|Challenges and opportunities: policy options for the forestry sector in the Asia-Pacific region. (1997)|
Tropical forests of Asia-Pacific have been over-exploited and under-managed. Hence, far too often, like the temperate forests of the region before them, they are disappearing or being degraded. Although forests still make very substantial contributions to the economies and social well-being of many countries of the region, there is ample evidence that the potential contribution is much greater. The good news is that there are real opportunities for improvement.
To start considering the challenges and possibilities for forests (especially the tropical forests of the region) and whether there is a need for new policies or institutions, a comprehensive synthesis is needed:
· How successful have past efforts in forest management been?
· What is currently known about the reasons behind ineffective or counter-productive efforts at forest management and conservation?
· Have the potential economic development opportunities really been grasped, and have the income- and employment-generating benefits been equitably spread through society?
· What is causing inappropriate deforestation, that makes it so hard to prevent?
An assessment of these processes will reveal where the underlying forces are coming from, and what can be done to redress the situation. At the same time, we can explore new opportunities to substantially increase the contribution of sustainable forest use and management to the alleviation of rural poverty, job-creation and improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.
As statements of good intent all the national forestry policies across the region could barely be challenged. It is obvious that much careful thought has gone into setting national ideals for the forestry sector -all the goals are worthy, even unassailable. As the Malaysian paper in FAO (1993) states succinctly, no government would ever knowingly choose policy objectives that were not socially ideal. However, as the Pakistan paper in the same volume also points out,
Policy is what is implemented on the ground. It is not what is preserved and decorated on the shelf. The taste of the pudding lies in eating it, and the test of policy lies in its implementation. There is no use in formulating a policy if it cannot be implemented.
The major criticism of forest policies is in their implementation and their relevance.
This paper examines:
· how societies and economies are rapidly changing throughout the region. The number and the political or commercial influence of different interest groups are changing rapidly, as are the values, aspirations and priorities within specific social groups;
· whether the balance of goods and services derived from forests, between production and conservation, between commercial, subsistence, environmental and social benefits, still accords with our dynamic societies ever-changing priorities;
· who is likely to be managing which forests for what purposes in the future, and what sort of policy, institutional, commercial or legal reforms might be required to permit these transitions; and
· whether the implementation of past policy intentions has been effective and whether there have been any unexpected or undesirable consequences of how policies have been implemented, which might provide lessons for reforms presently being considered.
Thus much of the controversy is NOT about ultimate goals, but about the efficiency and equity of specific strategies and policy instruments to achieve those goals. Thus we must assess the impacts, effectiveness, equity and efficiency of alternative policy instruments; and analyse why apparently sound policies are sometimes implemented poorly, or not implemented at all. Not only have some policy tools failed to achieve their goals, but in some cases, they may have made matters worse in some unexpected ways. In other instances, the small gains made by good forestry policies have been overwhelmed by negative effects from agricultural, energy, international trade or transport policies, for example.
National Forest Policy should be based on a realistic assessment of the current situation as it exists on the ground. Do the areas to be managed or protected as forests actually still exist as forests today? Do they have a resident population? Should we declare a Class I watershed, in which no habitation or cultivation is allowed, if it is known that there are 500,000 people living there, with no other place to go and no other way to survive? Should we assume that the State Forests and the Forest Department will be responsible for supplying the national requirement for timber and fuelwood, if in fact three-quarters is already coming from the household gardens and from farmers plots, as in Bangladesh? Should we assume that small farmers will grow trees, if their land tenure is still insecure, if the markets for the trees/products are uncertain, or if there are administrative impediments (like having to get a permit to harvest a crop of trees which the farmers family planted)?
The process of making policies is important: this paper will argue that getting good results in practice, depends not only on having realistic, rational, consistent and efficient policies but also on the process by which the policy and subsequent strategies are formulated. Most National Forest Policy statements are generated and advocated by foresters - they generally arise through the national forestry agency and so tend to reflect the concerns, aspirations and professional views of the agencys staff. This can give a pre-occupation with the agencys functions, its concerns and the territory under its control, with perhaps less emphasis on what the general public thinks about their forests.
In comparison, this paper will summarize trends towards a broadly-based participatory process where all the interested stakeholders have an opportunity to express their interest, concerns, ideas and energy.1 Social conflicts have arisen world-wide where government forest services have recognized few stakeholders other than wood-processing industries.2 Receiving input and active participation across a wider range of stakeholders (such as other agencies, companies, communities, NGOs and environmental groups) could encourage:
a) better-informed, more realistic policies: There should be much less chance of pursuing policies which are out of tune with peoples real needs and aspirations, or which are based on faulty premises or data, if all the issues and options have been widely discussed before reaching a decision (though not always a consensus). Stakeholders different perceptions can bring new insights into what is possible, or potential problems.
b) continuous feedback on the effectiveness of policy measures: and if certain groups of people are not complying with particular policies, are there specific problems which could be remedied?
c) greater commitment by all parties to seeing the policy successfully implemented. Voluntary compliance of local communities in forestry programs may be higher when they have been involved in the formulation of those programs. One frequently cited obstacle to effective policy implementation is a lack of political will or support, but involvement of stakeholders in the formulation process/discussions is an effective means of getting widespread popular support.
d) clarification of all the actors and their roles. Forestry agencies and the timber industry are not the only ones involved in the forestry sector; the other stakeholders are now being heard - not only what they want, but what they could contribute (skills, knowledge, labour) and what support or assistance (if any) they would need, in order to do so.
1 Although Stakeholder Theory was developed for the successful management of private corporations, it offers valuable insights into the management of any large complex structure, even national governance. Survival and success depend not only on how well managers perform in furthering shareholders or owners interests, but on how well managers can balance the competing, legitimate claims of all the stakeholders in the process.
2 For example, Indias 1878 Forest Act really only recognized the Forest Department and the timber industry as having legitimate interest in forests (for industrial, urban and military use). Traditional users and uses were prohibited or heavily restricted. By defining collection of leaves and deadwood, or Minor Forest Produce as privileges (not a right) local people were excluded from any say in forest management and denied any traditional powers to regulate who used forests when and for what. Customary management of forests was replaced by an open-access regime (Saxena, 1997). This is also true for many other countries.
Countries as diverse as China, the Philippines, Nepal and New Zealand are each exploring and implementing new perceptions on how forestry activities can be undertaken - Who should do what, and what reforms are needed to make it work? They have recognized that government forestry cannot, and need not, do everything in the sector, and so responsibility and authority is being devolved to others: farmers, community groups, NGOs or companies.
New institutions are emerging to redress the balance between all segments of society who claim an interest in the future use of forests.3 The 1988 Indian Forest Policy reflects political and institutional changes to incorporate environmental and NGO stakeholders. Yet there are potentially serious problems in arriving at a participatory consensus on forest policy: not all stakeholders have equal or similar information or power to negotiate - local communities may be disadvantaged; major stakeholders could be cabinet ministers or generals who also hold logging concessions; Who is responsible for co-ordinating stakeholders interests.4
3 For example, some traditional Forest Services are being subsumed into mega-Departments of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation &/or Land Management in a number of Australian States; responsibility for all natural forests in New Zealand now lies with the Ministry of Environment and the plantation forests have been privatized; the NZ Forest Service has almost disappeared; the Philippines has DENR; the Indian Forest Service is now with the Ministry of Environment.
4 If governments want to ensure real public participation in policy formulation and implementation, they may need to enable community groups and NGOs to participate, e.g. by providing grants to enable them to prepare submissions, to take time from daily work to participate.
Major recurring, common concerns across the Region include:
· Finding the right balance between production and environmental protection - this is just as serious and difficult in Australia as it is in Indonesia or Pakistan. Of course the actual balance will be very different depending on a specific countrys resources, population, incomes etc, but the process of how to go about finding the right balance concerns most countries, and it seems unlikely that any has found a general formula for doing this.
· Developing effective strategies to deal with population pressure, encroachment and shifting cultivation is a concern in many countries of South and Southeast Asia, though apparently much less so in the Pacific Island states and in the industrialized countries.
· Industrial forestry, forest industries, investment, markets and trade are still beacons attracting optimism, especially in the face of steady increases in global demand, rapid increases in regional demands for forest products, and only moderate expansions in supply from temperate and tropical plantations of the region.
· Devolution of management to user groups and communities - community forestry -particularly based on extraction of NTFPs is a world-wide phenomenon, especially where local people have fewer opportunities for industrial employment.
· Recognition of and support for farm forestry and agroforestry: the potential to achieve both production and conservation outside conventional Reserves. This is not just a tropical developing country phenomenon - it is also increasingly relevant in Australia and New Zealand.
The following sections attempt to address each of these, with particular regard to the impacts, effectiveness and unintended consequences of the existing policies; and the possibility for evolution of new policies, new instruments and/or new institutional arrangements. Although the status quo has imperfections, it is often strongly entrenched. Perhaps examining those countries where changes are under way, will reveal more about the process, as well as the content, of policy reform. Frequently the issues that arise in implementation, have their roots in how the policies were formulated, and by whom.
As the World Bank (1992) clearly shows, most of the major environmental problems in developing countries are not due to the pursuit of economic development, but rather they seem to be due to inadequate institutions or incorrect economic policies: poorly-defined property rights; under-pricing of resources; state allocations and subsidies; and neglect of non-marketed social benefits. Instead of trying to devise new policies to stop further resource and environmental deterioration while promoting real development, perhaps we should first try to eliminate those (legal, social, political and institutional) factors that cause or exacerbate the problems.
The pursuit of another sectors goals has frequently had unintended negative effects on the forestry sector. Good intentions to protect and conserve forests have been swept aside in the face of imperatives to grow more food and provide more irrigation (as in India) or to generate more foreign exchange, from cassava exports in Thailand or from log exports in PNG and the Solomon Islands. Only 20 years ago the Australian and Queensland governments were subsidizing deforestation in the name of economic development, to clear land for farming, to increase revenues from export crops (the Brigalow Development Scheme). Roads constructed for military or national security reasons have often played a part in accelerating deforestation and unsustainable agriculture in marginal areas
Yet the pursuit of development in other sectors may not be bad, in the long term, despite negative effects on forests in the short term. It will be argued here that the general, wide-spread consequences of economic development may hold the key to improved forestry sector outcomes in the region over the next one to two decades.
For these reasons, it seems essential to examine the long-term underlying economic, social and demographic trends, and the interactions between other sectors, before reviewing in detail what has happened to the forestry sector of countries in the region. We will then be better positioned to assess alternative futures. It seems to us that very few of the trends identified within forestry in the region, were initiated within the forestry sector - on the contrary, what is happening in forestry is a reflection, sometimes belatedly, of much more powerful and widespread forces that are re-shaping whole societies. Forestry in some ways is being carried along like a log floating in a very strong current. We turn now to consider that current, and where it might be taking forestry.