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Community Forestry in the Philippines: Paradoxes and Perspectives in Development Practice

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Pulhin, Juan M.
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/543
Sector: Forestry
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
community forestry
forest management
rural development
participatory management
Abstract: "The last two decades witnessed the emergence of community forestry as a major government strategy to promote sustainable development in the Philippine uplands. At the central policy level, it has evolved to embody three core development objectives democratization of resources access, poverty alleviation, and the sustainability of the forest resources. These objectives closely parallel the political, economic and resource sustainability intentions inherent in the concept of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). "At the project level, a variety of techniques and approaches are designed and employed by development institutions to realise the three core objectives. These include various types of resource access instruments, appraisal and participatory planning techniques, and the approach to incorporate social factors into the concept of sustained-yield management, to name a few. "Notwithstanding these developments, case studies of selected government-sponsored community forestry projects indicate that the three core objectives are far from being realized. The attempt to democratise forest resource access through the use of access instruments has benefited the local elite and reinforced the government's jurisdiction over these resources. Similarly, the use of appraisal and 'participatory' planning techniques has homogenised views of the local community and advanced a centrally determined agenda in forest management that has worked against the alleviation of poverty. Moreover, forest degradation has continued, despite the emphasis of community forestry on sustaining forest resources. "Three perspectives are offered to help explain the above paradoxes: (1) the unfavorable socio-political contexts by which the different techniques and approaches are being employed; (2) poor application of these techniques; and (3) the instrumentalist nature associated with their use that reinforces the characteristics of homogeneity, technocracy, and centralism which are inclined to produced paradoxical outcomes. "Considering the dual problems on poverty and environmental degradation in the Philippine uplands, however, the gloomy prognosis for community forestry does not suggests that it should be abandoned. Through a responsive mode of practice, there is room to move to improve the outcomes of the three central objectives."

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