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The Forests, Trees and People Programme, coordinated within FAO by the Community Forestry Unit, focuses on strengthening local communities' efforts to improve the management of their forest and tree resources. Land and tree tenure is a central issue in this area. The failure to clearly understand existing rights to land and trees has been a common cause of failure of community forestry projects. As a result, individual incentives are often misjudged, and the benefits of projects are distributed quite differently from the intention of project designers or participants. In designing a forestry initiative, an understanding of the existing system of tree and land tenure is essential to viable project design.
In 1989, FAO published Community Forestry Note 5: Rapid Appraisal of Tree and Land Tenure by John Bruce of the Land Tenure Center of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. This document presented a new approach to exploring tenure issues in forestry, and it forms the basis for the present Field Manual. The manual was developed by Karen Freudenberger also at the Land Tenure Center and translates the concepts of the earlier volume into the practical methodology of rapid appraisal. Among others, this means dividing resources into three broad categories holdings, commons and reserves - and then understanding how villages and households approach tree and forest resource management in each category. Reversing the traditional questioning order is a key approach which has been put into practice by Dr Freudenberger, deferring questions like "Who owns the land?" and "Can the land be sold?" in favour of more indirect questions like "If a newly married couple needs to build a house, where do they get the poles?"
Dr Freudenberger has long been active in developing rapid appraisal techniques in the field. While a large part of her experience has been in the Sahel region in Africa, the issues she has confronted are often universal. For example, conflict identification, a particularly sensitive issue, is a very important area in project design, but detecting conflicts within a community is usually a long-term and difficult task. This is an area where her experience has led to the development of rapid appraisal techniques which permit quick discovery and understanding of key community problems.
Like other Forests, Trees and People Programme activities, the methods described in the manual lay a strong emphasis on community participation. As the author maintains, Rapid Appraisal is highly dependent on the rapport which is established between the researchers and the local community. Whether the method used is closer to Rapid Rural Appraisal or to Participatory Rural Appraisal, the active involvement of the community in the research process is important to the quality of tee results which can be obtained.
This field manual is being produced and circulated with the intention that it will be revised and enriched based on experience gained in different regions of the world in the application of its techniques. Readers and users are therefore encouraged to send their comments and suggestions to The Community Forestry Unit, Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization. Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.
Marilyn W. Hoskins
Senior Community Forestry Officer
Forestry Policy and Planning Division
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