Regulatory frameworks for community forestry with particular reference to Asia (2007)

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Community forestry fits into the global trend of governments moving from public sector control of natural resources to private and community control and is a policy that has been adopted by many countries in Asia and beyond. The experiences are mixed, but there are numerous examples of community forestry becoming a national movement and one that is capable of delivering significant socio-economic and environmental benefits. While each country has its own unique combination of historical, cultural, political, and economic factors, there are some generic lessons that can be learnt from several decades of experience in implementing community forestry. These can be widely applied to improve the regulatory framework for community forestry. Among the key lessons that have come from several decades of experience are:
  • Community forestry policy should be enabling rather than enforcing. Thus, it should enable rural communities to improve their own livelihoods and the condition of the forests in their vicinity by removing any constraints that inhibit them from doing so. Government agencies should adopt a supportive and facilitative role to assist communities in these efforts;
  • Lack of legitimate and effective control over resources by communities inhibits their ability to manage forests effectively. Governments often retain the major authority (the most power), while giving responsibility for sustainable forest management to communities. Responsibility without sufficient authority will not enable communities to manage forests effectively;
  • “Soft” rights (i.e. rights that cannot be defended or can be withdrawn at the discretion of the forest department) are not sufficient incentive to encourage communities to invest human and financial resources in forest management.
Consideration needs to be given at all levels of the regulatory framework to the benefits communities can secure from forests (benefit flow), as well as the distribution of such benefits at the community level (benefit sharing). Benefit distribution within communities is critical in terms of determining the extent to which community forestry can genuinely contribute to poverty reduction. However, poverty reduction must be seen as a wider whole-of-government agenda to which community forestry can contribute.
Language: English
Imprint: Proceedings: International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Forests, Bangkok,<br /> September 2007: 2007
Series: Workshop proceedings,