Architecture of forestry governance

Climate & Natural resources03 Dec 2009Louise Stoddard

Today’s session on forestry governance highlighted the complexity behind the ambitions of Earth System Governance. KK Kaushal, Forestry Officer for the Government of India, first presented the example of Tamil Nadu, India, where the state has taken on a community involvement process to restock forests through the process of Joint Forest Management (JFM). JFM involves the establishment of Village Forest Councils, which Kaushal argued were turning into local institutions that promote empowerment and poverty alleviation. This is actually an extension of their original aim of originally increasing tree cover in the area. As a session which falls under ‘Architecture’ for the 5 A´s of Earth System Governance, I felt that this example brought up a particularly important point: the potential for multiple benefits through structure.

Peter Leigh Taylor and Anthony S. Cheng from Colorado State University then presented their study of two comparative community-based forestry projects. They highlighted that in the past, not much attention has been paid to how these NGOs confront difficult decisions, shifts in their social and economic environments, and the organizational structures that are needed to confront these new challenges. Yesterday, I discussed this issue with Anthony over lunch, including the particular significance of the current financial crisis.

Taylor and Cheng use the examples of the Public Lands Partnership in Colorado and the Association of Forest Communities of Peten in Guatemala. They showed how the structural choices these groups face must account for internal and external factors including regional, national and global pressures (such as a change in membership and pressure from other parties who wish to join). They argued that a ‘reflexive government’ approach had been adopted by both organizations, which involved collectively adapting to these new pressures. Through the embeddedness of the individuals within the organization, this can provide a framework for action in the face of complex pressure.

A final presentation by Tanya Hayes from Seattle University also emphasized the multitude of institutional arrangements within various forest reserves in Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. Her comparisons of the public and common property management of forests highlighted the need for an understanding of local land use institutions when designing forest conservation policies.

Overall, the presentations were a really interesting insight into the specifics of forestry management. It was nice to hear some technical and practical issues that are a real challenge for the architecture of Earth System Governance. How does one model work so well in one area but not in another? How can governance penetrate into the internal workings of NGOs already in conflict and facing challenges? On a hopeful note, it was great to hear from KK Kaushal about the unexpected benefits of forestry management. Joint Forest Management, he said, is the most important step the Indian government has taken since independence.

Anthony Cheng talks with The Broker about his session on forest management.