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Rebuilding the forests

Given the rapid decline in the natural forests of South-East Asia, individual countries have been preoccupied with three major questions: (i) how to ensure adequate supplies of timber and other forest products for national needs (and possibly, continuing export); (ii) how to repair the ecological damage which has resulted from rapid deforestation; and (iii) how to reduce further encroachments on forest lands and improve the socioeconomic condition of those currently living within the forest estate.

Regeneration and Management

Improved management of existing timber stands, through post-logging silvicultural treatments and enrichment planting in the gaps, together with reduction of harvesting damage will help to secure greater sustainability of production in areas where good forests still remain, such as parts of Indonesia and Malaysia (Than", 1990). These countries must attempt to retain their advantage in natural forests, now that the extent of deterioration in other areas has become apparent. Dipterocarp forests are notoriously difficult to regenerate because of infrequent seeding and the fact that the seeds remain viable for short periods only. While some species, such as several of the Shorea, demand open conditions; others, like the slower-growing Dipterocarpus, prefer shade. Competition from large-leaf secondary species and predation by insects are additional problems, together with the disturbance to the soil resulting from logging activities, and desiccation of seedlings in the resulting gaps (Reich and Gong, 1990; Whitmore, 1991). It is mainly for these reasons that most logging concessionaires have given little attention to natural regeneration techniques, preferring to replant, when forced to do so, with fastgrowing exotics.

Experimentation is continuing with the role of the mycorrhizal fungi which grow symbiotically with the tree-root systems, and they have been demonstrated to be essential for proper seedling growth and development (Lee, 1990; Smits, 1987). As long as their mycorrhizae are preserved, wild seedlings may be transferred to nurseries and raised for replanting. Generally using hormonal treatments, techniques have also been developed for rooting viable cuttings taken from mature trees (Smite, 1987, 1990; Srivastava et al., 1986). Although undoubtedly of great potential value in improving dipterocarp regeneration, such experiments have not yet been adopted commercially. Smits believes, however, that the prospects for widespread replanting of dipterocarps in logged-over forests are now good and that plantations of such species as Shorea leprosula (light red meranti) could be raised economically on a 25-30year rotation. He suggests that wildling planting stock could be obtained by co-operation among regional countries with different times of dipterocarp seeding (Smite, 1990).

While again not strictly commercial, following disasters such as the wartime defoliation of parts of southern Vietnam and the 1982-3 fire in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, attention is also being given to techniques of rehabilitation of natural ecosystems. The restoration of the Ma Da woods near Ho Chi Minh City-where four of the shade-loving dipterocarp species (Dipterocarpus alatus, D. dyer), Hopea odorata, Anisoptera costata) were able to grow as an understorey following establishment of a cover of fast-growing Acacia auriculiformis-is an interesting achievement (Kemf, 1988,1990; Thai van Trung, 1987). Similar long-term experiments aimed at regenerating the forests of East Kalimantan's burned area have been recommended (Schindele, Thoma and Panzer, 1989).

While the light hardwoods have been the basis for large plywood industries as well as general construction timber. it is also suggested that a wider mix of species could be utilized, guaranteeing a more intensive management of smaller areas of forest (FAO/GOI, 1990). Existing plywood plants, which are particularly numerous in Indonesia and represent high levels of investment and employment, will have to be adapted to take smaller and inferior logs, as well as timber with different characteristics. Specialty timbers, such as rubberwood which is already increasingly used in Malaysia, might be further developed for industrial purposes.

Plantation Forestry

In addition to the recognized need to improve natural-forest logging systems, where this is still feasible, a common strategy of almost all countries in their efforts to secure future timber supplies has been the sowing of fast-growing exotics, often monocultures, in plantations. Favoured species have been Acacia mangium, Paraserianthes falcataria, Gmelina arborea and, sometimes, Eucalyptus deglupta in the Equatorial areas, with Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Acacia auriculiformis and some local species in the monsoonal regions.

The wood from industrial forest estates is used in pulp and paper plants, wood chips and fillers, and light construction, while Gmelina arborea produces higher-quality timber suitable for furniture. The plantation product obviously performs a different role to the raw material from the natural forest. Its advantage is its high yield per hectare and its rapid growth, but the initial establishment is expensive. Acacia mangium has a 9-13 year rotation and a yield of 22-24 cubic metres per hectare per year, compared with meranti with a 6 - 9 cubic metres per hectare per year return a*er 35-45 years. Even teak, which is often grown in plantations, needs about 40 years to produce 9-12 cubic metres per hectare per year (FAO/GOI, 1990). Multilateral aid agencies, such as the Asian Development Bank, have been happy to finance the development of industrial plantations because of their predicted high rates of return. The directors of Sabah Softwoods, a pioneer in this area, do not see returns as so secure. They started with Pinus caribea, shifting later to Acacia mangium; they regard these plantations as relatively high-risk ventures, with a considerable degree of skill required in monitoring and management (Golokin and Cassels, 1988).

Disadvantages of monocultures have also been identified, such as their liability to widespread attack by pests and diseases, a danger intensified by the narrow genetic base from which they are drawn. It is reported, for example, that the whole stock of Acacia mangium in Sabah comes from a single Australian parent (Salleh and Hashim, 1982). There are also doubts about long-term sustainability and growth under the prevailing poor soil conditions, and criticism of the limited scope offered as habitat for indigenous flora and fauna, compared with even degraded natural forest. Eucalyptus cumaldulensis plantings have been blamed for lowering water tables in dry areas and for depletion of soil nutrients. This argument is most relevant to the role of such trees in village settings, where local species prove more suitable (Lohmann, 1990).

In most countries, the plans for replanting run tar ahead of the achievement. In Indonesia, for example, the replanting target for the industrial forests (Hutan Tanaman Industri, HTI) outside Java was set at 1.5 million hectares for 1984-9, but only 69 000 hectares were planted (FAO/GOI, 1990). The Compensatory Planting Programme in Peninsular Malaysia, begun in 1982 and expected to constitute 35 per cent of total log production by the late 1990s (Johari, 1988), had plantings of 36 874 hectares at the end of 1989, also behind schedule. Sabah, which began its programme as early as 1973, had 50 306 hectares by the end of the 1980s (Than", 1990).

Since introducing its logging ban in early 1989, Thailand has rented out considerable areas of degraded National Reserve Forests for plantations of Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Some planters are private companies with connections to paper mills, while government-owned estates also exist. This is in line with the forest department's policy to return forest cover to 40 per cent of the land area, with 25 per cent devoted to plantations. Disputes have arisen, especially in the north-east where large numbers of forest dwellers are militantly resisting government plantations taking over land they claim, but to which they have no legal title (Lohmann, 1990). In eastern areas, indebted villagers are said to have sold their land to private plantation companies. It is estimated that more than 20 per cent of Thailand's villages, with their I 0 million people, are located in degraded forest reserves. The issues of land ownership and land security are obviously critical and need to be resolved before reforestation and encroachment questions can really be addressed (Bangkok Post, 25 February 1991).

Similar disputes are beginning in Indonesia, though on a smaller scale, as land is resumed from shifting cultivators for forest-plantation development (fieldwork, South Kalimantan, July 1991). Although it was suggested in this case that local employment might be provided by the plantation, farmers feel that the wages are too low. Transmigrants may be willing to take up such employment, but locals could earn more from their own diversified activities provided these could be maintained. Burning for plot preparation is a particular problem, as the people are expected to stay at a considerable distance from the new forest, which is very vulnerable to dry-season conflagration. Some 'accidents' have already occurred, and the forest police have been very vigilant. Resulting confrontational attitudes have caused considerable anxiety in the district.

Where plantations are seen to pose problems to local settlers, they are likely to be subject to attack, either overt or covert. Peluso (1990) details the Javanese experience with their long-standing teak plantations. These are no longer sustainable as they are being over-cut and replantings continually fail because of human interference.

In Vietnam, eucalyptuses have been planted on bare hills in the most northern provinces to augment the supplies of bamboo and native hardwoods for the country's largest paper plant, the Swedish-aided Bay Bang Mill, which, up to the end of the 1980s, was still running at only 50 per cent of capacity (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991). When originally set up, the mill was admittedly 'concerned with paper, not people' (Liljestrom, Fforde and Ohlsson, 1987: 41) and sought to monopolize all timber supplies within three provinces. Constantly increasing shortages of wood for processing led to a Swedish-initiated inquiry into the living conditions of the mainly female forest workers in the Raw Material Area of this mill to discover the causes of their apparent low productivity. It was found that the workers, who were recruited from the heavily populated Red River delta, were suffering considerable hardship, having lived for many years isolated in remote areas on low and irregular wages. They had found ways of appropriating whatever wood they needed for fuel and house construction and to augment their incomes.

Greater freedom for state employees since the late 1980s has led to increasing diversion of wood on to the open market, while much of the forest land they have worked has been fumed over to local co-operatives for self-management. The latter are also aware of the real value of the wood, and are charging the mill high prices for it. Meanwhile, the forest workers are spending more of their time growing their own food. A devolution of responsibility from the state to the people is occurring, so that the mill-instead of being an all-powerful consumer of the scarce resource (wood)-has been forced to participate in the overall socio-economic development of the area. The Raw Material Area has become the Socioeconomic Forest Development Area, in what is seen as a harmonization of the state, collective and family economies (Liljestrom, Fforde and Ohlsson, 1987).

A rather different approach involving local smallholders has been developed around the mill of the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines. On 10-hectare lots, farmers raise 8 hectares of Paraserianthes falcataria and 2 hectares of food crops. This system is very successful because of the guaranteed market for pulp within a set distance from the mill (Lasco and Lasco, 1990), and indicates alternative strategies to plantation development where population densities are high.

Within the socialist states of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, plantations and woodlots for fuelwood have been far more important than raw-material plantations for pulp and paper. This is in order to meet both village and urban demand. Myanmar has longstanding big-energy plantations, with fuelwood being used in small-scale industry as well as for household consumption. Both Vietnam and Laos are each planning massive reforestation schemes to establish 3 million hectares of plantation forests on deforested land. Much of this would come about through community tree-planting programmes. Demand for fuelwood is extremely high in these states (estimated at 38.5 millon cubic metres in Myanmar by the year 2000), and is a reflection of their poverty (Midgley, 1989).

Community Forestry and Shifting Agriculture

The techniques known as 'community forestry', 'agroforestry' and 'social forestry' refer to combinations of people and trees, but cover a range of meanings and systems. By 1990, they had come to be perceived as offering solutions to the problems encountered by the state in forest management when the needs of forest dwellers are ignored or brushed aside. 'Community forestry' may simply be applied to local management of a forest area, including extraction of its products on a sustainable basis and protection of the area from depredation by outsiders. While 'social forestry' and 'agroforestry' are sometimes used interchangeably, the former is a broader concept referring to the total context of participatory development in which an agroforestry or community forestry system may operate (Aquino, del Castillo and Payuan, 1987). Agroforestry is specifically defined as a combination of woody perennials with food or forage crops and/or animals on the same management unit, either sequentially or simultaneously, with the aim of obtaining greater outputs on a sustained basis (ICRAF, 1983).

Traditional shifting cultivation may thus be classified as an agroforestry system. Introduction of cash sources in the form of rattans, permanent tree crops or small livestock may improve the system's stability when it is subjected to pressures for higher incomes (Lahjie and Seibert, 1988). Some traditional systems have already developed complex combinations of food and tree crops: for example, the damar (Shorea javanica) gardens of Lampung in Sumatra (Mary and Michon, 1987; Michon and Bompard, 1987). In areas of fairly low population pressure that are still forested, agroforestry systems, like community forestry, may be designed to improve living conditions in situ and discourage encroachment on to protected or reserved forest.

Quite different systems must be evolved in areas where population pressure and levels of deforestation are already severe. In upland areas of the Philippines, for example, the most important aims have been to reduce soil erosion and improve the sustainability of upland cropping through tree-planting activities (Borlagdan et al., 1990). Where reforestation is the principal focus, as in Vietnam, the taungya system has been adopted (Le Trong Cuc, 1988). Here, farmers are permitted to grow food crops between the trees for about two years before canopy closure makes continued cropping uneconomic. In Java, where this system (known as tumpangsari ) is widespread, Stoney and Bratamihardja (1990) recount how modifications have occurred to permit the evolution of a social-forestry programme. The State Forest Corporation (Perum Perhutani) has, over time, agreed to allow greater participation of local villagers in forest management. Wider spacing of trees enables crops to grow for a longer period without being shaded out; fruit trees and other species besides the standard rice and corn may now be planted in between the teak rows.

Most important to all systems, even those traditionally developed under communal management by forest people themselves, is the question of tenurial rights over the areas (or trees) involved. Cropping systems which include trees are inevitably long-term, hence the overwhelming importance of secure tenure to the people concerned. The Philippine Integrated Social Forestry Project thus allows individual farmers 25-year stewardship leases to occupy public lands, provided they develop them using agroforestry principles; communal forest leases are available to indigenous groups. The Thai Forest Village and National Forest Land Allotment projects have also granted certificates of use to land in National Reserved Forests.

Such initiatives have not been without problems. Hafner and Apichatvullop ( 1990) argue that the government grossly underestimated the demand for land in the forest areas, so the possibilities for secure tenure have led to increased migration and further pressure on the forests. Nevertheless, secure tenure and participatory management go some way towards repairing the alienation so often experienced by local people as a result of logging and other commercial activities: forest regeneration programmes are seen to be to their advantage.

The future of the forests

Sayer and Collins (1991) argue that the fate of the remaining forests in South-East Asia will be determined in the 1990s. Being conservationists, they see the major need as increased investment to include at least 10 per cent of the forests in totally protected areas, parks and reserves, so that examples may be preserved of the area's amazing plant and animal wealth. They also reason that current trends and investments give an ever-greater role to plantations as sources of raw materials, with little interest by regional governments in promoting further long-term, concession-based logging of natural forests. With so much of the forests already logged over, and serious doubts about their ability to sustain an economic second cut within a reasonable time span, it is logical that plantations should be seen as at least a partial answer. However, most of these plantations are new; little information is available to assess their long-term sustainability after multiple replantings. Sayer and Collins (1991) believe that sections of the production forest might be used to produce stated volumes of particular products or timber varieties under strict government supervision, but that most of the current production forest should be managed for conservation purposes. They see further conversions to meet human needs as inevitable.

Brown and Lugo (1990) have proposed a model of the current land-use changes occurring in the Tropics, from 60- to 80-year-old mature forests, through 20- to 30-year-old logged forests and forest fallow under shifting cultivation, usually less than 20 30 years old, to a final stage of permanent agriculture with pasture or crops. All stages are seen as reversible, at least to the one immediately preceding, while it is also possible to omit steps in the deforestation sequence. When that happens, however, the unique goods and services available to people from the missed steps are lost. The authors have advocated a mix of ecosystems, with particular attention to management of the secondary and plantation forests, in which there has been little research to date. Each stage in the hypothetical sequence is also regarded as sustainable in itself, in that the movement through the stages may be retarded for several cycles or indefinitely, depending on the intrinsic value of that particular forest or location (Brown and Lugo, 1990).

These ideas, invoking more flexible and site-specific management, are increasingly being advocated by authoritative advisers to regional governments (FAO/GOI, 1990; IIED/GOI, 1985; MOF/FAO, 1991; World Bank, 1990a). They are more difficult to implement than universally applicable regulations which take no account of a real differentiation and local advantage, but after the three decades of exploitation in the 1960s-1980s, the variation now existing in South-East Asia's forests is enormous. More flexible management strategies make possible a greater participatory role for local communities.

Such an increase in community involvement is advocated by Poffenberger (1990a). He warns, however, that a simple transfer of rights and responsibilities to the people is unlikely to be spontaneously successful, as traditional ways of regulating access and distributing resources may have become ineffective with changed circumstances, while immigrants will not have this background. He argues instead for joint management between local groups and forestry departments, with development of mutually acceptable rules and procedures. Time, however, is becoming increasingly critical, as continued forest degradation and resource-base impoverishment reduce the options for remedial action. There is no doubt that resolution of the human-forest 'problem', so often passed over in favour of merely technical approaches, is the key to the future of the forests. Without answers to the human questions, technical solutions will have little chance of success.

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.

In defence of south-east Asia

Editorial comment


TROPICAL forests are a universal asset, and to talk about an 'onslaught' upon them is distressing to a forester. On the one hand, to the people of 33 developing countries, they provide valuable export income needed for development. They supply energy for cooking and heating for almost 2.5 billion people, and food, security and livelihood for some 200 million forest dwellers. They are essential to the quality of the earth's atmosphere. On the other hand, they are the locus of more than half the world's biodiversity, and this is of value to everyone, and a loss to all when it is reduced. When cut down or burned, forests become a source of carbon-dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and their destruction diminishes the natural carbon sinks. Reduction deprives forest dwellers of their food security. Between these competing claims for attention, there is, however, a need for the right perspective on the role of the tropical countries in the damage being done to the world's remaining forest lands.

Table 5.6 provides informative and comparative data to help place these issues in perspective. The area under forest remains much larger in Indonesia and Malaysia than in the developed countries listed, even though the rates of loss are now greater; they were not so in the historical past. Roundwood production is much higher in the United States than in any of the South-East Asian countries, and about as large in Germany as in the Philippines and Malaysia. Reforestation is greater in the Philippines than in the United Kingdom or France. In these comparisons, the developing countries of South-East Asia do not, in general, compare poorly with the developed countries of Western Europe and the United States. Moreover, even including the 1982-3 events, Borneo lost less than one-fifth of the amount of forest that the United States lost to fire during 1973-86.

The ranking of countries by greenhouse gas emissions (WRI, 1990) shows Indonesia in ninth rank, and Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia in eighteenth, twentysixth and thirty-seventh rank respectively. On a per capita basis, Australia's contribution is tar higher than any of these South-East Asian countries, and the real polluters are all in the industrialized lands.

None the less, the need for sustainable management of the forests is not denied. South-East Asian countries participate in international conventions designed to reduce damage not only to the forests but also to the global environment. A great deal of progress towards improvement in forest management is being made.

TABLE 5.6 Land Area under Forest Cover. 1981, 1986 and 1989: Roundwood Production, 1985-1987; and Average Annual Reforestation in the 1980s, by Country


Land under Forest Cover
(percentage of total)

Annual Roundwood Production ('000 m)

Annual Average Reforestation ('000 hectares)

Country 1981 1986 1989 1985-7 1980s
United States 31.0 98.9 28.3 485760 1 775
Germany 30.0 30.0 29.5 31 583 62
Australia 13.9 13.9 13.5 19907 62
Netherlands n.a. 8.0 8.0 1 118 2
United Kingdom n.a. 9.0 5.7 5 082 40
France n.a. 26.6 26.6 39 890 51
Belgium n.a. 21.0 21.0 3 376 19
Denmark n.a. 11.4 11.2 2 236 n.a.
Malaysia 66.0 60.0 57.8 32 000 25
Indonesia 75.0 72.5 60.0 158 075 164
Philippines 31.0 24.5 21.5 35 822 63
Thailand 47.0 35.0 28.0 36 900 31

Sources: Wan Razali ( 1990): WRI ( 1990).

Editorial comment

These comments make clear the extent to which tropical deforestation has become a political issue, generating sharp reactions in some of the region's countries. However, the political questions were not, in the main, taken up by South-East Asian discussants who followed Jefferson Fox and Wan Razali. There was concern with internal questions, such as the effect of logging roads-built for outsiders, not the forest people-on the extension of cultivation, on heavier exploitation of forest produce and on land speculation' now significant along roads in Central Kalimantan.

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