community forest Program
Royal Forest Department

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Rural communities in Thailand have mostly relied on forest resources for their livelihoods, but with fast national development and economic growth, the overuse of natural resources particularly forest resources as raw materials for production has impacted on their livelihoods. For example, forest areas were cleared and converted to agricultural lands resulting in their permanent loss which affects a negative series of consequences, such as insufficient water supply and poor soil, including their agricultural products. In addition, the encroachment of forest area often caused a series of serious conflicts between authorities and locals who are disadvantaged and forest-dependent. However, the suppression of forest invaders and forest-dependent people by authorities has not produced satisfactory results because forest areas continue to decline steadily. Therefore, the Royal Forest Department of Thailand (RFD) has launched and promoted community-based forest management to encourage communities living adjacent to forest to conserve the forests in order to improve forest conditions and promote sustainable community benefits.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
As with the problems mentioned earlier, RFD, as a forestry government agency, has initiated a better on ground operation using decentralization to have more locals and local organizations participating in forest activities. For instance, Tumbon administrative organization (TAO), the local government office at sub-district level, is engaged with legal authorities to better manage forest resources through the "Community Forest Project" This project started in 2000 as the core program on community forest management. Its mechanism development is well associated with multi stakeholder functions regarding their roles and responsibilities. Its central concept development, including appropriated planning development and budget nomination are initiated by RFD. In parallel, local forest officials in cooperation with locals and other state agencies practice together to produce official community forests effectively. Each official community forest has its own objectives of which people are mainly centered on sustainable forest management. This approach is also based on a His Majesty the King’s initiative called “the sufficient economy” which improves and strengthens the environment and local livelihoods in terms of living peaceful with the integrity of soil, water and forest as well as reducing living costs and increasing revenues. This will lead RFD to achieve its vision “Forest is sustainable, and people’s livelihood is better” where 25,000 villages near forest reserves in a 5 km radius are RFD’s main target to be involved in the project.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
To solve the problems of forest encroachment, and conflicts between the people and the officials of RFD, RFD has used the concept of public participation to enable people and organizations to participate in forest monitoring and protection, including forest management with regard to related forest laws. So that people can live with the forest in harmony. All forest land in Thailand is state owned. In the past, only the major concession companies were given licenses to exploit forest resources, but not for locals. Any forest activities conducted by local people are illegal. Therefore, the project of community forest initiated by RFD aims to enhance local participation in managing the state forests. Communities are promoting self-collaboration to address their forestry issues that affect their livelihoods, to share knowledge, and to develop their own plans with regard to the forest laws to meet their problems and benefits, as the government and private sector provides technical and financial support to provide better services.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
There are 5 basic steps of the project implementation as follows. 1) Public relations extension Based on more local participation concern, an action plan for local authorities focuses on promotion, raising awareness, and ways to accommodate relevant on ground community forestry obstacles. 2) Legal community forest establishment Once a community’s concern on sustainable forest management is raised with substantial needs to resolve their forestry problems, an assembly of village members is arranged to democratically select a committee of village councillors on the community forest. Then, a CF application form (CF.1) with at least 50 signatures of adult village members who are over 18 years of age, and resident in the village must be submitted to local forest officials. After submission, the area where community requested for legal community forest establishment will be verified officially (CF.2) by forest officials in close cooperation with the applicants. Then, the community gathers to produce a self-developed proposal on community forest management (CF.3) for RFD approval. 3) Training of personnel and local representatives RFD provides the technical training to strengthen capabilities of 200 other agency officials and at least 2,000 community representatives particularly in community forestry, planning at local level and related laws on a yearly basis. In addition, the knowledge communication is disseminated through various channels such as leaflets/brochures etc. 4) Forest management supported by government RFD also provides financial support of 100,000 baht in average to the community where a participatory forest management plan is in place. The money must be used as seed fund to operate planned activities with local forest officials’ assistance through knowledge, collaboration and co-operation. 5) Performance monitoring The performance monitoring of each community forest (CF.4) is jointly monitored by officials and community forest practitioners, and then must be reported to the RFD headquarter on an annual basis. In addition, to achieve the planned forest activities with effectiveness, the community is free to access additional funds from local government offices or the private sector.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The stakeholders in the implementation of community forest project can be divided into 3 groups. 1) Key stakeholders who play considerable roles on the project determination, design, implementation, and leadership consisting of 2 sub groups a. Government officials such as the director general of RFD, director of community forest management bureau, director of community forest management division, director of local forest resource management office, sub director of community forest management and community forest officials of all local forest management offices. b. Local leaders such as mayors, head of local government offices, including heads of sub districts and heads of community forests. 2) Primary stakeholders who are given negative impacts directly. Here are residents in 21,850 villages within 5 km radius from forest reserves 3) 4) Secondary stakeholders. This group is also involved in community forest projects partially under RFD jurisdiction and other government departments, including academia, Kasetsart University, private companies for instance RATCH (Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited (Thailand) and THAI Airways and NGOs such as the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
To implement the community forest project effectively, the participation of all stakeholders is considered mandatory and a key element. But without finance, the performance may be limited. The criteria for budget allocation of the project is as follows: 1) The community that has already been given RFD approval as the official community forest with competency to carry out the project is prioritized. 2) The potential of local forest offices and field officials. 3) Covering the whole country. 4) Unit cost of activity, and the number of villages that have been targeted. The subsidies supported by government for communities’ activities on forest management will be directly transferred to the target communities’ account. This shows the best and sincere concern in the reduction of corruption.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1) The unity of community with gender equity and youth cooperation. 2) Reducing the conflicts and developing a close partnership between the community and government officials with a joint objective on sustainable forest management. 3) Reducing expenses and increasing revenues of communities with less forest disturbance. 4) Reducing migration of the rural population to the urban area, and as a result of participatory forest restoration, forest function is back to supply enough water for communities’ agricultural crops. 5) At least 592,000 ha of forests are community-based management by 9,015 villages.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
There are 4 levels of performance monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of community forest project as follows. 1) Community level: the elected community forest committee itself acts as a coordinator to monitor and verify whether the progress of implementing activities as planned in addition to find solutions to encounter on-ground problems during the implementation of the project. 2) Collaboration between official and community levels: each project will be evaluated at the end of the year by a joint report made by officials and communities. The report summary contains the results of performance, problems, and solutions. Furthermore, based on 16 items of criteria of community forest classification, there are 4 classes such as 1) good 2) moderate 3) basic (needed to be improved) and 4) poor (needed to be cancelled). The joint evaluator is requested to make comments, and classify evaluated projects, including provide recommendations that the projects should continue or not. 3) Other offices within RFD level: staff at all levels both from local and central areas are involved in monitoring and evaluation. Not only local RFD staff in charge of the project implementation and technical assistance to the community on a regular basis, but also the staff from RFD headquarters from different offices such as the section of planning and monitoring, community forest management bureau, the monitoring and evaluation section of planning and information bureau, including the Inspector General of RFD involvement. 4) External level: the results of Chulalongkorn University evaluation on the community forest project in 2013 showed that 100% of respondents were satisfied with its progress and performance with an average mark of 3.74 out of 5 with a 95% confidence level.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
1) At the initial stage, locals had very low confidence to carry out the project with officials due to a long-term negative image of RFD on law enforcement with rural offenders. Therefore, RFD takes it into consideration, and put efforts to promote better understanding and attitudes with each other, regardless of time. 2) Due to lack of understanding in related laws, informal and formal consultation with locals was prioritized in order to accommodate the progress of the project. 3) The potential to establish official community forest is behind the needs. Based on the RFD fiscal budget is sufficient only for 200 villages to establish official community forests each year, including a number of local staff with skills of public extension are small, but with the cooperation of other agencies from both government and private sectors, for instance, provincial administrative offices, sub district administrative offices, Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, THAI Airways, including forest rangers contributed their efforts to establish another 7 villages as official community forests in 2013.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Since the community forest project was launched in 2000, there are 9,015 villages legally known as official community forests with a total area of 592,000 ha. These considerable outcomes result in the following benefits. 1) Economic The promotion of community forest management enhances experience-based learning for locals to manage the forest. Especially in combination with the philosophy of sufficiency economy, development of self-support communities may strengthen the economy of the nation by maximizing forest resources with better use. In addition, provision of forest foods and services add an extra channel to cut locals’ costs of living and generate additional income. Interestingly, a Nuntana (2012) study, the expert in community forest management of RFD, showed that residents of Baan Chong Kab community forest in Kanchanaburi mainly relied on collecting non-timber forest products for subsistence and commercial purposes. The production was worth of around 6,019.40 baht per household per year. Considering the economic benefits at a national level through carbon values, based on a study on carbon assessment in 12 community forests by the community forest management bureau and centres of community forest research and development. It found that carbon stored in those areas was 40.7 ton carbon/ha in average. With regard to the ECX carbon price in 2013, 1 ton of carbon was of 4.74 Euros. This implies presumably that community forests with an area of 592,000 ha all over the country are equivalent of 2,806,080 million Euros in terms of carbon values. In addition, the economic valuation of community forests has 3 aspects; 1) tourism, excursions, training and study tours 2) research, and 3) water sources for goods and agriculture was 5,616.4 million baht/year. 2) Social benefits The promotion of community forest management leads to form improved unity in the community. This enhances better cooperation among villagers to work together in peace and harmony. 3) Environmental benefits As mentioned previously, the total area of official community forests is carried out by local participation all over Thailand. This illustrates significant sources for environmental services. Degraded forests are restored, and resume their functions to supply water, food, medicinal plants, and biodiversity for rural livelihoods as well as the urban population.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The community forest project undoubtedly ensures sustainability as a result of the improved combination between locals with intent participation and government with both technical and financial support. In addition, local government officials at sub district and district levels, including multi-stakeholders contributions such as non government organization and other government agencies assist locals who are given RFD project approval. Additionally, to participate in the project, locals are demanded by RFD to illustrate the following. 1) Its potential indication for the project implementation. 2) Its strong dedication to work with officials as legal assistance in dealing with on ground forestry missions, as well as be in charge of arresting forest law breakers in its area. 3) Roles of community forest management. a. Select a set of community committee, and its chief. b. Assign appropriated tasks for community forest management. c. Seek and share lessons learned with the community forest network. d. Develop its action plan. e. Implement its action plan capable of monitoring, verification and handling obstacles. The forest is state-owned, and is demanded to contribute fair benefit sharing to the public. Rights to access and manage the forest and receive both indirect and direct benefits are fundamentally constituted. Therefore, non-and government sectors help to promote local participation in terms of financial and technical assistance are essential to push any forest activities governed by locals. As a result of cooperation, about 9,015 villages are known as the official community forest. These outcomes indicated local interests and cooperation in participating forest management, may demonstrate community forest practice to others who are not yet involved in sustainable forest management and become a greater community-based forest management at national and international levels in the near future.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Drivers for successful community forestry implementation 1) Local participation is the most influential driver affecting the success of community forest implementation. 2) Community forest officials with related backgrounds, such as extension skills, forestry and laws. 3) More cooperation from other non-and government sectors enable extraordinary support for local performance improvement. Lessons learned As a result of insufficient manpower, budget, weapons, and related equipment, forest protection by government officials solely with implementation of strict law enforcement is unable to cover all forest areas, and leads to an increase in forest areas. So, the promotion of local participation in forest management is such a solution to deal with the problems. Because locals adjacent to the forest are encouraged to cooperate in forest activities, this secures their livelihoods and environment with less conflict against officials. Recommendation In order to accommodate effective community forestry, some issues should be addressed as follows. 1) Technical support and transfer. 2) Regulatory barrier reduction. 3) The right understanding and attitude to cooperate with locals. 4) Sufficient manpower and budget to rapidly expand the community forestry practices.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Royal Forest Department
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Mr. Pralong Dumrongthai
Title:   Director of community forest management bureau  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(66) 8 9969 1584 / +(66) 8 2088 7481
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   pralong2000@hotmail.com  
Address:   Royal Forest Department 61 Phaholyothin Road
Postal Code:   10900
City:   Chatuchak district
State/Province:   Bangkok
Country:  

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