for the E-Conference,
Addressing Natural Resource Conflicts through Community Forestry
In order to motivate discussion on conflicts, conflict management and community forestry in Asia during the e-conference, "Addressing Natural Resource Conflicts Through Community Forestry", this paper presents an overview of some conflicts and examples of conflict management in the arena of natural resources and community forestry. Most of the material presented in this paper is from the workshop on "Conflict Resolution in Forest Resource Management" held in Kathmandu, Nepal, 10-13 October 1995 (from hereon referred to as "the workshop").
In Asia, conflicts specific to natural resources are taking place within diverse social, economic and ecological contexts. This paper presents cases and discussion on natural resource conflicts in India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Thailand to provide a profile of the situation in the region. The material presented in this paper is not exhaustive. The paper invites the participants of this e-conference to contribute more information on the region, and highlight some of the advances made in conflict management through community forestry in Asia.
We would like to acknowledge Chhatrapati Singh, Director for the Centre of Environmental Law, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Cor Veer at RECOFTC and Jeff Fox, Senior Fellow from East-West Center for their contributions, which were adapted for this paper. It is through their work, comments and contributions that this discussion paper was put together.
Table of Contents
2. Context of Conflicts
2.1 Economic Context
2.2 Land Use Context
2.3 Ecological Context
2.4 Legal Context
3. Case Studies
3.1 Jurisdiction vs. Equity, case study in Gujurat, India
3.2 People and Outsiders' Interaction on Management, Case Study from Jambi Province
3.3 Conflict Resolution in Bokse Mahadevsthan Forest, Nepal
3.4 Conflict between Landowners and Community Members represented by an NGO in North West Pakistan
3.5 Forest Dispute Resolution at Maephed Forest, Phochi District, Thailand 4. Causes of Conflicts
5. Analysing Conflict
5.1 The Parallel Between Power and Types of Resources
6. Conflict Management
6.1 Third Party
6.2 Policy, Training and Conflict Management Strategies
6.3 Activities in Conflict Management in Some Countries in Asia
8. Questions for Discussion
Centre for Environmental Law
Deputy Conservator of Forests
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Philippines)
Forest Co-operative Societies
Forest Trees and People Programme
Forest User Group
German Technical Cooperation
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
Joint Forest Management
Joint Forest Protection and Management
Nepal Madhyasthata Samuha
Royal Forest Department
Range Forest Officer
Society for the Promotion of Wasteland Development
Village Development Committee
The historical, linguistic, legal, economic, social, ecological and cultural variation of Asia makes this region the setting of diverse natural resource management practices, numerous legal structures specific to natural resources, and different cultural interpretations of natural resource use and conflicts. Consequently the developing countries of Asia offer numerous lessons specific to conflict management, natural resource management and community forestry.
In Nepal, India, and to a lesser or different degree in the Philippines and Pakistan, forest policies acknowledge, in different ways and extents, the rights and capabilities of local people to manage forest resources. Innovative projects and programmes are being implemented to assist villagers in this process. Accompanying this, many studies and other forms of documentation reveal a variety of conflicts in these countries.
In Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia such policies do not exist, but there are some community forestry projects and programmes. In the case of Thailand. many NGOs are active in supporting villagers in forest management, and there are a variety of studies documenting people's initiatives (and problems) in access to and management of forest resources.
In China, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Myanmar despite the recent rapid changes, conflicts in resource management are not very well acknowledged, studied or documented, and if they are, we are unaware of them.
In Pacific countries, forest land tenure systems differ considerably from those in Asia. The nature of conflicts may be expected to differ here, but we have little information on this. With other countries (especially those in Central Asia) we are less familiar and have no information at all.
This paper, although not comprehensive, presents information on natural resource conflicts and conflict management in Asian countries. The paper is divided into eight main sections including this one. The different sections address the context of conflicts, present some case studies from a few countries in Asia, highlight the common causes for conflict and attempt to define a framework within which conflicts can be analysed. This is all followed by a brief discussion on conflict management, as well as an overview of the activities specific to conflict management that are taking place in Asia today, and then the conclusion and questions for discussion. Examining the case studies presented in the workshop, there are overlapping themes within the cases regarding the cause of conflict, the stakeholders between which the conflicts take place, and the process towards conflict management.
The contexts of these conflicts can be broadly categorized as economic, land use, ecological and legal. While these four categories are being discussed separately below, they should be considered as interlinked.
2.1 Economic Context /2
The rise and expansion of the market as the central channel for transactions in Asia has paid off handsomely for those equipped with the institutional resources to capture its benefits. Without elaborating on the Asian tiger economies, it is worthwhile pointing out that after most of the logs had been exported or processed locally, Thailand issued logging bans and Philippines considered them. Thailand's neighbours (Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia) have felt the impact of the ban in the form of an increase in logging concessions with (unpublished) effects on those who live in the area.
In Vietnam, between 1989 and 1991, increased interest in rattan for processing in Taiwan resulted in such rapid exploitation that now rattan is difficult to find in many areas where local collectors used to get a small regular additional income from it on the local market.
In India an effort by industries to acquire (lease) forest lands has just been averted whereas in Vietnam and Thailand such efforts have led to continuing conflicts with the "illegal settlers" or "encroachers", many of whom have lived in this forest area for longer than the regulations on forest reserves have been in place.
With the growth in the urban middle class and the accompanying political changes, there has been the growth of a new type of organization: NGOs (for example in Philippines, India, Thailand, Bangladesh). NGOs in some cases are more active in rural resource management than government agencies. The rise and increasing involvement of NGOs has not only contributed to the rise of a whole new class of conflicts, but has also contributed much to new forms of conflict management. Similarly, in many of the countries already mentioned, new classes of conflicts and forms of conflict management can be attributed to the increasing involvement and capacities of academic institutions in efforts to articulate, support and strengthen customary rights and practices in forest resource management.
An overlap between the economic factors and legal factors is seen in the use of forest reserves and national parks to protect tracts of forests. Often, the delineation of forest reserves and national parks occurs more rapidly (especially with the active support from western donors and rapidly growing urban middle classes) than the growth of the economy. For example, in Thailand 13 percent of the land area has been brought under some form of nature reserve in about two decades. This has involved resettling people who lived on the land before it became a nature reserve, creating conflicts. There must be cases where nature reserves were established without creating conflicts with local people, but very little information on this is available.
2.2 Land Use Context /3
One general cause of conflicts over forest resources is the clash between `lowlanders' (farmers) with their resource management strategies and uplanders or (tribal) forest dwellers with a very different set of strategies. This can be better understood by examining the underlying land use context. The context can be interpreted in the frame of lowlands versus uplands - farmers and forest dwellers respectively.
In Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Laos, Malaysia and Myamnar, and in a different way in India and Pakistan, the `lowlanders' represent the politically dominant category. Policies, laws and rights to resources in the uplands/forests therefore often reflect the customary practices of farmers, with little - if any- recognition of the customary rights and practices of forest dwellers. Hence shifting cultivation is more regularly cited as a cause of deforestation rather than forest concessions or transmigration/settlement schemes, which, from a lowland perspective, makes more sense (even economically) as orderly resource exploitation strategies than the seemingly random and destructive practices of the uplanders.
The main structural conflict over natural resources is the lack of recognition of customary rights and practices of the uplanders/forest dwellers, contributing to forest resource degradation in a variety of ways. People from the lowlands migrating to the uplands, either by government sponsorship or of their own accord, push the uplanders further into the forest, with many conflicts at the interface.
In some cases, such as China and Pakistan, the government has granted some local autonomy to ethnic minorities, allowing them a greater say in local forest management strategies than elsewhere. In the Philippines, there is much talk and some action to recognize the `ancestral domains of ethnic minorities', and pilot projects based on the recognition of rights of forest dwellers have been initiated in community management.
It is only in India and more particularly in Nepal, however, that systematic efforts have been made to grant local communities rights in the management and benefits of forest resources. It should be noted that most of these resources are rather degraded, often comprise small areas, and for other reasons are of limited interest to other groups.
The significance of these efforts lies in their direct effects on the people involved, and the space that is thereby created to officially recognize and legitimize traditional and more recent management initiatives of villagers. It is also necessary to also support the spread of such villager initiated efforts through better policies, marketing arrangements, etc. Such strengthening of local resource management regimes is urgently required, particularly in view of the rapid and intrusive economic development in most countries of the region.
2.3 Ecological Context /4
In India, the ecological context within which conflicts occur can be subdivided into three categories: degraded land or wasteland which require labour input for plantation; land with some forest coverage which can be regenerated through simple protection; and ecologically rich forest land areas threatened by external pressures and requiring protection.
Forests on degraded land usually belong to the government, mostly the Forest Department and some times to the Revenue Department, which legally holds all other public lands. Government sponsored Social Forestry and Joint Forest Management (JFM) practices tend to be promoted on degraded forests on village lands.
The forestry work carried out on cultivable forest lands belonging mostly to the Forest Department is where the forest cover is poor, but the land is not degraded. It requires protection from over-grazing and theft of wood so that the area can regenerate by itself. Such areas evidently do not require plantation; the labour input is confined to guarding the area. The conflict between communities are often over illegal grazing or collection of minor forest products. JFM practices are also prevalent on such lands.
In India, large tracts of ecologically rich forest areas are demarcated as National Parks or Sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. There is no forest area in India, except in the remote and high Himalayan regions, where people do not reside. Over the years, the protection or conservation of such areas has witnessed serious strife and conflicts between the local communities and the government, or between the local communities and the external communities living around the Parks or Sanctuaries and making demands on the forest resources. All commercial and developmental activities are forbidden in such areas. The government has introduced Joint Participatory Forest Management and Eco-development schemes with the local communities. But such schemes have generated their own internal dynamics of conflict. "Eco-development" is the practice of developing the buffer zones of the Parks or Sanctuaries in a way such that the fuel and fodder needs of the people can be met from the outside without depending on the internal resources. It also assumes that people will gradually move out of the sensitive areas once the buffer zones are developed.
In Nepal, cultivable land is limited because of the geophysical characteristics of the country. Availability of cultivable land is further limited by the slope, climate and low regeneration rates of the high altitudes. The difficult ecological situation in the mountainous areas puts increasing pressure on the middle hills and lowlands of Nepal as communities migrate closer to markets and areas where the land is more rich and fertile because of the alluvial soil. With migration and new natural resource management policies, communities that were in the middle hills and lowlands have to deal with different customary practices being introduced in their area, and change in use and access to the resource that previously they controlled and managed.
2.4 Legal Context /5
India and Nepal are institutionalizing participatory forest management through JFM and Community Forestry respectively. In India, JFM is the government initiative to promote regeneration, protection and management of degraded forest lands by local communities (Mathur, Saigal, and Kapoor 1995). However there are inherent contradictions in various national policy/legal provisions. In addition to this, the forest administration of the country is based on the provisions of the 1927 Indian Forest Act, which does not reflect the decentralized, community-based elements of the new forest policy (ibid.). There are also conflicts that result from the diverging national "needs" and community needs. The national needs include industrial timber and raw materials from the forest, as well as environmental and ecological services and functions. To meet national needs, forest areas are converted into protected areas or allocated for industrial use, with statutory restrictions on the use of these lands by the local communities (ibid).
In Nepal, the objective of decentralizing control over natural resources was institutionalized in the Master Plan for Forestry Sector 1989, the Forest Act of 1993 and the Forest Rules of 1995. All these rules allow for the communities to acquire use rights over forest areas that are assigned to them as community forests. Guidelines for forming forest user groups (FUG), employing participatory approaches and developing a management plan are available to both NGOs and forest rangers who are involved with community forestry. Although the necessary legal conditions for successful community forestry are being institutionalized, the FUG must go to the government to make any amendment in the approved community forestry plan.
In Thailand, the legal system does not recognize the rights of local peoples to live on or utilize forest resources. At least since 1991, the Thai government has been engaged in an effort to write a community forestry law that would reserve some rights for people who live on state-claimed forest lands (Fox, 1996; citing Ganjanapan, 1995). To date, however, all attempts to pass such a law have failed under a variety of pressures ranging from private business interests to opposition from NGOs and community organizers. Although the Thai state has not been able (or willing) to find the political space to adopt any form of official recognition of community management of state-claimed forest lands, the Royal Forest Department (RFD) has worked outside of the law for community management. The Sam-Mun Highland Development Project in the North (covering 2,000 km2 in Chiang Mai and Mae-Hong-Sorn provinces) is perhaps the premier example of the ability of RFD to work outside the law to find ways of negotiating and resolving conflicts with local communities. While villagers still lack guaranteed title or security to their land, many of the day-to-day conflicts with the RFD have been resolved in an amenable manner. Although it is argued that the RFD obstructs adoption of the community forestry law in Thailand, the ability of the RFD to create extra-legal ways of managing conflict on state-claimed forest lands should be recognized. The view of conflict management in Thailand that begins with the legal framework in which conflict is both caused and resolved may be too limited to see the real story.
In Indonesia the story is slightly different. The Indonesian constitution recognizes that the management of land, forest and other natural resources is to be for the benefit of the Indonesian people. Major statutory laws, including the Agrarian Basic Law, the Environmental Basic Act and, to a certain extent, the Basic Forestry Law, support this constitutional mandate. Although no laws prohibit so-called indigenous agricultural practices, these practices are not legally recognized and supported. Hence, while the Indonesian legal system recognizes customary rights more than the Thai legal system, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry does not recognize such rights thereby setting the stage for conflict with local people. However, like its Thai counterpart, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry engages in extra-legal programmes to alleviate local conflict. The best example of this is a forest concession in Sanggau, West Kalimantan, where, with the assistance of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), local people have designed a framework for a people's forest concession, spelling out the rights and obligations of local people and government agencies and developing mechanisms for resolving conflict (Fox, 1996; citing Maryani, 1995). The Ministry of Forest cooperated with the development of this concession and allowed it to operate as a pilot project outside the legal framework. The Ministry is still reluctant, however, to provide the legal recognition (either through a different interpretation of the Basic Forestry Law or by a Government Regulation) for this pilot project to be replicated elsewhere in the country (Fox, 1996).
In the Philippines the story is quite different. While, as in Thailand, the legislative branch of the government has failed to find the political will to recognize the land rights of people living on state-claimed forests, the Philippine government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has created several legal vehicles for upland peoples and ethnic minorities to receive legal recognition of their land rights (Fox, 1996; citing Gasgonia, 1993). One of the strongest mechanisms for encouraging indigenous people to document and delineate their lands on government maps is known as Ancestral Domains (Fox, 1996; citing DENR Dept. Order No. 2).
Gatmayan (1996) reviews the implementation of Order No. 2 in Agusan del Sur province in the Philippines (Fox, 1996). He found that provincial authorities, used to dealing with concessions spanning thousands of hectares, insisted that applicants for ancestral domains increase the size of their applications to proportions approaching logging or tree-plantation operations. The result is "that Agusan del Sur has been divided into 22 large blocks of land, each covering thousands of hectares, and each 'absorbing' the pasak or territories of any number of Manobo or other communities under the name of a single applicant" (Fox, 1996; citing Gatmayan 1996). Gatmayan concludes that while the delineation regulations could have served as an initial step toward strengthening politically and culturally appropriate resource-tenure mechanisms, the approach of the provincial task force imposed a structure and a level of operation unsuitable to most Manobo communities. Although Dept. Order No. 2 for delineating ancestral domains may have solved national level conflicts among various government agencies, NGOs, representatives of indigenous communities, etc., over resource tenure issues, it only caused other conflicts to surface at the provincial and local levels. (Fox, 1996)
In Vietnam another story can be told. In an effort to increase the efficiency of land use, the Vietnamese government passed the 1993 Land Law that sets up a method for giving private usufruct certificates to manage forest lands. This programme differs fundamentally from that found elsewhere in Asia in that farmers are given almost complete transfer rights (exchange, transfer, lease, mortgage and inheritance) over state-claimed forest lands for a lengthy period of time (usually 50 years). The programme, however, may not be radical enough to induce farmer participation and solve land conflicts in that farmers are severely constrained by what they can legally plant on these lands, and are forbidden to use the land for swidden agriculture. For many upland farmers, land titling may thus reduce the stability of land tenure as the implementation of this policy may constrain their right to continue cultivating their land in the way they choose (Fox, 1996; citing Smith and Tran, 1994). An effort to improve the efficiency of land use by giving farmers greater land security may thus increase conflicts between farmers and resource managers over land use practices. (Fox, 1996)
Summaries of case studies from a few Asian countries are presented below. These case studies were selected from the several presented at the workshop.
3.1 Jurisdiction vs. Equity, Case Study in Gujurat, India (Shah, 1995)
This case study describes a situation in which two villages, Pingot and Jambuda, agreed to cooperate on developing a forest area that was allocated to one of them under JFM. However, the distribution of the benefits created a conflict. A third party, an NGO involved in promoting JFM in Pingot village, was involved in facilitating a settlement.
Pingot village was involved in JFM on a large area of public wasteland from 1986. Jambuda, the neighbouring village, had a larger population, many of whom were landless families, and little public land on which they could undertake JFM. Thus, Jambuda sought employment in Pingot to afforest the public lands. In May of 1992, when some of the trees that they had planted were ready for harvesting, Jambuda villagers informed the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), requesting permission to harvest them and make the benefits available to the villagers. The Department granted permission to Pingot rather than Jambuda. This created a situation of conflict, because the Jambuda villagers believed that their agreement with Pingot gave them rights to benefits as well.
Since the Forest Department officer was uncertain whether it was legally possible for the villagers from Jambuda to protect forests and benefit from their protection when the forest land was situated in another village, it was recommended that Jambuda discuss the matter directly with Pingot. The villagers of Pingot stated that there would be joint sharing of the benefits since the protection activities were also shared. This resulted in a conflict over who had protected the forest and for how long, putting into question how the benefits should be shared.
The third party, the NGO, assisted in coordinating the negotiations between the two villages. This proved to be difficult because of the destruction of neighbouring forest areas, the lack of trust, and the attempts, made by both villages, to increase their bargaining power. The NGO threatened to remove its support, which finally prompted the two villages to meet with the NGO and the Range Forest Officer (RFO) to negotiate a settlement.
During the negotiations, in July 1995, both parties presented their views, and when a settlement was not reached, the RFO decided on an appropriate distribution, presented it to the two parties, and the settlement was signed immediately. The question that arose from this case was what authority does the government have concerning an agreement made between two villages. Another factor that came out of this case study was the time involved for receiving information on the appropriate procedure from the government and to reach a settlement, and the impact the duration of the conflict has on the benefits (harvestable trees that were deteriorating with age). The author of this case study also highlights the issue of jurisdiction versus equity. As JFM becomes more popular, the question of how much forest area is required for a village to meet its needs begins to surface, especially when a conflict like the one documented in this case study occurs.
3.2 People and Outsiders' Interaction on Management, Case Studies from Jambi Province, Indonesia (Yuniati, 1995)
This case study describes conflicts that have arisen between two villages adjacent to Kerinci Selbat National Park, the national park manager and businessmen. The Kerinci Selbat forest was established as a national park in 1982 because the impact of deforestation on the forest area. The boundary of the park overlapped with that of customary forest used by local communities, forest used for industrial purposes and conversion forests.
In Indonesia, there are no clear laws and regulations on the use of natural resources and forests. Forest resources are government owned, and community rights to manage customary forests are not clear. This has led to conflicts regarding forest use, The boundary disputes and disputes over the share system of agriculture between communities are usually resolved informally at the local level with customary practices. If this is not sufficient, it is taken to the subdistrict level.
The more complicated disputes are those between the government and the villagers, or the businesses and the communities. An example of the complexity is seen in Pangalan Jambu village where different parties are interested in using the same area for different purposes. The community needs forest area for farmland and gold mining, the concessionaires have the right to log in the forest, and the government has included this area in a national park. The local community believes they have the right to this forest because they were the first to utilize the local forest. Assisted by WWF, the villagers are attempting to get legal recognition of their rights to the forest area.
The communities are actively involved in overcoming the conflict, either through local practices when the conflicts are between two villages, or through representation of the village views by a local leader when another party like the government or a business is involved. A third party, WWF, has played a role in facilitating the negotiation. One of the conclusions of this study was that there is a greater need for recognition of local traditions and practices.
3.3 Conflict Resolution in the Bokse Mahadevsthan Forest, Nepal (Kharel, 1995)
This case study describes two conflicts which were resolved because of the dedication of the District Forest Office (DFO) in resolving the problems associated with handing over a particular forest area to a legally recognized FUG. One of the conflicts revolved around who should be entitled to membership in the FUG, and the other conflict resulted from a boundary dispute between two different Village Development Committees (VDCs).
The Bokse Mahadevsthan forest is part of a large tract of natural Sal forest in the Middle Hills of Nepal, close to Kathmandu. The forest had been unmanaged for centuries, and the forest resource degradation dated as far back as 1900. In 1986, the members of the Mahadevsthan forest met to discuss how they could conserve the remaining part of the forest, since it was severely degraded. Mahadevsthan Ward 1 became the first community involved in afforestation and protecting the forest. They planted 20,000 saplings in 1988, and developed informal committees to manage their efforts. However, the forest continued to degrade, since people in the other wards were not involved.
The DFO encouraged the handing over of the forest to the users for management and protection in 1991. The steps for the formation of the FUG were taken, which included meeting to discuss the government policy, identifying the users, defining the boundaries of the forests and the management process. However, because of the conflict, the process for handover took over a year.
The boundary dispute over eight hectares of forest area resulted when this area was allocated to Mahadevsthan VDC, rather than Anekot VDC. This boundary problem had arisen before with different boundaries being drawn by the two VDCs during different cadastral surveys. The DFO ranger was unsuccessful in mediating a settlement between the two VDCs. In the end, the DFO ranger requested that households that had migrated into this disputed area join one of the two VDCs, rather than being enlisted in both. The area would be allocated to the VDC which these households joined.
The boundary was marked to give Anekot VDC the disputed area, and the conflict was settled, enabling the handover of the Bokse forest area to be completed.
3.4 Conflict between Landowners and Community Members Represented by an NGO in North West Pakistan (Gadi, 1995)
This case study presents a conflict between big landowners and an NGO and the community it represents. This community is situated in the North West of Pakistan. In this conflict the wealthy landowners have more economic power and are members of national and provincial assemblies, and therefore dominate the community. The community on the other hand is not politically homogenous.
The forest area over which the conflict arose is used for subsistence by the indigenous people and contains species of high commercial value. The Government promoted Forest Co-operative Societies (FCSs), which give communities more control of the forest. However, the forest legislation is ambiguous regarding tenure, resulting in illegal cutting. Due to the big landowners' economic interest in the forest resources, the FCSs were banned in 33 communities, setting off the conflict.
During a flood relief mission, an NGO, SUNGHI, was in contact with one of the communities in which FCSs had been banned. The community claimed that the floods were a result of the extensive logging by the large landowners. The community requested SUNGHI to campaign for a reforestation movement. SUNGHI accordingly became involved in distributing information.
The conflicts that resulted were due to:
1. Structural causes including lack of widespread community participation, ambiguous land rights, the influence of the big landowners and the Department of Forests' control over conservation of forests.
2. Specific factors including SUNGHI's advocacy work and the public hearings held to disseminate information.
3. The use of the term "Timber Mafia" to identify the big landowners, and
4. The weak formal channels of mediation. SUNGHI focused on strengthening national and international linkages trying to change the situation.
It was concluded that the major cause of deforestation is the non-participatory legislation. This case study highlights the flaws in the policy on resource management and use, and the need for government to stop big landowners from manipulating such situations.
3.5 Forest Dispute Resolution at Maephed Forest, Phochi District, Thailand (Pathpud, 1995)
This case study highlights a conflict between a community and the government over the use of Maephed forest.
In Thailand all forests are owned and managed by the RFD. In 1963, the government had allowed for commercial logging to take place in the 88,000 acres of the fertile area of Maephed forest. After this forest was used for commercial logging, the local villagers who had lived in the area since 1945, cleared what was remaining in the logged forest area and settled there. The forest area had been reduced to 19,746 acres. In 1966, the government decided to declare the original area of 88,000 acres as a forest reserve, requiring all those settled in this area to be resettled. The villagers claimed they had been living there prior to the enactment of the National Forest Reserve Act, leading to a conflict between villagers and government.
Around the same time, 1974, the villagers were persuaded to cooperate with the government in fighting the Communist guerrillas hiding in Maephed forest. By doing so, the villagers thought their right to the Maephed forest was legally recognized. Thus, the government's decision, in 1985, to begin a tree plantation programme in the forest area without consulting the villagers resulted in further conflict. The villagers were forced from the area by the government. Nevertheless, they continued to burn and replant the forest. As of 1994, only 1200 acres of forest cover remained.
The disparity in power in this conflict is weighted in favour of the government since the community, living off of agriculture, is at the subsistence level. However, the villagers, who are all related and under the leadership of a woman who has their full support, organized a movement against the actions of the government. With the assistance of an NGO they have been working with, the villagers and the government have managed to reach a settlement. The negotiations convinced the government that the people needed land for their livelihood. Thus it was agreed that:
1. The people on land classified as watershed area would be resettled by the government or receive compensation. The government would reforest this area.
2. The other villagers, who occupied land in this area, would receive title to the land under the Land Reform Act.
Although systematic steps, including cooperation, participation and compromise, were taken to reach this settlement, some villagers disagreed with the resolution. Nevertheless, the villagers set up a committee preparing a project to manage the forest under community forestry principles. Currently, the granting of the land has not been completed, and the problems causing this have not been resolved. Nevertheless, the villagers are working on their project.
The workshop highlighted some general causes from the case studies presented during the meeting. The general political changes in Asia, which in many countries are characterized by greater democratization and decentralization, were thought to be a general cause for the increased evidence of conflict. This encourages local communities to become more vocal, as the "voiceless now have voices."
Most of the cases reinforced the notion that conflict is intrinsic, suggesting that it was less relevant to distinguish `causes' in terms of insiders and outsiders as any party in a conflict may be considered as an `insider.'
Both the Community Forestry (Nepal) and JFM (India) programmes demonstrate the problems inherent in attempts to build on customary rights and practices, particularly in those cases where these practices are not compatible with the objectives of the programmes, e.g., in terms of equity or sustainability. In terms of the overview of conflicts in JFM in India, the most common conflicts in these efforts relate to territorial conflicts (different groups claiming the same area/resources) and institutional conflicts (between villagers and `outsiders' and amongst `outsiders', including those between Forest Department and NGO). Social conflicts are prevalent in heterogeneous (caste or class-based) villages. Other conflicts relate to the diverging demands by different categories of people. But then, there are also many conflicts that arise from the contradictions between various national policy and legal provisions.
As the overview from conflicts in community forestry in Nepal demonstrated, conflicts are not only intrinsic in rural resource management, but also in well intended and thoughtful programmes to support such management.
The main causes of conflict determined during the workshop can be summarized as follows (this is not in order of importance):
1. decentralization/democratization encourages communities to be more vocal;
2. lack of participation by all the stakeholders (this was seen in determining who was a member of a community participating in JFM, as well as who was a member of a FUG);
3. lack of information concerning policies, rights, changes;
4. changes in policies, laws, availability and access to resources, and changes in value and expanded markets;
5. boundary establishment, both at national or provincial level (as in the case of park establishment) and local level (between and within communities);
6. contradictions between laws, policies, customs and programmes;
7. socially unjust conditions and systems;
8. limited resources;
9. competition for resources;
10. uncommitted personnel at field level;
11. slow attitudinal change in forest departments;
12. unequitable distribution of benefits from the resource.
It is these causes that have to be addressed in conflict management.
Though the presentations at the workshop illustrated some of the types of conflicts with or without planned interventions, it is much more difficult at the present stage of investigation to get an idea of the (relative) frequency of the various conflicts and/or the `damage' in terms of resource management (degraded/underutilized resources) and economic and social conditions of the community.
Conflicts can be interpreted and understood at different levels: the policy level, institutional level, the resource level or at the level of the actor. These are not mutually exclusive but serve to define the conflict in different contexts more clearly. When attempting to understand how community forestry can contribute to managing conflicts, it seems beneficial to examine conflicts at the macro level (that is, from an institutional, policy and resource perspective). Often times it is difficult to define specific correlations between a conflict and the macro level. This prompts analysis of the conflict at the micro level, which focuses on the actors and the immediate consequences of the conflict (both positive and negative). However, restricting analysis of conflicts to this level does not assist in completely eliminating the root cause of conflict, allowing for additional conflicts of a similar nature to surface in different physical settings. Thus, it is essential to define the macro level setting within which the conflict is occurring. The tools commonly used in community forestry can assist in the macro level analysis. The tools could include: providing technical assistance based on what is required by the communities; assisting in the defining of borders through participatory approaches; and developing ways of communicating the information, perception, and interpretation the different actors or stakeholders have about the conflict to each other, or different levels. It is in determining these macro level causes that a third party can often play a role (the terms `third party' and `outsider' are used interchangeably, however they are not assumed to be synonymous with mediator or facilitator.)
At the micro level, the actors involved often have sufficient tools and techniques for handling conflicts, as seen in one of the cases from Thailand presented above. Intervention at this level should only occur after a request for assistance, as was done in the case from India discussed above, or when the third party will focus primarily on creating a forum within which the respective actors can further discuss their positions and reach an agreement either regarding which level the unresolved conflict should be taken to, or how to proceed from the resolution.
A possible tool which could assist in effectively institutionalizing the resolution both at the macro and micro level could be to recall and analyse the context and stages of the conflict after a resolution, or temporary agreement, has been reached at the micro-level.
5.1 The Parallel Between Power and Types of Resources /7
One useful manner in which the analysis can be carried out is to adopt the framework of power relationships between the various parties competing for the resource, where the power between the parties is similar at one end and starkly different at the other. This similarity and difference in power relations is parallel to the types of resources over which the conflicts are occurring. Where little is at stake, one would not be surprised to find that the parties interested in the resource are not too different in their powers.
In India, this can be shown with three distinct types of forest situations in which the community's involvement is different and hence also the nature of the ensuing conflict. The three different types of situations relate to: degraded land or wasteland on which labour input for plantation is necessary; land with some forest coverage which can be rejuvenated or which can regenerate through simple protection; and ecologically rich forest land areas which are threatened by external pressures and need protection.
Forestry on degraded land falls, by and large, within the "power relatively equal" framework of the Crowfoot and Wondolleck (1990) scheme, where the participating communities are in a similar situation (Singh, 1996).
The Joint Forestry Scheme, initiated in the 1980s and now prevalent in all states of India, constituted the Village Forest Protection Committees by involving the members of the Panchayats. Two types of conflicts were observed in this scheme. First, since Panchayats are composed of members of more than one village (usually 12 villages) and the area of land worked upon for forestry purposes did not belong to all these villages, there were competing claims for benefit sharing amongst the villages. Second, since there were earlier rights to forest resources which belonged to all villagers in the Panchayat, limiting the benefits to the Forest Protection Committees created inequities and violation of the law. The creation of such Committees brings about inter-village conflicts with the Panchayats, which hold similar statutory rights over forest resources, and infra-village conflicts when the forest area falls within more than one village but the members of the Forest Protection Committee are only from one village.
Another root cause of conflicts is tenure and use rights. There are hardly any forest areas in this region, whether degraded or with forest coverage, where customary rights to resources do not exist. When new groups are created, such as the Forest Protection Committees for purposes of afforestation work, benefit sharing can become problematic due to the existing rights of those who are not involved in the new schemes.
Forestry on cultivable land is the type of situation which would roughly fall in the middle group of the Crowfoot and Wondolleck scheme, where the power and the inequalities between the communities are dissimilar but not starkly different. The context is mostly of rural areas close to regions of good forest coverage, where the adjacent areas have been degraded due to overgrazing or use of forest resources for fuel and fodder purposes. Two types of situations can be discerned here, those where the people have evolved their own customary practices and those where the government has promoted Joint Forest Protection and Management (JFPM) schemes through government notification orders.
The inter-community conflicts over resources which cannot be resolved simply usually relate to social migration of communities from one village area to another, or to the rehabilitation of new communities who are oustees or refuges from other forest areas. The oustees of the area submerged by Narmada dam who have been resettled in the forests of Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh, for example, are facing such conflicts over the use of resources. The traditional communities, on the other hand, find that their customary practices for protection and regeneration are failing since there is new demand on the resources.
The Joint Forest Protection and Management schemes sponsored by the state have relied upon various methods, starting from extreme ones like fencing off the area and not allowing any cattle grazing, to joint social practices such as stall feeding or providing fiscal incentives for alternative energy generation, such as for cooking gas. Conflicts have occurred in terms of competing rights for such incentives or rights to grazing. The settlement of such conflicts is brought about by the dictate of the forest officials.
Ecologically rich areas need strong conservation measures for the protection of the biodiversity as gene pools, to take care of the rights of the present generation as well as for inter-generational equity. Conflicts in these areas are similar to those in the Crowfoot and Wondolleck model, where the powers between the competing communities are grossly unequal and stakes are extremely high. Such conflicts usually arise between the residing communities and the state government, or the communities and the industrial interests of miners, aquaculturists or timber traders.
There is hardly any area in India bereft of human population, except in the cold deserts of the higher regions of the Himalayas. People are or have been residing in the ecologically rich areas; traditionally in an ecologically sustainable way. But the recent shrinking of the forest coverage and increase in population (both of human and cattle) has tremendously increased the biotic pressures on the National Parks and Sanctuaries.
The first reason for conflicts is the uncertainties of rights that the residing communities are faced with. Ideally, the rights of the people residing in such areas should have been settled under the Indian Forest Act or the Wildlife Act. These laws have complete provisions for the settlement of rights. But since conservation of ecologically fragile areas was not a high priority, the governments have been slack in completing the steps required under these laws for the full settlement of rights. In the recent past, the governments decided to simply ask the communities to vacate the Parks and Sanctuaries and attempted to settle them in the adjoining forest areas. This was being done through government orders, often by force. The forest or wildlife laws make no such demands. This type of eviction created conflicts not only with the communities already residing in the adjoining forest areas, but also directly between the residing communities and the state governments. A spate of litigation by the NGOs and coverage by the press has brought an end to such measures. The problems remain, however.
On the other side, the rapid pace of industrial development and consumerism making demand on the resources on which the local communities and the flora and fauna have depended, has brought about serious conflicts between the interests of conservation and resource utilization. Despite vociferous dialogues about "sustainable development" the exploitative industrial interest seems to be clearly taking the upper hand. The government's divided interest between enriching the industrial community and themselves and the lesser one of conservation, has not helped in resolution of conflicts. The task has been left, by and large, to the non-government organizations. Resolution of conflicts at this level requires direct use of the formal legal system since the multinationals and large national industrial companies do not seem to obey any customary laws or practices. The use of courts, including the High Courts and the Supreme Court is inevitable in this situation.
In discussing conflict management strategies, a distinction can be made between `mechanisms to avoid or prevent conflict' and `mechanisms to address conflicts'. Some of the conclusions that were reached at the workshop are presented below.
To avoid or prevent conflicts, the following principles were emphasized:
1. Support the formation of equal power building alliances. One case from Thailand illustrated the power of such an alliance in the form of an Assembly of Northeastern Small Farmers, with support from NGOs and academic representatives. The case from Pakistan cited earlier also illustrated this potential in a different way: the NGO acted more as a mediator between disenfranchised community members, landlords and the Forest Department. The national federation of forest user groups in Nepal (represented in the workshop) represents another example of strategic alliances that may contribute to better representation of users' interests.
2. Avoid unilateral decisions and ensure participation of all stakeholders; all cases presented illustrated this rather obvious point. Illustrations of the problems one may encounter, however, may be more instructive as a demonstration of the complications one can run into in trying to do the obvious. The cases that reported on conflicts where people claimed benefits without doing the work, illustrate the problems of identifying whose stakes are more valid than others. Such conflicts may not easily be resolved locally, and often outside advice (backed by outside power) may be needed.
3. Make sure to work at resolving the conflict at the level at which it occurred.
4. Assess whether there is sufficient commitment for resolution. In the case of a conflict between the women of a forest user group in Nepal and the timber contractors and forest department, there was not much commitment to resolve the issue. As in many other cases in which rural people and some government agency clash, the only way to succeed was to appeal to higher levels. The work of a university based conflict mediation group in Thailand (specializing in conflicts between government agencies and rural people) deals with `generating commitment' from agencies that would prefer the conflict to go away.
5. Allow people sufficient time to cope with and adjust to new methods and rules.
6. Remember that not all conflicts are negative, try to use conflicts as a springboard for change.
7. Try to be pro-active by addressing the need for change in legal structures, rules and regulations. This may actually be the most important recommendation from the workshop. Studying conflicts in a more systematic manner may be an underused strategy to learn more about the type of support that rural people need to better manage their resources.
As the presentation of these general principles may indicate, it is not easy to come up with general principles for conflict management beyond truisms. The point, also emphasized by the workshop participants, is that conflicts need to be analysed in sufficient depth to understand what could be done to alleviate them (m cases where resource management is hampered).
Another point that was brought out is that more systematic study of customary conflict management strategies (outside project or programme contexts) is badly needed.
6.1 Third Party /9
There are three different kinds of impacts that a third party can have in conflict management:
a) The Third Party can create conflicts where there are none.
Such conflicts, from the highest national level to the lower, most local level, are invariably brought about by politicians for creating factions and ensuring vote banks. There are ample examples of such situations in Social Forestry and JFM schemes in India, as well as in regularizing encroachment in forest areas for one community against another. The important point to notice here is that the beneficiary in such conflicts is often only the third party, and that the resolution of such conflicts would require a different method. It also calls upon one to understand that some conflicts over the use of natural resources are endemic to the nature of political or legal processes in a particular society.
b) The Third Party can continue or complicate a conflict.
Here the mediator's own role or personal goal lies in enhancing his or her own status, or earning more in the process. This is clearly visible in the legal process, from the lowest to the highest courts, but it is not confined to lawyers. Other mediators or lawyers' livelihoods depend upon the number of appearances and arguments before the judge rather than on reward for resolving the conflict.
c) The Third Party resolves conflicts.
In traditional societies, technical or professional qualifications as a conflict resolver are not enough to ensure resolution of conflicts. His/her social status, background and affiliations make a great deal of difference in his/her capacity to resolve any conflict. These parameters may relate to case, professions or even age. Sometimes conflict may even be settled inequitably simply because the person chosen to resolve the conflict has decided in a particular way and speaks for the welfare of all. In all such informal dispute resolution, especially in the rural areas where the majority of the population resides, the likelihood of dispute settlement depends upon the existence and availability of such a local person, whose decision is accepted due to his/her social and moral status. Such a person may be a respected village elder, a school teacher, a holy person or a formally elected village Sarpanch (head) of the village Panchayat (assembly) or even simply selected, as is the case in the informal village Panchayats (representative committees having at least five members).
In most village communities there are special categories of people who are called in cases of conflict. These people are considered wise, knowledgeable, selfless, farsighted and morally upright. In Thailand, traditional respect for teachers is the basis of the conflict mediation work (particularly in the case of conflicts with government agencies) by groups of university professors. Traditionally, monks have also played this role, in one case leading to the arrest of a monk assisting villagers in their resistance to the establishment of an Eucalyptus plantation on their customary lands. That respect for monks is still widespread was demonstrated by the national turmoil that followed this arrest (and by the monk's release).
In traditional communities, the third party plays a different role than the mediator in modern societies. Long experience of conflict resolution in traditional societies shows that ontological issues such as who or what is a "good person", are as important as the epistemological ones of a person's knowledge and skills. The basic assumption, which is ubiquitous in the existing scientific and "practical" literature concerning conflict resolution (Singh, 1996; citing Pendzich, Thomas, and Wohlgenant 1994), seems to be that conflict resolution issues are mainly epistemic, that is, a matter of knowledge and skills, and ontological issues can be ignored.
In addressing conflicts it was felt that in all cases customary ways of dealing with conflict should be explored first, and building on these, mediation or negotiation strategies devised. Legal recourse was seen as a last resort in many of the cases presented as such win-lose situations often lead the weaker to lose.
6.2 Policy, Training and Conflict Management Strategies /10
In the workshop, participants recognized and emphasized the need for legal recognition of participatory forest management. Working groups, comprising representatives from forest departments, NGOs, academics, community representatives and legal practitioners are functioning to various degrees of success in India, Nepal (the Forest Sector Coordinating Committee), Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. Such groups review field experiences and conflicts, and are often in a position to recommend changes in policy that may contribute to lessening conflicts.
Another policy recommendation is greater transparency in administration, including translation and distribution of administrative instructions in local languages, which may contribute much to reduction of conflicts.
Local networks of FUGs and village forest management groups are emerging in Nepal, India and Thailand, and these networks may provide important support particularly in cases of conflicts between villagers and administration.
For training people to better deal with conflicts, it was stated that the purpose of all types of training should be "to enable people to solve conflicts with as little outside intervention as possible." Different types of training in conflict management have been initiated in Nepal, India, Philippines and Thailand, including regional training at RECOFTC. Exchange of experiences, material and trainers was recommended.
The implications for conflict management strategies were identified according to the types of conflicts and in terms of the parties involved.
1. For conflicts within communities, prevention of conflicts was recommended through information sharing, reconnaissance of the total situation and participation of all parties concerned. To resolve existing conflicts, as mentioned earlier, support of resolution through the community's customary system was emphasized and external facilitation was only to be considered if indigenous measures fail.
2. For conflicts between communities, it was felt that well defined boundaries by the users of the resources could prevent many conflicts. Some also recommended identifying primary and secondary users of the resources, and acquiring better information on the customary uses. For resolution of conflicts between communities, direct negotiation with or without external facilitation was recommended.
3. For conflicts between communities and government, the need for better venues for appeal against decisions by government agencies was emphasized, and the recommendations made by the policy group were endorsed.
4. For conflicts between NGOs and government, it was felt that better terms of reference, and greater and more open communication could reduce hostilities. Public fora have been used extensively in the region to resolve conflicts, with legal measures held as a means of last resort.
5. Conflicts between entrepreneurs and communities may be reduced through better ways of benefit sharing and greater transparency, and conflicts resolved through public protest and lobbying.
6.3 Activities In Conflict Management In Some Asian Countries
Throughout Asia efforts are being made to address the different types of conflicts. During the workshop, representatives from different parts of the region presented information on work being done in and plans specific to conflict management. A summary of the national reports is presented below.
In Cambodia, there is very little explicit recognition of or action towards conflicts and conflict management. A needs assessment is required.
In China, with the changes in the economic policy, there are increasing possibilities for conflicts to arise. Over the last few years, with increasing awareness of conflicts, efforts are being made to resolve them. Since liberation, the official forest policy takes action to adjust major disputes, although it is weak at resolving local disputes. There is the need to increase training of personnel in conflict management. It was proposed that one way to do this was to send people outside for training.
In India, a few institutions that span the spectrum from government level, NGO, to grass-root institutions are concerned with conflict resolution. A few that were highlighted at the workshop include the Centre for Environmental Law (CEL), Society for Promotion of Wasteland Development (SPWD), community level institutions and forest departments. Some of the activities that were planned included documentation of cases of conflicts, information transfer, a national workshop on JFM, a research network meeting addressing conflicting laws on resource management and laws that cause conflicts, revising the Forest Act, and addressing the leasing of forest land to industry. There was also interest in proposing that forest training institutes incorporate training on conflict management.
In Indonesia, efforts are being made to provide government forest departments and NGOs with training and technical assistance on conflict management. This will be accomplished through training of trainers offered by RECOFTC to university personnel. There is also a legal group that focuses on environmental issues which can assist in conflict management.
In Nepal, efforts are being made to organize and understand the different tools and techniques used to manage natural resource conflicts. Institutions at all levels are involved and are concerned with conflict resolution. They include NGOs that are focused on women's issues such as Women Acting Together for Change (WATCH), FUGs, bilateral agencies, the Department of Forests, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, legal associations such as Nepal Bar Association and Propublic and multidisciplinary groups such as Nepal Madhyasthata Samuha (NMS).
Of the different institutions mentioned above, some are involved in the documentation of cases, training NGOs, lawyers and individuals involved with conflict resolution, developing curricula on conflict management, discussing the possibility of integrating training on conflict resolution into foresters' training, collecting information on conflict resolution, reviewing laws, Acts and Rules on forest and natural resource management, and structuring feedback from FUGs to the government on laws specific to community forestry and natural resource management.
In Pakistan, there is increasing awareness amongst NGOs regarding the importance of conflict resolution. There is a need to increase government awareness of conflict management through advocacy, research, lobbying and documentation of case studies. Activities oriented towards this are being planned in the country by NGOs that are concerned with conflict resolution.
The dynamic economic, ecological, social and legal environment of Asia presents the potential for fast changes that may result in conflicts. In countries like Vietnam, conflicts may result as a consequence of the modernization, democratization, decentralization and market orientation that is being adopted. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop ways of analysing and understanding natural resource conflicts, and strengthening the interface between community forestry and conflict management.
Focusing on conflicts and ways to deal with these in a more rational manner in (community) forestry, is enriching in different ways for at least two categories of professionals. For foresters, it reminds them of the hidden legal dimension in forest management. When designating an area as a forest reserve or national park, the rights of the inhabitants of the area and the potential conflicts have to be taken into consideration. For a subgroup of foresters, community foresters, conflicts provide information on how to design better policies and better approaches to deal with conflicts in a 'pro-active' manner in their quest to assist communities in better managing natural resources for greater benefits. For lawyers, getting involved in community forestry implies dealing with customary law and alternative or complementary ways of litigation. This may enrich them professionally, though not necessarily in more tangible ways (as compared to more conventional ways of practicing law).
It is our guess that villagers would significantly benefit from a more intensive interaction between these two professional categories, and that community foresters may face a real challenge in getting both categories (the foresters and the lawyers) more actively involved in `their' game. Maybe this e-mail conference would provide a good opportunity ?
As stated in the introduction, the information provided in this paper does not present the complete spectrum of natural resource conflicts in Asia, nor comprehensive information on how they are managed or resolved. However, the cases summarized in this paper are a window onto the variety of conflicts and mechanisms for managing conflicts occurring in Asia. Below we present some initial questions to stimulate discussion.
(i) From the information presented in this paper and the experiences you have had, could community forestry have played a different role in any of the case studies presented here, or in cases that you are familiar with? If so, how?
(ii) As presented here, is distinguishing between the macro and micro level of analysing the conflict and the possible ways of managing conflicts useful? If so, why?
(iii) Given the information provided, and experiences you have, are the efforts made at the national and regional level appropriate to effectively prevent and manage natural resource conflicts? How can these efforts be strengthened?
(iv) Since conflicts vary based on the level at which they are occurring, can the efforts to remove conflict at one level only worsen conflicts at another level or point in the hierarchy of interacting interests (Fox, 1996)?
(v) Do the methods of analysis presented in this paper help in defining the interface between community forestry and conflict management? Are they as useful as the ones already proposed in the e-conference?
1/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Cor Veer at RECOFTC.
4/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Chhatrapati Singh at the Centre for Environmental Law
5/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Jeff Fox at East West Center 6/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Cor Veer at RECOFTC.
7/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Chhatrapati Singh at the Centre for Environmental Law
8/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Cor Veer at RECOFTC.
9/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Chhatrapati Singh, and Cor Veer.
10/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Cor Veer at RECOFTC.
11/ Parts of this section were adapted from contributions by Cor Veer at RECOFTC.
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