Sustainable forest management, with its respect for the ecosystem equal to economic considerations, also implies broad public participation in both decision making and implementation. This requires a movement in thinking from management for the people to management with the people, making the people part of the solution rather than the problem. A similar movement in thinking is required in terms of management approach, from a top down perspective to a more decentralised and devolved local management approach, with the decision making power taken on by local communities. This approach requires fairly stable, homogenous communities, the absence of competing claims on the ground, smooth democratic processes within community groups or, failing that, dedicated, competent and honest leaders.
In the Asia-Pacific region alone, some 430-540 million people are "forest-dependent" for their livlihood.
In Nepal almost half a million hectares of forest have been handed over so far to 7,000 user groups, and a thousand other such groups are waiting for formal registration. In India, some of the best forest devolution experiments are underway using joint forest management agreements, allowing some 10,000 community groups to protect and use more than 1.5 million hectares of forest land.