuelwood trees did not change significantly, there was an increase in the density of stems and in total basal area of timber.

India's experiment with Social Forestry revealed to government agencies the importance of adequately involving forest-dependent populations at the onset of any public participation scheme. This represents a fundamental change for forest agencies -- field officers are no longer principally guards and enforcers of forest land policies, but increasingly are serving as technical advisors to communities in their emerging support role in forest management.

In the United States there is a growing trend of community involvement in forest management. It has become necessary as communities are facing the shift of local economies away from natural resource extraction and forestry agencies endeavor to facilitate this transition. This is also coming about with a ground swell of interest from concerned citizens to assure that their interests are adequately addressed in regional forest management planning. These community groups are made up of individuals ranging from local citizens, to timber industry owners and workers, recreationalists and environmentalists.

Forestry staff working with local communities should be selected for their genuine interest in social issues, and be trained in participatory skills such as facilitation, community capacity building, action planning, and leadership skills.
Counter Claim:
In a comparison of community forestry projects across five countries in Asia, (India, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal), the state retained the authority to determine direct use, control rights, participation, and the ability to cancel all agreements. The greatest variable across the region was in regards to policies determining the duration of the community rights. Indonesia was the most conservative, with only two year use-rights accorded to a project, and Thailand granting five year terms. The Philippines currently provides 25 year land use contracts, while India and Nepal have not specified any end-dates use rights.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 15: Life on Land