Forests are critically important for many of the world’s poor who depend on them for food, income, medicine and building materials. As such, forests are a nexus of broadly held policy goals such as poverty reduction, economic growth, conservation and climate change. Most forests in the developing world are governed, in practice, through community-based tenure systems. Despite their prevalence, community-based tenure systems face widespread lack of recognition by formal tenure institutions and governments, putting forests and forest-dwelling people at risk from commercial logging, agricultural development, large-scale acquisitions, or even displacement related to the establishment of protected areas. These risks also prevent effective implementation of forest conservation policies aimed at carbon storage for climate change mitigation.
Patterns of failure with state control of forests and the recognition of the crucial role of community ownership and management for forest carbon programs, a rising social justice movement around indigenous and customary land rights and the growing recognition of the role of customary institutions for effective forest management has shifted development discourse over the last two decades. A movement has emerged toward mobilizing customary tenure institutions and practices and promoting legal frameworks that support community-based tenure.
The World Bank’s Securing Forest Tenure Rights for Rural Development program, led by Gerardo Segura Warnholtz of the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, aims to increase knowledge on the importance of forest tenure security and disseminate guidance and best practices for strengthening tenure. Last year, in collaboration with Jenny Springer and Malcolm Childress (Global Land Alliance), the program published a comprehensive Analytical Framework which presents key evidence-based elements and best practices for strengthening forest tenure (see figure).
Now, continuing with GLA as a technical advisor, the program is piloting the Forest Tenure Assessment Tool (FTAT) in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar. The FTAT aims to assess community forest tenure security in specific contexts (national and sub-national) by providing methodological guidance and working with key stakeholders to score 42 indicators of the 9 key elements of forest tenure articulated in the Analytical Framework. Through this process policymakers and stakeholders develop an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of forest tenure in a given context, are able to track progress over time, and identify policy, action and investment opportunities to strengthen tenure security. The FTAT helps make the case for both “why” to undertake forest tenure reforms as a part of national development policies, and to focus on the “how” of specific areas of intervention.
Photo 2: Participants scoring FTAT indicators
This past December, GLA participated in the national stakeholder workshop in Lusaka, Zambia. The 2-day workshop with more than 40 participants was planned and facilitated by the World Bank-GLA team and local partner Tetra Tech. A strength of the FTAT approach is the key role that stakeholders have in analyzing tenure security through feedback on a background report (prepared by Tetra Tech) and in discussing of and scoring the elements/indicators. In Lusaka, the workshop participants included prominent academics involved in community forestry and forest governance, government forest officers and administrators, representatives of NGOs and civil society, donors, community groups working in the forests and traditional authorities. Perspectives ranged from global and national in scale to the local, with representation from community forest management groups familiar with the on-the-ground implementation of national policies. After scoring and extensive discussion, participants developed policy recommendations and action-oriented next steps.
Photo 3: HRH [Her Royal Highness] Chieftainess Msoro, Kunda Chiefdom, scoring FTAT indicators
The Lusaka workshop was an excellent opportunity for the FTAT team to observe the methodology in practice and receive feedback on the indicators and scoring. We learned that framing the discussions around the 9 key elements of the Analytical Framework may focus stakeholders more on the big picture without needing to spend as much time refining the specifics. Many constructive tensions emerged in the data and discussions during the workshop, but more time was needed to fully define policy recommendations as a group. Also, the establishment of a Steering Committee of country experts could potentially preview the assessment tool and refine the indicators to better match the local context. This Steering Committee may also be successful at developing policy and action recommendations, and any other post-workshop follow-up. A very tangible outcome of the workshop is that it appears to have spurred further discussions in country on community forestry and governance, with more meetings planned for the near future.
Photo 4: Tetra Tech’s Matt Sommerville facilitating drafting of stakeholder policy recommendations
Despite the challenges associated with applying the global assessment tool to three very different contexts, valuable insights and strategies have already emerged. In Zambia the assessment tool was applied “out-of-the-box” with minimal modification to a few indicators to better match the Zambian context. The process gave participants multiple opportunities to dissect, analyze and score the elements, providing a detailed picture of stakeholder perspectives and a springboard for future efforts and actions toward securing tenure. In Myanmar the project team has partnered with a Working Group on the Forest Tenure Assessment, led by the Forest Department of the Ministry of the Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MoNREC), to craft indicators and resources matched to the diverse local context of conflict, decolonialization and evolving legal and political institutions. Sensitivity to the local context is a critical component of the process and their work has been oriented at and timed to facilitate discussion and outputs relevant to ongoing reforms taking place throughout the national government. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the project team has worked with field-based researchers to address challenges of participatory assessment in Mai Ndombe Province. These researchers traveled to villages and conducted focus group sessions, interviews and participatory theatre, providing the project team with rich local data with which to score the indicators and build out the picture of forest tenure security throughout this subnational context. Results and lessons learned from the efforts in these initial pilot countries will be critical to GLA’s effort to further refine and operationalize the FTAT.
Photo 5: Naysa Ahuja (World Bank), Gerardo Segura Warnholtz (World Bank), HRH Chieftainess Msoro and associate, Logan Sander (Global Land Alliance)