| South-East Asia's Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability (1993) |
|Part I - The driving forces of change|
Notes on co-operative management
ONE of the most important issues in contemporary South-East Asia is the future of forests. Potter has done an excellent job of introducing the reader to the nature of the forest resource and outlining salient issues. She addresses the differences between indigenous people who have practiced swidden agriculture for centuries and immigrants who have only recently begun to practice swidden and, no doubt, have caused greater forest degradation. On population growth, she cites experts who claim that population growth is the driving force behind deforestation as well as those who claim that population growth is not relevant. In terms of the political economy, she recognizes the role of land tenure and the different interests behind land-tenure reforms in determining forest-management policy. Finally, the role of commercial interest in the continued exploitation of this resource is discussed.
While these issues are relevant, this author is less enthusiastic about the proposition of 'apportioning blame'. It is important to note that there are at least two views of each of these issues: the view of the local people who live in or near the forests and use these resources on a daily basis, and that of the national governments that claim these resources as public property to be protected and managed for the good of the nation. Indigenous swiddeners claim ancestral rights to use this land according to techniques that have sustained their forefathers for centuries. National governments, however, see burned forests on supposedly public land and consider swiddening to be a practice of illegal squatters. Likewise, it is fairly well demonstrated (at least in the Philippines) that national governments have an interest in undercounting the number of forest dwellers (Cruz, 1986a). It is easier to deny the rights of forest dwellers if forests are thought to be sparsely populated and, in many areas, still available for distribution to landless lowland farmers.
It is important to recognize the different interests of the actors in this drama. In Java, for example, the State Forest Corporation (Perum Perhutani) is implementing a socialforestry project on state forest lands. This project provides local residents with incentives for planting and protecting a range of tree species on such land. After observing this programme for several years, this writer feels that the corporation's underlying goal is 'territorial control'. The corporation is interested in the productive and sustainable management of the land, but their bottom line is clear delineation and recognition of their ownership of state forest land. This explains why the corporation is ready to endanger successful programmes in the fight for a clear definition of property rights. On the other hand, the underlying objectives of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with this programme are the twin goals of equity and participation of local people. To the extent that equity implies an ownership right to the land, this aim puts the NGOs in direct conflict with the corporation. But even when the NGOs do not push for land ownership, equity and participation are difficult objectives for a forestry agency to implement.
If the underlying problem of forest management in South-East Asia is the conflict between the people who use forest lands and national forest departments interested in the control and exploitation of this resource for the national good, then successful forest management becomes a question of developing models for co-operative management. To their credit, South-East Asian governments are perhaps more involved in developing such methods than those of any other region in the world. The example of the State Forest Corporation in Java has already been cited. This co-operation is based on contracts between the corporation and forest-farmer groups that define the rights and responsibilities of both partners. Similar types of contractual relationships have been developed in West Bengal and Harayana states in India (Gupta, 1991 ; Roy. 1991 ).
Thailand and the Philippines provide stewardship certificates to forest dwellers who can prove they have resided on forest lands since before a given date. These certificates provide individuals and communities with the right to use and occupy the land for a set number of years, and cannot be sold or used as collateral. The Philippines also otters Forest Lease Management Agreements (FLMA) to families. communities or incorporated groups. Holders of an FLMA may harvest, process, sell, or otherwise utilize the products grown on forest land covered by the agreement for a given period of time. Another community-based programme, the Community Forestry Management Agreements (CFMA). gives limited rights to upland dwellers to undertake timberharvesting operations. Finally, the Philippines has established regional and provincial task forces to delineate ancestral domains. These task forces seek to define the boundaries through ground survey, and in the process, identify the specific indigenous cultural communities that have rights to these areas as their traditional territories. These groups can then be issued Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (Gasgonia, 1991).
There are of course many problems that will have to be overcome if cooperative forest-management programmes are to be successful. Gaps divide the government bureaucracies and community organizations which control and manage or abuse forest resources. To overcome these problems, bridges need to be built. Government bureaucracies and community organizations need to understand the problems that separate them and seek workable solutitons to these problems. The role of the outsider (the NGO, the development agent and the academic) is to help these organizations develop their capacity for addressing the problems.
Research and experimentation are needed into both the problems and the solutions. This research must be built on observation, guided interviews, timeliness and informed interpretation, and give attention to the processes unfolding rather than dwell on the final results. This may mean that as many, or more, projects may fail than succeed. Gradually, however, methods for restructuring forestry agencies, for soliciting community participation and for designing appropriate forest policies and legislation will begin to emerge.