Background Paper Streering Committee Concept Paper Agenda Of the Meeting
List of Issue Paper List of Participant Forestry in IRAN General Information



Policy and Planning in Nattional Level




The Inter-governmental Panel on Forests (IPF) addressed the needs and requirements of developing Low Forest Cover Countries (LFCCs) as one of its programme elements and devoted a full section of its final report to this matter (E/CN.17/1997/12). It recognized the severity of the problem for the well-being of the people who depend on these forests and its negative impact on their social, economic and environmental conditions. The Inter-governmental Forum on Forests (IFF), the successor to the IPF, also paid attention to the problem of LFCCs and it was deemed timely that they, in close collaboration with the international community, engage in a substantive discussion to develop national, regional and international strategies to address this question and to formulate modalities for cooperation at various levels through exchange of views, experiences and information.

At the same time the Inter-governmental Forum on Forests (IFF) confirmed the central role of national forest programmes (nfps) as a strategic policy and planning framework for the application of the forest principles and the forestry chapter of Agenda 21. The IFF also recognized the nfp as a means for channelling and coordinating financial and technical assistance to developing countries.

The IPF in its final report “agreed that the term ‘national forest programme’ is a generic term for a wide range of approaches to sustainable forest management within different countries, to be applied at national and sub-national levels based on the basic principles outlined below, consistent with the constitutional and legal frameworks of each country. It emphasised that national forest programmes demand a broad inter-sectoral approach at all stages, including the formulation of policies, strategies and plans of action, as well as their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. National forest programmes should be implemented in the context of each country’s socio-economic, cultural and political and environmental situation, and should be integrated into wider programmes for sustainable land-use, in accordance with chapters 10 to 15 of Agenda 21. The activities of other sectors, such as agriculture, energy and industrial development, should be taken into account”. Therefore the concept is broadly encompassing, TFAPs, NAFPs, Forestry Sector Reviews, Forestry Master Plans, NEAPs and any other strategic framework relating to the forestry sector, being included under this definition.

The experiences and methodologies developed through the preparation and implementation of nfps since 1985 represent a valuable asset for the co-ordinated actions of countries within the forestry sector. This could be of special help in the identification of the factors that contribute to aggravate the problem of LFCCs and in the identification of the key underlying causes and policy options. At regional and subregional level, the nfp, by providing a comparable basis of analysis, could contribute to the exchange of experience, co-ordination of activities and collaboration between developing and developed countries. In summary the nfps are of great importance for addressing two main areas of concern to the LFCCs: the need for reaching consensus on national and regional strategies and forging effective ways of collaboration with the international community to implement them.

This paper first examines specific issues and challenges related to the process of forestry policy, planning, investment and international cooperation in LFCC. It then identifies some important policy issues at regional level. Finally, the paper provides a brief list of proposals and options for action.

2. Issues and challenges

The specific set of issues and challenges facing LFCCs are unique to each country. The institutional, economic, ecological and social frameworks of each country are sufficiently different to require that unique sets of national plans and solutions be developed in each instance. Many features that contribute to low forest cover are, however, common to many countries. It is, consequently, possible to compile both a generic list of key issues relating to planning and investment, and to group together challenges common to particular regions.

2.1 Issues and challenges relating to planning and investment

There is a generally well-defined management process for developing project-based solutions to environmental and ecological challenges. The approach is generally stepwise, though the activities are not necessarily discreet (for example, consultation should be on-going throughout the programme). A summary process will comprise:

gaining access to the political/economic agenda;

needs based assessment and analysis;

consultation with stakeholders;

development of a comprehensive plan and programme;



monitoring and evaluation.

Each step will, however, raise specific issues and challenges. The following provides a brief analysis of the key challenges, at each step, likely to confront LFCCs in achieving goals of rehabilitating degraded forestlands, and promoting afforestation.

Gaining access to the economic/political development agenda:

 Most nfps will have as a central topic of analysis the issue of how to gain political will and resources to carry out important actions such as rehabilitating degraded forestlands and afforestation. Many countries will have to address and resolve conflicts like the ones between the economic and social desirability of increasing forest cover, the ecological capacity of the land to sustain forest, and competing landuse claims (such as for grazing). Most importantly, political and institutional determination to effectively implement the programme must be strong.

(b) Needs based assessment and analysis:

 Two primary questions are: who will do the assessment; and who will pay? Implicit in these questions are a host of subsidiary issues relating to generating institutional and political support for the process; identifying skilled personnel to conduct the assessment, developing consensus on key problems and appropriate solutions, and engaging appropriate partnership assistance without compromising national aspirations for the assessment.

(c) Consultation with stakeholders:

 For many developing LFCCs, engaging stakeholders in discussions on forestry planning may be fraught with difficulty. For example, there may be little community interest in forestry and little knowledge of the benefits of forestry. In the absence of a “forest culture” forestry may be viewed as a threat rather than an opportunity. Similarly, identifying the true stakeholders, and enabling meaningful consultation may not be straightforward or inexpensive tasks.

(d) Development of a comprehensive plan and programme:

The development of a national forest programme is generally the keystone that incorporates the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for forestry, articulates forest policy direction, together with specifying investment requirements and proposals for international co-operation.

The holistic nature of nfps generate a number of challenges ranging across funding issues, accessing the necessary expertise, developing consensus viewpoints, ensuring adequate consultation, maintaining country ownership of the plan and incorporating principles that are fair, transparent and inclusive.

(e) Investment

For many developing LFCCs, internal funding sources will be inadequate, requiring the identification of an external donor-partner, or obtaining funding through international lending agencies. Box 2, as an example, provides a simple assessment of the magnitude of resources required to rehabilitate degraded forest lands in the Asia-Pacific region (including both LFCCs and non-LFCCs).

Box 2: Example: Investment needs for rehabilitation of degraded natural forests in the Asia-Pacific

The 1998 Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study made a tentative evaluation of investment needs in the Asia-Pacific region for the rehabilitation of degraded natural forests. The report noted that some 230 million hectares of natural forest in the region is estimated to have a crown density of less than 40% and require some form of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation costs were estimated at US$120 to US$180 per hectare. By specifying a target of undertaking all rehabilitation in the region by 2010, the report noted than annual regional rehabilitation costs would range between US$1,680 million to US$2,520 million.

In each instance where external investment or aid is applied, a crucial challenge is to maintain country ownership and leadership of the development and implementation of the national forest programme. A relevant issue is how LFCCs and the international community should coordinate their efforts for raising the necessary funding. A related issue is whether a specific fund focussing directly on LFCCs is viable or necessary.

(f) Implementation

Implementation of nfps is generally the most challenging phase of the process – the point where theory moves to reality. Effective implementation of a nfp has a number of key pre-requisites that countries need to put in place if they want to really start implementing their nfp. It is necessary to strengthen national capacity in planning, governance of the forestry sector, investment and economic incentive mechanisms. Special attention needs to be given to decentralisation and economic incentives for the people directly involved in the management and conservation of forest resources. Most importantly, political and institutional determination to effectively implement the programme must be strong.

The particular features of the LFCCs are likely to call for a more flexible approach by planning specialists and international organisations providing technical assistance. In some LFCCs, due to the present small size of their forest resources, forests are not the aim and ultimate objective of the forestry development. In those countries forests are a tool contributing to overall social and economic development. Consequently, in many cases forestry matters will continue to be under the responsibility of non-forestry government agencies. In such situations, it will be necessary to develop strategies for increasing forest cover and country demands within non-forestry governmental agencies and even within other sectoral programmes. For these countries the forestry sector should be considered fully in the context of their macroeconomic strategies.

(g) Monitoring and evaluation

Nfp implementation needs to be complemented with effective procedures for monitoring its effects and impacts on the country forests, and with the mechanisms for periodically reporting the national forest situation and for taking corrective measures when necessary.

2.2 Policy issues at regional level

Some of the findings of FAO’s regional forestry policy analysis are of special relevance to the promotion of nfps in LFCCs. In the Caribbean for example, the policy issues considered as most important are related to land use planning, deforestation, peoples’ participation, public investment, water resources and forestry and impact of tourism development. Out of those areas of concern special attention is given by LFCCs to the land use planning issue. It is strongly felt that land use plans are required for balancing economic growth with the resulting increased demand on land, higher contamination and deforestation.

In the Near East Region, there is a critical need for complementing the “Statements of Intention” with specific policy analysis, decision-making and programme implementation. Protection has been one of the earliest roles of the governments in forestry, in the future there is a need to change that approach into a more participative and market oriented regime. Under such arrangement the governments will keep its regulatory functions and the communities and the private will assume higher responsibilities on implementation and production.

In Africa, some of the main problems that hamper forest policy formulation and implementation are growing population pressures on forests and forest lands, persisting poverty and continued dependence on forest, the lack of integrated land use policy, inappropriate forest management systems, lack of adequate legislation, inappropriate marketing development policies, outdated land tenure systems and centralised management systems. Poverty alleviation, good governance, recognition of the environmental role of forestry and the indispensable link between development and the environment are considered as key elements that should lead forestry policy formulation and implementation in LFCCs of this region.

In Asia, demands for rapid economic development allied with burgeoning populations means that often forest policy development has taken a back seat to economic imperatives. An emphasis on trade and industrialisation has led to depletion and liquidation of natural forests. Similarly, dense populations in areas where forest ecosystems are fragile (as in LFCCs) and property rights are poorly defined have contributed to forest depletion. Increasingly, however, Asian countries are recognising the need for sound forest policies that are integrated with other sectoral policies, and that balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of forests.

In Eastern Europe, the transition to market economy makes privatisation, devolution of property rights to private owners and local government, and creation of parastatal self financing forest enterprises some of the most important policy issues needing to be analysed. At the same time there is an urgent need for training and providing public administrators with the basic skills and knowledge required for the sustainable development of forest resources under market economy system. 

3. Proposals and Options for Action

The preparation of specific nfps is viewed as an integral step in addressing the issues and challenges associated with low forest cover. As above, these should incorporate an in-depth analysis of situation and development of a comprehensive Programme consistent with aspirations across a range of sectors. The experience, lessons learnt and the work previously carried out with nfps could be used to create subregional alliances between the LFCCs and the international community, and as a basis for starting and/or reactivating the design and implementation of their nfps. Such alliances will allow to avoid repeating errors incurred in the development of earlier nfps and benefit from the expertise developed in nfp preparation and implementation.

The general similarities at regional and subregional level offer the opportunity of saving time and capital by carrying out the assessment of needs and technical assistance for developing nfps to LFCCs at regional and subregional scale. Such co-ordinated exercise will group countries with similar problems and ecological and social characteristics. The international community could co-ordinate its efforts in order to create the conditions for a more efficient assistance to LFCCs.

LFCCs may wish to consider the formation of a formal grouping and task-force to investigate key issues, to provide a common voice in policy deliberations and to ensure the specific challenges confronting LFCCs continue to be addressed within global policy frameworks.

LFCCs may wish to investigate the development of a formal mechanism through which to share common experiences and solutions between countries.

A formal LFCCs taskforce may wish to seek recognition by, and/or representation on, relevant groups, and to be represented at meetings considering development of a Forest Partnership Facility, and at other relevant donor partner, or international agency, funding discussions.

LFCCs may also wish to jointly examine the necessity or viability of establishing a special LFCCs fund specifically targeting support to nfps in LFCCs.



The role of Participatory Forestry and Gender Issues

in meeting the special needs of

Low Forest Cover Countries (LFCCs)


The two principal definitions being considered for the term "low forest cover countries" - percent forest cover of the country and hectares of forest cover per inhabitant - say little regarding the relation of any given group of people within that country to locally accessible forest cover. It may be that under these definitions the most important consequences of being an LFCC are only felt at macro-economic level. For example, a country with 5% forest cover and low population may have sufficient forest resources for communities living in and around the forests, and there may be no problems of competition for forest resources. The same can be the case for countries with low forest cover per head. In these situations, forestry issues at local level in these LFCCs would be no different from forestry activities in a "high forest cover" country.

Because of this, with regard to the issues of participatory forestry and gender and forestry, the present paper makes the conscious choice of identifying the term LFCC with situations of difficult access to forest and tree resources over large areas, as for example in savannah, degraded, arid or semi-arid ecosystems.

People and communities in low forest cover areas suffer from the special problems of low or declining tree and forest resources, including:

increased competition for tenure and use/access rights, usually to the detriment of the weaker (e.g.: women; the poorest) when the resource is scarce.

loss of food/fodder supplements during the pre-harvest season and other low-production periods (droughts, crop failures, war or other emergencies, etc.)

decrease in time available for other productive activity due to increased time needed to obtain essential forest products (including fuelwood), often amounting to several extra hours per day

Many LFCCs have already initiated some sort of participatory forestry in their country. Some are more advanced than others, but efforts are being made both at project level and in government policy (and sometimes legislation) in these countries. Some examples of LFCCs with active ongoing participatory forestry initiatives are Burkina Faso, China, El Salvador, Gambia, India, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Uganda. Much experience has been gained in these countries in the application of participatory and collaborative approaches to management of very scarce or fragile forestry resources. These experiences deal with issues of land tenure, pastoralism and nomadism, poverty and population growth, migration, desertification, and other topics of interest to LFCCs.

Reasons for using participatory and gender-sensitive approaches in LFCCs

Since forests are not extensive in LFCCs, they are usually not, or are no longer, an important source of revenue for the national government in terms of industrial timber production. It is therefore more likely that the greatest importance (real as well as perceived) of tree and forest resources in these countries will be in the area of rural livelihood support, especially for the poor. This provides a favourable environment for the adoption and implementation of participatory forestry methods.

Participatory forestry (also referred to as "community forestry" or "collaborative forestry") is concerned with the interface between local people/communities and their tree and forest resources. It is mainly concerned with local management of existing forest resources and with tree planting at the level of individual households, since experience has taught us that large-scale afforestation through community participation is not a viable approach to resolving problems of forest degradation. Participatory forestry is particularly beneficial at the local level in ensuring the consideration of varied interests and needs, in helping manage the conflicts which universally arise in contexts of natural resource use and management, and in drawing out the greatest possible benefit from the resources in terms of improving rural livelihoods.

In situations of rural poverty, dependence on forests and trees is often critical, both as a part of household livelihood strategies and as a safety net in times of emergency. Participatory forestry supports and develops the three main types of activities through which these resources benefit rural household livelihood systems. First is use of trees and forests to meet subsistence needs, including gathering or growing of food (fruits, nuts, leaves, bark, roots, and non-tree forest products such as mushrooms and game), fodder, fuelwood, medicinal products, construction materials and materials for making many household utensils. Second, use of trees to improve production systems, through tree planting or protection for windbreaks, fencing, protection against erosion, soil enrichment, and shade. Third, use of tree and forest resources for income generation as the source of raw materials for many processing and commercial/trading activities.

There are many potential advantages resulting from involvement of local communities, authorities and people in forest management in LFCCs, some of which are the following:

Local management offers an alternative to overstretched centralised government management to conserve the productive/protective values of forests.

Participatory forestry by local users taps highly developed local capacity for sustainable management of the remaining resources, including management for diversified multiple use and the maintenance of biological diversity.

Local management reduces costs to governments of forest management and protection, and increases efficiency and effectiveness of management for rural livelihood support, as well as supporting other national goals of poverty alleviation and rural development.

Participatory forestry is likely to be attractive to national and international donors, as it supports government policies to promote equity, gender sensitivity, participation, good governance, decentralisation, more effective natural resource management, and biological diversity conservation. 

Gender considerations

A number of the tree and forest products and services listed above are of particular relevance to women and their sphere of responsibilities and influence in the household livelihood system. Men and women in all cultures have very distinct responsibilities and rights. They often control and have access to different resources, carry out different tasks for the household, earn - and expend - income in different ways, allocate their time differently, have different rights under both traditional and modern legal systems, and, importantly, possess different information and technical knowledge regarding the natural resources surrounding them. They therefore usually have different, and not always compatible, priorities and goals.

In the case of tree and forest resources, women in many cultures are the most knowledgeable about sustainable harvesting and management of these resources. Because of their often-disproportionate dependency on these resources to meet their responsibilities with regard to household nutrition (including fuel for cooking) and income generation, women often are also those most adversely affected when the resource becomes scarce. Thus in LFCCs gender issues will often be particularly important.

Gender-based diversity is of course only one aspect of the spectrum of social diversity, which also includes age, ethnicity, class/caste, occupation and other factors. However, due to development approaches that usually consider the household as the undifferentiated basic unit of society, gender differences receive less attention than they should. This is to the detriment of development efforts in general, often jeopardising success of community oriented projects and programmes. In particular in the case of forest and tree use, gender differences are often a key element in the success of efforts to strengthen sustainable management.

For all of these reasons, participatory approaches and gender sensitivity are key elements in maximising benefits and achieving success of forestry policies in support of socially oriented rural development, particularly so in the case of scarcity of forest resources typical of LFCCs.

Issues in using these approaches in LFCCs

Given the range of different scenarios possible in LFCCs, it is necessary to clearly identify the objective for which local involvement in forest and tree management is being sought. Is the interest in using a participatory forestry approach related to perceived benefits in terms of:


improving rural livelihoods and equity, in particular for disadvantaged groups most dependent on often degraded tree and forest resources, such as the poor and women?

conserving, protecting and/or regenerating degraded forest resources for their commercial value?

conserving/protecting biological diversity (e.g., in the case of "unique forests")?

devolving responsibility for forest management in order to reduce costs and human resource needs of the government and its forestry department?

ability to manage troublesome situations of conflict over use rights to increasingly scarce resources?


or something else?

Achievement of each of these different objectives can be greatly aided by the use of participatory forestry approaches. However, they are not necessarily compatible among themselves, and understanding the trade-offs involved is essential in order to select the best strategy. In addition, different groups involved in the approach and different stakeholders in the resource itself usually have different priorities and expectations among these possible outcomes. Balancing among these varying views is an important element in achieving success with participatory forestry initiatives.

The steps to take in applying participatory approaches will vary somewhat with different socio-cultural and political contexts, and with different sets of objectives. However, they will have to include, among others, most of the following activities:


analysis of existing situation using one or more of the many participatory assessment methodologies available, such as Rapid Rural Appraisal or Participatory Rural Appraisal (RRA/PRA), Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Knowledge Systems (RAAKS), and many other methodologies usually known by their acronyms), to understand:

extent of tree cover and rate of loss/degradation,

role and importance of trees and forests in livelihoods of rural poor,

existing institutional arrangements (government, local, formal, informal, traditional, modern),

who are the stakeholders and what is each one's stake in the resource and the process,

potential benefits of investment in participatory forestry initiatives in this context;

identification of existing and potential institutional incentives and disincentives for change (at government, local, formal, informal, traditional, modern, etc. levels);

analysis of the factors affecting tree/forest management decisions by communities and individuals;

identification of gender issues in access to resources through gender analysis for forestry;

examination of existing forestry/rural development policies and legislation and possible improvements to them to facilitate increased responsibility at local levels for forest management and conservation;

training and capacity building at all levels in the use of the various components of these approaches and adoption of a learning approach to development;

some amount of informing and education of higher-level management (including politicians) regarding the advantages of this approach.


A note on possibilities for international co-operation on integrating participatory and gender sensitive approaches into forestry policy and practice in LFCCs

Several if not all of the world's major donors for forestry and rural development hold the firm conviction that participatory approaches are the most appropriate and the most effective means for achieving balanced and sustainable development of forest resources. This is particularly true in the case of degraded or deteriorating forest resources, where there is likely to be much less emphasis on development of the resources for industrial and macroeconomic objectives. Many different donor agency programmes, such as sustainable livelihoods, good governance, integrated rural development, sustainable forestry, sustainable human development, etc., are based on the principles of people's participation. Most of the donors thus aim to support national policies in these areas and to integrate gender considerations in all their development activities.

Because of this, working with more participatory and collaborative methods can in fact be a major positive factor when seeking funding for development activities, especially in degraded and resource poor areas typical of LFCCs. The combination of natural resource management, poverty alleviation, and local capacity building and empowerment, characteristic of participatory forestry approaches, has a great and still growing potential for attracting development aid (both as grant-funded and investment projects).

Possible follow-up actions

In the context of the present Iran Initiative on LFCCs, it would be beneficial to commission a study to bring together participatory forestry and gender aware experiences in LFC situations, drawing out lessons learned and possible strategies for action regarding the special needs of LFCCs. Much has been written on individual experiences in several of the LFC countries and in low forest areas of other countries, and there is scope for identifying specific issues and tailored solutions through analysis of these past efforts.

In a similar vein, workshops could be planned to bring together foresters from countries with this kind of experience and those with little or no experience in this approach, as well as using TCDC funding to bring those with the experience in such methods to visit countries interested in experimenting with them.

It could be a task of this meeting in Iran to propose further possible collaborative actions to develop proposals together with the donor agencies for future initiatives.