GTZ Project

Community Forest Management (CFM) strategies

The primary objective of the Working Groups (WGs) is to facilitate and accelerate the establishment of national Community Forest Management (CFM) strategies. The broad agenda of each group is to assess the state of Community Forest Management (CFM), both indigenous systems and externally sponsored projects, to analyze constraints and opportunities affecting community forest management efforts, and propose policy and program recommendations to government and relevant development agencies. Working Group (WG) should be convened by an appropriate government agency, typically the national Department of Forestry, while drawing its membership from a select group of government (GO) and non-government organizations (NGO), donor agencies, and academic institutions directly engaged with CFM related programs. WG members, however, would come together as individual professionals, rather than as representatives of their respective organizations.
The most effective WGs meet regularly to discuss preliminary results and decide what policy and programmatic steps need to be taken to support developing CFM programs. It is intended that the WG would be able to sustain their interactions for at least five years to assist in guiding participatory forest management transitions. The groups would meet at least two to four times annually to progressively clarify issues and build consensus regarding strategies to strengthen CFM. The groups would also act as an informal advisory body to government planners and multi- and bi-lateral agencies seeking to invest in the forestry sector.
Formalizing the WG is important to give it greater credibility. Minimally, a formal name and logo should be created, with special letterhead stationery produced. Members could be given special cards with the WG logo and address. WGs should be structured and their functions adjusted to respond to national initiatives, institutions and needs.
This report suggest a number of strategies for organizing and operating country-level working groups on CFM, including facilitation, group structure and function.. The report also briefly summarizes community forest management contexts, needs, and opportunities in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, highlighting important issues. The findings are based on preliminary meetings held in November 1998, as well as interviews and field visits.
n Thailand, a number of WGs dealing with CFM issues have operated over the past decade. Under the current initiatives, meetings in Thailand have yet to take place, but are scheduled during the first half of 1999. The following discussion provides a brief background on the current state of CFM practice and forest policy in Thailand.
Background and Current Trends
Since 1953, Thailand has lost over half of its forested area, declining from 60 percent of the land area to 25 percent in 1995. Quality of the remaining forest in many regions is also declining as human pressures on these natural ecosystems increase. Thailand’s forests were nationalized in 1896 when the Forestry Department was established. By 1957, the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) had 1885 employees and managed 50 percent of the national territory. During the 1960s and 70s deforestation proceeded rapidly in Thailand, due to policies encouraging industrial development and because of the RFD’s limited ability to control illegal loggers and migrant settlers in the North and Northeast.
Forest Policy
Over the past twenty-five years, Thailand has considered a variety of approaches to CFM. In 1975, the RFD established the Forest Village program in an attempt to establish a local source of labor for timber production. To accelerate the recognition of forest occupants’ rights, a land certification (STK) program was established in 1982. Since that time, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestland has been transferred to Thai families, however for the most part these lands have been converted to residential sites and agricultural land. During the 6th, 7th, and 8th Five Year Plans (covering a fifteen year period from 1987 to 2001), considerable stress has been placed on distributing tree seedlings to households and community groups, emphasizing capital and technical inputs.
Some RFD planners have struggled to develop an active Community Forestry Program emphasizing the establishment of community forest protection committees, mainly through watershed units. Up to 20,000 communities are estimated to be protecting forests nationwide, on an informal, defacto basis. Yet, at present, there are no existing policies that enable communities to act as the legal managers of state forest lands, though a policy mechanism to do this has been under consideration by the Thai government in recent years.
The proposed CFM policy has strong backing from many Thai social scientists and community development NGOs, however it has run into resistance from the environmental NGO community. Thailand currently has 117 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, with another 42 proposed parks. The total land currently designated or proposed for conservation covers over 70 percent of Thailand’s remaining natural forests. Under the current law, communities are not allowed to reside within these conservation areas. In addition, all A1 classified watersheds do not permit human habitation within their boundaries. As a consequence, existing policies require the resettlement and disengagement of communities from much of the country’s natural forest areas. These policies discourage community involvement in forest management by dislocating resident peoples. The debate over the role of communities in forest management has also created conflicts within the NGO sector, undermining opportunities to reach a consensus regarding sustainable forest management strategies need in Thailand.
Considerations for the Working Group
Thailand would benefit from a clearer policy on the role of communities in managing state forestlands. Absence of progress in establishing a national CFM policy has resulted from conflicts among stakeholders, particularly within the NGO community. WG mechanisms could help resolve disputes regarding where and how communities can play a role in forest conservation and production management. Building on existing CFM fora and dialogue processes is an important step. A number of exchanges have taken place in the past, based in Bangkok, Chieng Mai, Khon Khen, and other centers. In some cases these have been facilitated by NGOs, in others by Chieng Mai University or other academic institutions, or by the RFD.