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Agroforestry Systems 30: 315-340, 1995.
9 1995 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The theory of social forestry intervention:
the state of the art in Asia
M . R. D O V E
Program on Environment, East-West Center, 1777 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96848, USA
Key words: Asian forestry, community/farm forestry, deforestation, institutional issues, technology adoption
Abstract. This study focuses on the major issues in current thinking about the theory of social
forestry development in Asia. The first of these issues concerns the cause of deforestation. The
governmental view is that deforestation is a gradual process driven by community-based factors,
whereas the community view is that deforestation is a stochastic process driven by external,
political-economic factors. The two explanations have different implications for where the
'problematique' of social forestry is located - in the forest community or in the forest agency
- and how, therefore, it is to be addressed.
A second issue concerns how and when social forestry interventions are carried out. The
concept of a 'window-of-opportunity' for intervention reflects a widespread belief that it is
important when interventions are carried out - with both the costs and benefits of intervention
increasing as it is timed earlier and decreasing as it is timed later. A key determinant of the
best time for intervention is the receptivity of the forest agency and the broader society. The
purpose of intervention is to strengthen receptivity and other factors conducive to change, to
hasten extant processes of change, and to minimize the possibility of a reversal of direction.
A third issue is whether the focus of social forestry intervention should be on state lands or
on community lands. While there are logical reasons for either foci, the continuing vacillation
between them suggests the lack of a theoretical perspective with sufficient breadth to encompass them both. Whatever the focus, attitudinal change within the forest agency is usually
mandated in social forestry interventions, but it is rarely accompanied with intervention in the
underlying power relations, reflecting a continuing difficulty in viewing the forest agency
sociologically. This lack of sociological perspective also is seen in the tendency to focus on
adding resources perceived to be in short supply, instead of removing institutional obstacles including those within the forest agency - to the proper use of existing resources.
The final issue involves the unintended consequences of social forestry intervention. These
include redirection of the intervention as a result of bureaucratic resistance or negative feedback,
and secondary consequences stemming from the dynamic responses by forests, forest communities, and forest agencies to changes in their relationship.
Introduction: scope and methodology of the study
A n y f o r e s t r y i n t e r v e n t i o n t h a t i n v o l v e s l o c a l c o m m u n i t i e s - w h e t h e r it is c a l l e d
agroforestry, social forestry, farm forestry, or community forestry - involves
the planned transformation of a dynamic inter-relationship among community,
state, and the physical environment. The theoretical basis for planning such
t r a n s f o r m a t i o n s is c o m p l e x a n d c h a l l e n g i n g . T h e t h e o r y t h a t a c t u a l l y is
a r t i c u l a t e d in m o s t i n t e r v e n t i o n s ( h e r e a f t e r g l o s s e d u n d e r a s i n g l e t e r m , ' s o c i a l
f o r e s t r y , ' f o r c o n v e n i e n c e ) is, b y c o n t r a s t , s i m p l i s t i c . T h e s e i n t e r v e n t i o n s h a v e
progressed through a number of different paradigms, beginning with a focus
on idealized models developed on experimental plots, proceeding to descriptions of on-farm cultivation and use of trees, and most recently extending to
political-economic analyses of the broader policy context. A relative dearth
of theory characterizes each of these paradigms, even the most recent political-economic one. 1 Thus, whereas this paradigm may provide the politicaleconomic reasons for why a given social forestry program failed (or did not
fail) to promote sustainable use of forest resources in a given time and place,
it does not go on to explain why this failure is predictable (at certain times
and in certain places-s-fdtr-certain types of programs). The analytic focus is
almost always on the circumstances of the social forestry intervention, as
opposed to the act of intervention itself. 2 This is not to say that this act is
devoid of theoretical content, only that this content is implicit. The purpose
of the present study is to make some of this content explicit and to outline
some of the additional theoretical content that is needed.
Scope of the study
This study draws in general on the author's twenty years of research in this
field, and in particular on analysis of data gathered during a 1992 review of
the Ford Foundation's community forestry program in Asia 3 (specifically
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand). The
Foundation's program has been at the forefront of international work on social
forestry for close to twenty years. The review consisted of extended interviews, meetings, and field visits with, in each country, the Foundation's
program officer for community forestry and its in-country grantees in
academia, government, and the NGO sector (see Appendix: Methodology).
The several dozen people thus encountered in each country represented the
'cutting edge' of thinking about social forestry development. The review as
a whole thus afforded an unparalleled opportunity to assess the current state
of the art in this field.
The review did not reveal any consensus concerning this state. On the
contrary, it revealed marked disagreement within the social forestry community about many of its most basic issues. This will be reflected here in my
presentation of multiple views on a number of issues, favoring one view where
I do and avoiding closure where i feel that I must. On the other hand, the
review also revealed broad agreement on some of the most fundamental
aspects of the evolving relationship between state, people, and forests in Asia.
While the particular outcome of any given social forestry intervention is
indeed likely to be 'very ad hoc, messy, and opportunistic' (as an Indian
activist in the field put it), there is surprising agreement about the institutional
form that this 'messiness' is likely to take, the place that it is likely to occur
in the socioeconomic landscape, and the stage in the evolutionary schema at
which it is likely to occur. Thus, social forestry developments that superficially appear to be disparate and unique are seen by the social forestry
community at a higher level of abstraction to be basically alike, to be similar
products of recurring social, political, and economic processes.
After a brief discussion of methodology, this analysis will begin with a
discussion of conceptions of deforestation, contrasting an orthodox forestry
view of it as a gradual process driven by local socioeconomic factors, with a
community view of it as a stochastic process driven by external political and
commercial ones. Next to be discussed will be the act of intervention by which
the process is to be reversed, and here the focus will be on the importance of
the timing of the intervention, the receptivity of its object, and the specific
strategy (viz., acceleration of extant trends) employed. I will then discuss the
substance of the intervention (viz., the proposed solution to deforestation), in
particular the needed focus on the forest agency as opposed to the forest
community, the focus on changing relations of power as opposed to changing
attitudes, and the focus on removing obstacles as opposed to adding resources.
Finally I will discuss the primary, secondary, and tertiary effects of intervention, highlighting the need to anticipate feedback effects.
Methodology of the study
One of the challenges of development studies is to suit the questions to the
time and resources available. A brief, multination study raises this difficulty
to the 'nth' degree. The sorts of questions that yielded us the most informative data were not - in the end - questions about tree species, yields, and
farmer income (nor, in general, any quantitative questions). Ways of restructuring these questions so that they yielded more useful data involved asking
who decides (e.g., farmer or forester) what species to plant and why, and is
there agreement (between farmer and forester) about the direction of the
program and, if not, why not? One team member noted at one point that the
review had led her to stop asking the question, 'What is the farmer's income
under community forestry?' and ask instead, 'Who controls what resources
coming in and out of community forestry?' The former is a question of
accounting and is difficult to answer in a brief visit, while the latter is a
question of politics, which is more accessible to study when time is short.
The team - exhibiting the product-orientation of most academic and
development work - asked many questions such as, 'What will you do with
the trees you are protecting when they mature?' or 'How will you protect these
trees from covetous neighbors when they are mature?' To most such questions, farmers replied, 'We will decide when the time comes' or 'We will
deal with that problem when it arises.' The challenge to the team (or to any
observer) on such occasions is to understand that the informant was not unable
to answer the question, rather the question - with its emphasis on product as
opposed to process - was the wrong one, and - most important of all - this
'wrongness' provides further insight into the informant's situation.
The best data did not necessarily come from the best-orchestrated meetings.
In general, whether meeting with government officials, scholars, NGO rep-
resentatives, or villagers, unstructured exchanges proved to be the most
productive, where the review team was able to observe the process of interaction rather than just elicit 'answers.' A good example of such interaction
occurred in India, when a large and diverse group of those involved in the
joint forest management program was asked, one-by-one, to define 'joint forest
management'. There was little-to-no-agreement in the definitions given, and
there was interesting variation in the extent to which this variation was
acceptable or not to the participants. Finally, some of the most productive
situations were those in which the data-gathering context was disrupted. An
example, again from India, involved an argument (ostensibly over local
forestry history) between Forest Department officers, villagers, and NGO
representatives, which will be described later in greater detail. This brief
departure from 'publicity forestry' to 'reality forestry' provided exceptional
insight into Forest Department-NGO relations in India.
The problem
The first and perhaps the most heatedly debated question in current social
forestry discourse in Asia is the explanation of what degraded the forest
resource in the first place. 4
What happened to the forests?
The orthodox view of deforestation among government foresters in much of
Asia is that it is a gradual process, and that the primary determinant is everincreasing and often illegitimate pressure by a growing local population on a
finite resource base. For example, S. Shyamsunder and S. Parameswarappa
[1987], two Indian foresters, write:
Rural people . . . collect their fuelwood from local forests. This practice
is carried out, legitimately or illegitimately, mainly by landless and submarginal farmers. Similarly, the huge cattle population, which is onethird of the world's cattle population, grazes on forest land, wherever
possible. These two factors are mainly responsible for the state of India's
Increasingly, however, this view of deforestation is being contested by those
who maintain that deforestation is driven not just by local factors (like
population) but also by extra-local ones, and that it is less a gradual than a
stochastic process. Thus, the Indian activist Madhav Gadgil [1989] (cited in
[Masanoff, 1993] writes)
The root cause of the ongoing disaster of deforestation lies in the radical
transformation of the social system of resource use . . . The hallmark
of this system is the use of state power to systematically undervalue
b i o m a s s . . , and organize its supply to those in power at highly subsidized
Throughout Asia, both community members and an increasing number of
outside observers are interpreting deforestation as the result of (often onetime) interventions or disruptions6 by external economic and political forces]
For example, many farmers, officials, and academics in China say that
deforestation of the countryside is relatively recent and is associated with
several successive and distinct periods of policy change or uncertainty: one
following liberation, a second taking place during the great leap forward, and
a third occurring during periods of policy reform in the late 1970s and early
1980s [Menzies, 1993; Ross, 1988]. 8 In Indonesia, massive exploitation of the
teak forests of Java is said to have occurred during politically disruptive
periods following the fall of the Dutch colonial government at the beginning
of World War II, during the post-war battle for independence by the Indonesian
people, and during the post-independence battles between the national military
on the one hand and on the other hand Islamic rebels who wanted to keep the
forests closed to protect themselves, and communist rebels who wanted to
open up the forests to give the land to the poor. Periods during which forests
rights are transferred or obfuscated also are dangerous for forests. Thus, the
forests in many parts of India are said to have been cut by feudal landlords
before turning them over to the government during land reforms in the 1950s
and then again in the 1970s. (The obverse of this also has occurred, involving
so-called 'felling crazes' by tribal peoples, precipitated by government denial
of tribal rights of forests [Devalle, 1993].) All of these cases show deforestation to be the result not of gradual local pressure on resources, but of
momentary disruption of the institutional framework responsible for resource
protection and management. 9
This debate is relevant not just to explaining past deforestation, but also
to designing remedies to it and ways to avert future recurrences. Such designs
will obviously differ if past deforestation was due to a short-lived commercial operation as opposed to a long-term process of unsustainable exploitation by the local population. In the latter case the 'problematique' is located
in the local community, in the former case it is located in the broader society.
In the latter case development planning should focus on developing the ability
of local communities to live on a long-term, sustainable basis with the forest,
while in the former case it should focus on developing the ability of these
communities to block traumatic incursions from the broader society. If such
incursions are the focus, policy goals might include developing the ability to
predict subversions of and breakdowns in resource policy (such as are said
to have taken place in China over the past one-half century) and developing
institutions at the local level capable of averting their ill consequences.
Another obvious policy goal, of course, would be to alter central structures
of governance to reduce the incidence and magnitude of policy fluctuations] ~
The evidence suggests that it is not necessarily the direction of change that
matters, but change or fluctuation per se. n
Is the forest community or agency the culprit?
This emphasis on the importance of particular historical events tends to favor
the farmers' vision of resource history over the foresters'. The attribution of
deforestation to external events, of a political nature, emphasizes the political nature of the resource, and its protection and degradation. This emphasis
shifts the blame for resource degradation from the local community to the
broader society, in particular (in many cases) the Forest Department and commercial contractors. This shift does not go in-contested by the Forest
Department, however. An example of this contesting was encountered during
the study in Gujarat, India, involving a public meeting among Forest Department officials, NGO representatives, and local villagers. Part of the debate
that occurred during this meeting is summarized as follows:
Villagers: The surrounding forest was good until the commercial contractors came and cut it in 1972.
Foresters: Commercial contractors have been outlawed in Gujarat since
1952; after which felling has been permitted only by village
cooperative societies.
Villagers: We have never had a village cooperative society for that
Foresters: The felling must have been done by a village cooperative
society to which you villagers belonged without fully understanding it.
Villagers: The contractor who did the felling was a Parsi from Rajpoota
who is well-known to you foresters.
Foresters: We know this Parsi is a contractor, but you villagers must have
hired him as your own subcontractor.
This debate succinctly sums up the two opposing paradigms of forestry
history: the villagers attribute deforestation to extravillage factors associated
with the Forest Department, while the Forest Department attributes it to
intra-village factors of greed, ignorance, and duplicity. 12
The tendency in forestry and development circles in general to allocate
the responsibility for past deforestation to the forest community as opposed
to the forest agency has contributed to an unproblematic view of this agency,
even among outside observers. For example, even when it is obvious that the
forest agency is responsible for the design of bad policy, or the bad implementation of good policy, there is a strong tendency even among agency critics
to attribute this to institutional 'errors'J 3 Thus, members of the social forestry
community in China say that the government's resource policy 'model' is good
but the 'reality' is not. Similarly, in Thailand it is said that government
'policies' are good but their 'implementation' is poor. And in Indonesia it is
said that the problem is a lack of 'flexibility' in the government institutions
responsible for social forestry. The implication in all of these cases is that
the 'system' is fundamentally sound and the only problem is a discrete 'flaw'
in its operation.
This implication (which is an example of Whitehead's fallacy of 'misplaced
concreteness' [Whitehead, 1925] is inherently welcome to development
planners, because it means that instead of having to take on and perhaps
restructure an entire institution, the planner can accept the system and work
within it. Because this stance is more attractive, there is a danger that it will
be adopted uncritically. In order to minimize this danger, it is necessary to
ask not just how to solve discrete problems, but how these problems arose.
The working assumption should be, the problems an institution generates are
the problems that it needs.
The intervention
Closely allied to the discussion of what caused the degradation of the forest
resource is the discussion about how this cause is best addressed; and the
first question to be raised in this regard is when it should be addressed.
A salient element in discussions of the timing of social forestry interventions
is the concept of 'windows of opportunity'. For example, members of the
social forestry community in Bangladesh say that there is now a window of
opportunity for social forestry interventions in that country because 'the Forest
Department is starting to realize that it must change or else it will disappear'.
The 'window' is thus a point in time when development intervention is either
more possible or more productive than would otherwise be the case. This
concept is implicit in the familiar development rhetoric of 'being in the right
place at the right time'. It implies that there are wrong places and wrong times;
the right place and right time is thus delimited. (The idea that there is a limited
time period in which deforestation can be reversed is congruent with the
previously-discussed idea that there is a limited time period in which deforestation takes place.)
The conception of the 'window' varies according to the nature of the
temporal process that is being targeted. Thus, in some cases the 'window' may
refer to matching and exploiting to advantage the timing of a discrete historical event (like a change in government); while in other cases it may refer to
identifying and then taking advantage of, over a longer period of time, an
evolutionary trend (like a forest department's loss of resource base and, in
consequence, morale). In either case, the implication of the 'window' is that
timing is important. The implication is that the window can open or shut,
therefore; the implication is that if intervention is timed too early or too late,
it will not succeed. It suggests, for example, that an intervention that might
succeed immediately after a change in government will not succeed long afterwards; it suggests that an intervention that might succeed when the forest
under a department's jurisdiction is greatly diminished (e.g.) will not succeed
if it comes (beforehand) when the forest is less diminished. (For a concept
that is so heavily used in development planning, relatively little analytical
attention has been paid to 'windows'.)
A corollary to the idea that timing - early versus late - affects the success
of interventions is the idea that early versus late timing carries different costs
and benefits. In general, it appears that the later the intervention in a process
of deforestation, the easier it is to carry out, since the problems (viz., lack of
forest) are that much more visible and the alternatives are that much fewer.
On the other hand, the later the intervention, the worse the condition of the
forest base and the greater the cost in time and money of restoring it. Early
interventions have precisely the opposite costs and benefits: they are harder
to carry out, but the pay-offs are greater in terms of the greater resources saved
and the lesser cost of restoring those already gone. TM If the trajectory of
degradation is conceived as the swing of a pendulum, it is obvious that the
farther out it swings (and the closer it gets to the end of its permissible arc),
the less the force that is required to reverse its path, and the less its own
movement is altered as a result. Checking the movement earlier on represents a major intervention in terms of both costs and benefits; checking it later
on does not (Fig. 1). There is a trade-off between these costs and benefits in
all interventions.
There is another implication to early versus late timing (which is unique
to the forestry sector) that does not receive much attention: the later the intervention, the less 'natural' the environment looks, and the more the forestry
Costs and Benefits of Intervention:
Higher: Costs and
Lower: Costs and
Fig. 1. The costs and benefits of intervention early vs. late.
authorities may be tempted (albeit unnecessarily) to pursue an 'unnatural'
intervention. An example is the Bangladesh Forest Department's program to
replant degraded sal (Shorea robusta) forests with exotic tree species, which
it justifies by saying that the soil and sal coppices are too exhausted to produce
any more under a 'natural' regime [Khan et al., n.d.]. The less natural and
more managed the intervention, however, the less likely it is to benefit the
local communities. For this reason Bangladesh NGOs oppose the Forest
Department's replanting program, maintaining that the degraded sal forests
can recuperate if they are protected, and that this is more likely to benefit
the local communities than the replanting program. As this example shows,
one other cost of late intervention is the possibility that the 'return trajectory' will not be the one desired (e.g., a program of tree plantations versus
natural regeneration).
A final consideration in the question of early versus late timing involves
the issue of receptivity. If attempts to change attitudes are made too early in
a social forestry program, they may backfire and crystallize opposition to it;
whereas if they are made later on in the program's development, when attitudes are more receptive to change, they may be more likely to accelerate
acceptance of the program and its goals. (Training, thus, is likely to hasten
the processes of change only if it is timed during the later stages of a program.)
Most social forestry programs appear, indeed, to have two discrete developmental stages, distinguished in part by the extent to which participants believe
in the program ideology. Such a belief is typically absent during the initial
stage of program development, while it is ideally (if the program is successful)
ever more present during subsequent stages.
A salient aspect of discussions of the timing of social forestry interventions
is the concept of the 'receptivity' of the target population. There is much
discussion, when planning social forestry interventions, of the dynamics of
change in government forest departments and the impact of this on foresters'
receptivity to social forestry concepts. For example, foresters in Thailand are
said (by fellow foresters) to be 'on the defensive' and 'morally dispirited'
because their sources of extra-legal income have been lost (as well, perhaps,
to be fair, as their self-confidence regarding their mission); foresters in
Bangladesh are said (again, by fellow foresters) to have 'low morale', so low
indeed that 'good people' are wanting to leave the service; and foresters in
India are said (by an activist) to want 'to not be the bad guys anymore'. All
of these comments were meant to suggest that the respective forest departments are ripe for change. The foresters' readiness for change appears to
vary with broader factors too. In most of the Asian nations studied, forestry
officers state that they need community forestry programming where (1) there
are no forests left, (2) the remaining forests are seriously threatened by local
communities, or (3) the foresters' welfare is jeopardized by conflict over forest
resources - as on Java, where the murders of forest guards in recent years
have contributed to the embrace of some social forestry tenets by the State
Forestry Corporation. A final factor contributing to readiness for change in
the forestry community is the relative contribution of this sector to the national
economy (and the trajectory of this contribution). Thus, the development of
social forestry in Thailand appears to have been supported by the decline of
the forestry sector in relative as well as absolute terms in recent years.
As this last point suggests, receptivity to change in the broader society also
is considered to be a factor in planning social forestry interventions. Of
particular interest in this regard are catastrophic events that seize the public
imagination and catalyze its commitment to changes [Cotgrove, 1982] (cf.
[Kemp, 1984].). 15One of the best-publicized example of this is the November
1988 storm in Thailand [Pragtong and Thomas, 1990]. This storm precipitated
violent floods and landslides, which the public linked to the loss of forest
cover due to commercial logging, which in turn led to a nation-wide moratorium on logging in early 1989. (Compare the similar albeit less well-known
role of the 1970 Alakananda flood in the early development of the Chipko
movement in India [Guha, 1990], and the 1973/1974 drought in the development of the environmental movement in Africa [Eleri, 1994].) Less often
linked to resource issues, but perhaps equally relevant, are more strictly
political events like the People's Revolution in the Philippines, which toppled
the regime of Ferdinand Marcos and resulted in the transformation of the
old-style Ministry of Natural Resources into the more progressive Department
of Environment and Natural Resources.
Events such as these may be called 'revelatory crises': societal crises that
highlight and express otherwise implicit strains or contradictions in society, 16
thereby opening up new opportunities for change. The opportunities may be
momentary. For example, an Indian NGO described to us a year in which the
drought was so bad that the local government felt obliged to waive all restrictions on development, which gave the NGO the brief opportunity that they
needed to develop an innovative, community-based irrigation project. What
matters in these cases is not necessarily the instrumental linkage between the
crisis and attendant opportunities for innovation in resource management; what
matters is the temporary neutralization of the normal constraints on change.
Thus, it does not matter whether deforestation caused the November 1988
floods in Thailand; what matters is that it 'cleared the board' for new efforts
to address the issue of deforestation. 17 Of course, such efforts are possible
only if the crisis is not so severe as to destroy the system involved: compare
Timmerman's [1986] distinction between 'epiphanies - surprises that are
central and reveal essential characteristics of the system dynamics in a useful
way' and 'catastrophies - surprises that destroy a system before it can make
any use of the event'.
A basic premise in these discussions of timing and receptivity to change is
that the processes of change are underway and will persist, with or without
the input of social forestry programs, because of broader developments in
the larger society. The purpose of social forestry interventions is not to initiate
these processes of change or make them possible, therefore, but to facilitate
them, to make them (in effect) cheaper. The premise is that the forestry policies
that have contributed to Asia's deforestation will change, but only after their
failure has resulted in massive environmental trauma and a very costly
negative feedback effect. ~8 The challenge to social forestry, therefore, is to
bring this change about through less traumatic and costly means, and to do it
without mitigating the internal pressures for further change. 19 As an NGO
representative in India said, the social processes supporting community
forestry programs are 'inevitable', thus 'our role is only to bring them about
in an orderly, as opposed to chaotic, fashion'.
It would be incorrect, however, to say that the only goal of social forestry
interventions is to accelerate extant trends. A representative of an NGO in
Bangladesh pointed out, for example, that the movement toward community
forestry may be reversible, even if it is inevitable. One goal of social forestry
intervention, therefore, is to minimize the likelihood of such reverses.
Selection of the processes to be thus protected is done on a subjective, normative basis. The selection of any given desired development trajectory
implies the nonselection or rejection of all other possible but undesired
trajectories; and in the evolving relationship between society and forests in
Asia today, multiple trajectories are possible. For example, the evolution of
resource management on state lands toward a social forestry model, as desired
by most of the activists and scholars involved, is not the only outcome
possible. The development on these lands of mono-cultural, market-oriented
pulp plantations (e.g.) is also a possibility, z~ Tribal activists in Kalimantan,
Indonesia, say that it is not the natural timber concessions (Hak Perusahaan
Hutan) that they fear, but the tree plantations (Hutan Tanaman Industri). The
purpose of programming interventions, therefore, is to increase the likelihood of particular trajectories, of a particular future.
The purpose of social forestry interventions in such circumstances is to
try to tip the balance between alternative possibilities. An instructive example
of this involves the written contracts that the Philippines' Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - in the context of the national
Integrated Social Forestry program - is giving to rural households and communities, granting them 25-year Certificate of Stewardship Contracts in
exchange for conservation measures [Cornista and Escueta, 1990]. These
contracts have enabled the recipients, in many cases, to turn away illegal
'wildcat' loggers who would otherwise ravage their forests. The contract
appears, thus, to tip the balance between a trajectory of degradation for the
short-term benefit of outsiders, as opposed to a trajectory of conservation
and long-term sustainable use by local communities.
The solution
When the question of how to carry out an intervention is answered, there
remains the questions of its content and focus. The most obvious question in
this regard is, 'Who is the target?'
Focusing on the forest agency vs. the forest community
There has been a partial shift in emphasis in forestry development in Asia
over the past few years from programs on household and village lands to
programs on state lands (Fig. 2). There are a number of important differences
between the two types of programs. The first involves direction: programs
on village lands involve a movement out of the forest, on the part of the forest
department, while programs on state lands involve a movement into the forest,
on the part of villagers. The former introduces forestry to the community,
while the latter introduces the community to forestry.
Just as the direction is reversed, so too is the purpose: programs on village
lands bring the forest department out of the forest to save the forest, while
programs on state lands (from the perspective of at least some proponents)
bring the community into the forest to save the people (Fig. 3). The former
aim to achieve their ends by (in effect) increasing state control over community lands, while the latter aim to do so by increasing community control
over state lands. One analyst in India neatly summarized the crucial difference between the two programs, from the perspective of the villagers, as
follows: programs on village lands give the state access to community land,
raising the fear among the villagers that it will be lost; while programs on
state lands give the villagers access to public land, raising the hope among
them that it can be acquired.
This shift from village lands to state lands is only the latest move in a long-
I Village
V aoe I
Forest Department Moves Out of Forest I State
( Introduces Forestry to Community I Lands
Commun,yMovesn,oForest, I ILands
Introduces Community (Life) to Forestry
Fig. 2. The differences between programs on state vs. community lands.
Forest Department Attention
Intent: To Save the Forest
Community Attention
Intent: To Save the People
Global Attention?
Intent: To Save the Forest?a
I State
a E.g., as a global CO 2 sink.
Fig. 3. The shifting attention between state and community lands.
term dialectical relationship between society and environment at the local,
national, and international level. This particular shift was a function of
increased concerns about rural poverty. Growing concern about global
warming and the desirability of preserving tropical forests as CO 2 sinks may
lead to a shift in focus back to programs on community lands.
Focusing on changing p o w e r relations vs. attitudes
Whether the object is to bring the forest agency out of the forest or to bring
the rural community into it, the agency's traditional attitude toward relations
between itself, the forest, and the community is challenged. Almost all social
forestry programs propose to address this challenge and bring about the
requisite attitudinal change through retraining. However, in forestry (as in
most sectors of development), training programs tend to ignore the politicaleconomic genesis of attitudes and, thus, the political-economic constraints
on attitudinal change. If foresters hold the attitudes that empower them - and
there is nor reason to believe they do not - then training alone will not change
them. Indeed, training might even - by setting up clear oppositions - crystallize opposition to change.
In order to change the attitudes that empower foresters, thus, the basis of
their power relations first must be changed. The concept of achieving a
'critical mass' of converts (to the new ideas) is sometimes mentioned in this
regard. However, it does not seem likely that a critical mass of foresters
believing in social forestry will be attained, or will make a difference if it is
attained, if the basis of the foresters' power relations has not been changed
first. On the other hand, if a critical mass is first attained of foresters practicing different relations of power, then the attitudinal changes are likely to
follow. In general, then, the evidence suggests that changes in power relations
must precede changes in attitude, not the reverse. Thus, an activist in India
said that it is wrong to say that we must change official attitudes in order to
implement social forestry programs; rather, he said, it is the implementation
of social forestry programs that will change official attitudes.
The suggestion that program implementation must precede attitudinal
change on the part of forest agency participants suggests that programs
initially cannot be 'sold' to agencies on their face value. A forestry agency
is not likely to share the values that a social forestry program espouses at its
inception (if it did, there might be no need for the program). This means that
the agency cannot adopt the program for the reasons held by its proponents
(the 'right' reasons), but only for some set of reasons compatible with the
as-yet-unchanged foresters' attitudes (the 'wrong' reasons).
This inherent 'catch-22' of social forestry development sheds some light
on the prominent role in it of normative, promotional elements. The present
analysis suggests that this normative emphasis is more appropriate early on
in program development, while an empirical emphasis is more appropriate
later on. This depiction of a development process that proceeds from obfuscation and non-commitment to appreciation and commitment, is not necessarily inconsistent with Korten's [1980] view (oft-cited in social forestry
works) of an institutional 'learning process' but whereas the latter emphasizes
the pedagogical nature of the exercise, the former emphasizes the changes in
paradigms and politics that it entails.
F o c u s i n g on removing an o b s t a c l e vs adding a resource
This focus on power relations and the forest agency represents a shift in the
basic conception of development interventions. A development intervention
typically is conceived as the addition of some input or resource that is deemed
to be in scarce supply, based on the premise that underdevelopment is due to
resource scarcity. It is suggested here that another interpretation of underdevelopment is possible, which attributes it (at least in some cases) less to
the absence of desirable resources than to the presence of undesirable power
relations [Dove, 1993a].
Underdevelopment often is due to the position of local communities within
relations of power that favor resource extraction as opposed to consumption
at the local level, short-term exploitation of resources for the benefit of the
few as opposed to long-term sustainable exploitation for the benefit of the
many, and so on. The local community, according to this interpretation, is less
in need of a helping hand up, than in having the hand that keeps pushing it
d o w n removed. It makes a critical difference to the structure and content of
development planning if the local community is seen as active but hampered,
as opposed to passive and needy.
There is a related distinction with respect to the environment. Most
resource-related development programs treat the environment as a passive
entity. However, the success of natural regeneration through protection in
India's 'Joint Forest Management' program [Malhotra, 1993] (and in similar
programs in other countries) shows that this approach is incorrect. The
environment is dynamic. It is also (in some sense) a 'player' in development;
and often, like the rural community, the environment needs not so much to
be given assistance, as to have interference (viz., intense resource-use)
removed. Often, that is, the environment does not need to be acted upon but
just left alone. There is an interesting analogy between the process of natural
forest regeneration and the development of community-based forest management: in both cases the ideal role for planners may be not to add or design
anything new, but simply to recognize the indigenous processes at work and
support them where possible.
There are further reasons for taking a modest, supportive view of intervention. Not only are development inputs often neither necessary nor efficacious, but they may even worsen the situation. No development intervention
takes place in a context that is neutral with respect to political and economic
relations. Every development context is politicized, and in consequence every
development intervention is subject to partisan political pressures. The most
common, undesired outcome of post-World War II development programs has
been for inputs intended for the poor to be appropriated by the rich and used
to widen the gap between them even further. Whenever development planning
is brought to bear on a situation, therefore, there is a genuine risk that the
existing balance of equity will be worsened. Recognition of this risk can be
seen in the comment by one activist in Bangladesh, in response to a proposal
to 'develop' the country's homestead gardens (the most successful agroforestry
system in Bangladesh): 'For God's sake leave them alone!' Workers in social
forestry are just beginning to ask whether there are, indeed, some circumstances under which it is better to spare community forestry the attention of
a government development program. (A variety of indigenous means for
shielding community resources from outside observers, for just these reasons,
have been documented: see [Wiser and Wiser, 1970] on walls, [Carpenter,
1990] on pardah 'women's seclusion', and [Dove, 1990] on cropping systems.)
Secondary effects
There are structural reasons why some social forestry interventions go awry.
The first of these involves institutional desire to avoid change.
One of the clearest lessons to be drawn from the past one-half century of
development planning is that institutions use resources to avoid change
whenever possible. Some of the most noteworthy instances of this involve the
'reinterpretation' of social forestry projects by forest departments. An example
can be taken from Indonesia, and the social forestry program that was developed to mediate relations between the state forest corporation responsible for
Java's teak forests and the communities that live in and around these forests
[Poffenberger and Peluso, 1989; Stoney and Bratamihardja, 1990]. Some of
the actors in this program developed a proposal to focus its resources on areas
where the government and the local villagers were in conflict over land rights,
in the hope that the program's emphasis on communication, cooperation, and
shared rights would help to alleviate the conflict [Machfud, 1989]. The state
forest corporation accepted this proposal in theory, but in practice it used the
program as an excuse to strengthen its hand and expel villagers from the contested areas. This outcome was probably inevitable: when the forestry institution has not been changed, any resource that comes into its hands (regardless
of its intended purpose) will be turned to its own institutionally defined ends. 2~
A second example comes from India: some state forest departments there
now maintain that rural communities should protect the forests for reasons
of ecology, aesthetics, and religion, but not economy; they suggest that
introducing economics into this relationship will corrupt the traditional relationship between people and forests in India [Pali, 1991]. This clever reinterpretation of social forestry programs gives the forest departments all of
the program's benefits (viz., community assistance in protection) with none
of its costs (viz., community sharing of forest products). By rationalizing this
through the use of 'politically correct' environmental rhetoric, the departments
put themselves ahead of the political 'curve2Z': they move themselves from a
position (opposing community forestry development) that is clearly 'behind
the times' to a position that appears to be ahead of them and that, as a result,
is much more difficult to assail. It is much more difficult to criticize a forest
department for overemphasizing the environmental ethic of traditional peoples,
than to criticize them for not sharing responsibility for natural resource
management with those peoples.
Negative feedback
Another way that the intended course of social forestry intervention can be
frustrated is through a mechanism of 'negative feedback'. As defined within
the study of cybernetics, while positive feedback amplifies deviations, negative
feedback counteracts them [Maruyama, 1963]. 23 Within the context of this
study, negative feedback refers to responses to change, which promote not
further change but its cessation. Negative feedback can pose a problem in
any sort of development interventionY but ironically, it may pose the greatest
problem in interventions that appear to be the most benign, namely those that
support existing developmental processes. The risk is that interventions will
so amplify these processes as to undermine the forces that originally gave rise
to themY
For example, some actors in the social forestry sector in India question
whether the Forest Department's collaboration with NGOs is motivated by a
genuine concern to restructure relations among forest resources, people, and
government, or whether it is motivated by a desire to avoid internal change.
For example, if the NGOs do social forestry for the Forest Department, as
opposed to developing the department's capacity to do the job itself, it may
lessen the incentive for change within the department itself (Fig. 4). The
dilemma is such that a member of the social forestry community in China
characterized the lack of NGOs in that country as a 'blessing', reasoning that
in the absence of NGOs the government has no alternative but to come to
terms with the need for restructuring its own stance toward forests and people.
One activist in Bangladesh rated the risk of such negative feedback to be so
high that he urged international donors not to give any assistance to that
country's Forest Department, because without assistance the department would
have to work with the local people. With such assistance, on the other hand,
the Forest Department might be able to ameliorate its situation sufficiently to
reduce the pressures for, and delay the onset of, structural change. 26
Positive (+)
(increases activity)
Negative (-)
(decreases activity)
Positive (+)
(increases activity)
Fig. 4. Negative feedback between NGO activity and forest agency activity.
Tertiary effects
It is important, thus, to anticipate all the consequences of intervention, not
just those that are hoped for. The most conspicuous consequence of many
social forestry programs - especially those with a strong focus on protection
- is the increased vigor and thus value of the forest resource. This, in turn,
has a number of consequences of its own, including the emergence of new
patterns of resource-use. For example, as a natural forest cover is restored,
sources of nontimber forest products begin to reappear and traditional patterns
for exploiting them reappear as well. There is, thus, a sort of coevolutionary
relationship between the restoration of the forest and the development (or
redevelopment) of patterns 'of forest-use. 27
Another direct result of the restoration of forest vigor and value is an
increase in competition for the right to exploit it. The prospect for such
competition clearly weighed on the mind of one leader of a community forest
protection committee in India, whose thoughts are described as follows
[Campbell, 1992]:
He wondered aloud about the results of their activities. By protecting what
was essentially a barren common land they had created a resource that
was growing in value, and increasingly coveted by neighbors. Would this
lead to conflict between villages? How could they avoid this? Was it worth
the trouble? They needed to consult more with their neighbors and develop
a better understanding of the implications this held for the future.
In many parts of Asia, 'neighbors' are less of a problem than the rural elite.
In Bangladesh, members of a Forest Protection Committee claimed that the
village elite had brought a court case against them, saying, 'Who are you to
protect forest? You are not foresters, you are not government officials, you
are just villagers'. The committee members said that in addition to bringing
nuisance lawsuits, the rural elite attack women members of Forest Protection
Committees (thus dishonoring their husbands and male relatives) and then
claim that the women attacked them. In the Philippines, landlords have brought
lawsuits against not just the farmers participating in community forestry
programs, but also the foresters who support these programs. 28
These consequences of restored forest vigor and value are relatively easy
to predict (they are not, nevertheless, always predicted) and address in
planning; less easy are secondary or tertiary consequences, such as those
involving attitudinal change. On the part of the farmers, for example, the
evidence of forest regrowth, and sharing in the fruits of this regrowth, have
a positive feedback effect, increasing farmer enthusiasm for the program sometimes beyond that which program authorities desire, as when enthusiasm
leads to a new sense of not just rights to, but ownership, of state forests. On
the part of the foresters, one of the most interesting (and to some extent
unexpected) changes in attitude pertains to their stance toward farmers. In
India (as well as in other countries) there is some competition between the
Forest Department and NGOs involved in the planning and implementation
of social forestry projects. This competition might appear to be due to reluctance on the part of the Forest Department to embrace some of the tenets of
social forestry.
But there is another way of interpreting the source of this conflict, which
is suggested by an unusual lament by a senior forestry official in India. This
official explained that what worries the Forest Department is that 'If the NGOs
come in, we will lose the love of the people.' This is a mysterious comment,
since traditionally the Forest Department did not have the love of the people
to lose, quite the contrary. The mystery is illuminated by a subsequent
comment from the same official: 'When the Forest Department loses not just
the forests but also the villages, it is too much.' This juxtaposition of the
loss of forests and villages gives us the key to understanding what the official
is saying: the Forest Department did have the forests; it is losing them; and
one way to keep this loss from destroying the department is to shift the basis
of its power from control of trees to control of people. What the official quoted
is really saying, therefore, is that if the Forest Department cannot control the
forest, it must control the villages. 29
A key tenet of social forestry is that the future of the Forest Department
lies in working with the rural communities. In this vision, people become the
key 'resource' that the department manages. If the department's future indeed
lies in managing this resource, then it is reasonable to expect it to compete
for access to it (viz., for access to the villagers). Such competition is, therefore, a sign that some of the desired changes in power relations, and attendant changes in attitude, are taking place. Forest Department antagonism
toward NGOs in these particular circumstances represents a positive feedback
effect to social forestry intervention.
Summary and conclusions
We can now summarize and synthesize the key findings in this discussion of
the theory of social forestry intervention.
A number of major theoretical issues are raised in current thinking about the
theory of social forestry development in Asia. One major issue concerns the
cause of the deforestation (which is the focus of the social forestry intervention in the first place): the orthodox view that deforestation is a gradual process
driven by community-based determinants is opposed by a community view
that deforestation is a stochastic process driven by political-economic determinants outside the community. The two explanations have very different
implications for where the 'problematique' of social forestry is located - in
the forest community or in the forest agency - and how, therefore, it is to be
addressed. There is still some reluctance even in social forestry circles to
problematize the forest department: even when it is accepted that the problematique is located within the department, it still is likely to be characterized as an institutional 'error' instead of a structural problem. 3~
A second issue that is raised concerns the way that social forestry interventions are carried out, especially their timing. The pervasive concept of a
'window-of-opportunity' for intervention reflects a widespread belief that it
makes a difference when the intervention is carried out, with respect to the
stage of relations among forest, forest community, and forest agency. The costs
and benefits of intervention do in fact vary with this timing, both increasing
as intervention is timed earlier and decreasing as it is timed later. A key
determinant of the appropriate time for intervention is thought to be the receptivity of both forest agency and the broader society - something that can be
heightened by 'revelatory crises'. The purpose of intervention is seen as
heightening receptivity and strengthening other factors conducive to effecting
change, so as to hasten extant processes of change and minimize the possibility of costly (albeit temporary) reversals of direction.
A third issue concerns the content and focus of social forestry intervention.
The first question raised in this regard is whether the focus should be on
afforestation on state lands or community lands. While there are logical
reasons for either foci, the periodic shift back-and-forth between them suggests
the lack of a perspective in social forestry that has sufficiently breadth to
encompass them both. Wherever the focus lies, attitudinal change within the
forest agency is typically mandated in social forestry interventions, but it is
rarely supported with intervention in the underlying power relations. Like
the above-mentioned tendency to view agency difficulties as 'errors' as
opposed to structural problems, this reflects a perduring difficulty in viewing
the forest agency sociologically. Consonant with this lack of a sociological
perspective, interventior~s tend to focus on adding resources perceived to be
in short supply instead of removing institutional obstacles - including those
within the forest agency - to the proper use of existing resources. This is a
function of a flawed paradigm of 'helping', whose application extends far
beyond social forestry [Dove, 1993a; Edelman, 1974].
The fourth and final issue that was identified involves the unintended consequences of social forestry intervention. These can include the simple reinterpretation of programs and rerouting of inputs, due to inherent bureaucratic
resistance to change. They also include the more complex and understudied
phenomenon of negative feedback to (and thus undermining of) interventions:
an example of this occurs when assistance that is given to a forest agency in
need of change actually delays the onset of change. A final category is that
of secondary consequences of intervention, resulting from the dynamic
responses by forests, forest communities, and forest agencies to changes in
the rules of their relationship. The near-complete absence of attempts to predict
such consequences, in either practice or theory, suggests the poverty of social
forestry theory as much as anything does.
Social forestry has evolved from an initial focus on the biological constraints
of forest and trees, to the socioeconomic constraints of the community, and
most recently to the institutional constraints of the forestry agency. The
practitioners of social forestry have successively been sensitized to technology
which determines whether certain forestry interventions will work in a given
physical environment - to the community - which determines whether the
technology is appropriate to the given socioeconomic environment or not and to the polity - which determines whether physical fit, socioeconomic fit,
or something else altogether is accorded importance. I suggest that it is now
time for social forestry practitioners to be sensitized to theory - for it is this
that will determine whether the technology will achieve, in the long run, what
it is intended to achieve.
Some of the theoretical points raised in this analysis are familiar from
contemporary discussions of social forestry, but many are not. This analysis
suggests that many of the most important problems in social forestry have
little to do with forestry or biological issues in general, and much to do with
systems analysis, state formation, and other topics from fields normally not
associated with forestry. This reflects the fact that many of the major factors
affecting the success or failure of social forestry interventions (e.g., people
and polities) have little to do with forestry p e r se. This dichotomy between
forestry issues and the determinants of forestry outcomes, in turn, may help
to explain why social forestry has remained so atheoretical: there is a discontinuity in the field of social forestry between content and structure, between
product and process. This is likely to be overcome only by a reconception of
social forestry intervention as forays in social engineering that have much to
do with society and environment, broadly conceived, and little to do with trees
or forests in their narrowest sense.
The field study from which this analysis partially derives was funded by the
Ford Foundation, Asia Programs Office, New York City. The fieldwork was
carried out jointly with Mary Hobley, Gill Shepherd, and Eva Wollenberg, and
with the assistance of Renato de Rueda, Wimar Witoelar, Zhu Zhaohua
(assisted by Ge Youli), Songpol Jetanavanich, Mafruza Khan, and N. C.
Saxena, to all of whom the author is indebted for many valuable insights.
The fieldwork was facilitated by the following Ford Foundation field staff,
to each of whom a great debt of gratitude is acknowledged: Frances E Korten,
Frances Seymour, Nick Menzies, David Thomas, Doris Capistrano, and Jeffrey
Campbell. An earlier version of this analysis was prepared for the panel
on 'Arboreal anthropology', Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied
Anthropology, San Antonio, 10-14 March 1993. The author is grateful to
Franz Schmithusen for constructive comments on an earlier draft, to Phyllis
Tabusa and Marilyn Li for assistance with library searches, and to Helen
Takeuchi and Dan Bauer for assistance with editing and graphics. The author
alone is responsible for the contents of this report.
1. Cf. Nesmith's [1991] comment: 'Although there is considerable literature on social forestry,
much of it is circumstantial and without theoretical context or content.'
2. For an example, see Poffenberger's [1990] collection, which 'problematizes' and theorizes about social forestry intervention as much as any recent work, and yet still does not
directly address most of the issues raised in the present study.
3. Peter Gheitner, head of the Ford Foundation's Asia Program, described (in a personal
communication) the Foundation's involvement in community forestry as follows: It (1)
focuses on the poor and on the nexus between marginal lands and marginal peoples, (2)
tries to respond to the diversity in the Asia region, the complexity of the social and physical
environment, and the dynamism of both, (3) tries to identify key public agencies and make
them key actors, viewing these agencies as the principal learners of the process, and (4)
emphasizes the use of working groups to bring agency officials and social scientists (e.g.)
4. A prior question, that is beyond the scope of this study, is whether perceptions of forest
degradation are correct, over-exaggerated, or under-exaggerated.
5. See also [Haeuber 1993; Jasanoff, 1993] on the forester-activist debate in India.
6. There is increasing evidence that (as a result of both anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic
forces) stochastic or catastrophic rather than gradual change characterizes forest history
(e.g. [Brookfield and Overton, 1988] and, indeed, the natural history of earth's environment in general [Berggren and van Couvering, 1984; Gould and Eldredge, 1977].
7. Haeuber [1993] writing of India, maintains that deforestation is due neither to local
population nor extra-local business interests, but to the wider policy context (viz., India's
adoption of a 'traditional economic development model'). Similarly, see Inman's analysis
[Inman, 1992] of the role of growth in national debt - in addition to growth in rural
population - in explaining deforestation.
8. The association between policy changes and deforestation is recognized in one of Mao
Zedong's purported sayings, which suggests that where the forests are in good shape,
government policy is constant. Ross [1988] argues that the deleterious impact of policy
change is such that the mere anticipation of such change is an obstacle to sustainable
forest management. He writes that 'Many Chinese officials, including Vice-Premier Wan
Li, [now] recognize that fear of policy instability is the most critical obstacle to improving
China's forestry resource base' [Ross, 1988].
9. Given the enormous number and variety of factors that affect relations between society and
forests, it is wise to be wary of overly simple explanations. Some of them may be 'folk
myths', which blame misfortune on an all-powerful (and all-rapacious) state, just as the
state has its own myths that attribute all rural problems to the ever-blameworthy (and
all-ignorant) rural population.
10. Writing of China, Ross [1988] writes that 'Foresters sadly appealed for simple continuity
in policy to let the collectives plant and manage their trees without fear of interruption a critical factor in the case of plants that need years to mature.'
11. Ross [1988] writes of China:
Regardless of the direction of change, it is important to stress that the process of change
itself had a debilitating effect on forestry by muddying property rights and making
them virtually unenforceable. Changes in property rights driving land reform created
unavoidable uncertainty, which only worsened during the several waves of collectivization. In each instance the original owners often cut their trees down to forestall
expropriation without fair compensation.
12. The existence of this paradigmatic opposition is attested to by abundant examples. Compare
the account in the text with the following account by Anil Sadgopal, from the Sunday
Herald (Bangalore), 21 July 1985, cited in [Anderson and Huber, 1988]:
Three years ago [1982], in a small study in the Bastar district in Madhya Pradesh, we
asked some people this question: Which forces are responsible for the large-scale felling
of forests in the district? Of course, the Conservator of Forests said it was the Adivasis,
the tribals, who were encroaching upon the forests near the villages. They were burning
fuelwood, building houses with the wood, stealing bamboo, and taking more than the
allowed headload of timber. And we found, to our surprise, that a Hyderabad-based
company was making a certain kind of steel for which it needed coal. To make that coal
it had undertaken a large-scale contract, using wood from the forests of Bastar. We
found that the amount of wood this company was using for making steel was more
than the total amount of fuelwood used by the Adivasis in that district; yet this fact
will never be revealed to you by the forest authorities.
13. This is a pervasive tendency, as the following quote from Repetto's [1988] widely-cited
and otherwise reliable work shows:
To a considerable degree, the policy weakness identified in this study arose despite
well-intentioned development objectives. The shortcomings have been failures of understanding and execution.
14. An important topic for research is whether the payoff per unit of effort expended also is
greater during earlier interventions.
15. Such events may correspond to stage two in what Downs [1972] called the five-stage
'issue-attention cycle' of environmentalism. His five stages are: (1) the pre-problem stage,
(2) alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm, (3) realizing the cost of significant progress,
(4) gradual decline of intense public interest, and the (5) post-problem stage.
16. The view of catastrophe as 'revelatory' of society is in keeping with research that
attributes the origin of even 'natural' disaster more to culture than nature [Dove and Khan,
1995; Hewitt, 1983].
t7. I am grateful to David Thomas for this observation.
18. Mather [1990] suggests that most of the now-developed countries (e.g., Austria, Denmark,
France, Hungary, Japan, the US) passed through a historic ~forest transition', the first
stage of which consisted of a period of intense and widespread deforestation, which
eventually precipitated a second, succeeding stage of reforestation to something approaching
earlier levels. Panayotou [1994] argues that most nations undergo a similar transition,
applying to all aspects of their environmental relations, which he calls the 'Environmental
Kuznets curve' (analogous to Kuznets [1966] hypothesis that in the course of economic
development income disparities rise in the beginning and then begin to fall). He suggests
that the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) of Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico
may soon move through this curve [Panayotou, 1994].
19. Panayotou [1994] notes four reasons to intervene in national environmental transitions:
(1) the duration of this transition may otherwise be so long as to occasion unacceptable
economic costs; (2) it may be less costly to abate some degradation now than in the future;
(3) some degradation may not later be reversible, regardless of the cost, and (4) certain
levels of degradation may be inimical to economic development.
20. Cf. [Pragtong and Thomas, 1990; Puntasen et al., 1993] on pressures to use degraded forest
lands in Thailand for commercial tree plantations.
21. See also Barber's [1989] analysis of Java's social forestry program in the broader context
of the Indonesian state - one of the rare instances in which social forestry activities are
analyzed in other than a narrow, local context.
22. I am indebted to Jeff Campbell for this observation.
23. Bateson [1958] writes that negative feedback 'depends upon there being within the circuit
at least one link such that the more there is of something, the less there will be of
something else'.
24. Positive feedback to change processes also can be problematic, as Mumford [1967] pointed
out some time ago.
25. Not discussed here for reasons of space are the equally complex physical (as opposed to
sociological) feedback effects. Poffenberger (unpub.) describes one as follows:
Predictably, where social fencing and access controls have been established by societies, resulting growth of vegetation on the watersheds reduced run-off to the point
that only heavy rains contribute to reservoir water. While the water table has reportedly risen in such communities, water entering the reservoirs has decreased. This may
mean that exploitation of the increased water available through better catchment management should be done through the use of tube wells rather than tanks.
26. The possibility that government forest agencies will use external resources to avoid
undergoing internal change has been raised by observers throughout Asia, which suggests
that this is a real issue.
27. See [Dove, 1993b] on the concept of 'coevolution'.
28. At the regional level, the increased competition for restored forest resources may be
manifested in an influx of migrants. (On the other hand, if the forest is protected so well
as to close the 'frontier' to further migration, as has happened in some parts of Thailand,
then the effect may be to stimulate competition for land outside the forest, in the form of
land speculation.) At the national level, competition for restored forest resources may
take the form of a reevaluation of this resource within government circles, resulting in
interagency competition and administrative realignment.
29. Cf. [Gibbs et al., 1990] regarding a similar expansion of the scope of the former Ministry
of Natural Resources in the Philippines.
30. See Dove's [1992] attempt to demonstrate that misinterpretation of farmer attitudes toward
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