POLICY BRIEF | Why are local people in South East Asia unable to make a better living from forests?

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative & RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests

Date: January 2, 2014

It is widely understood that forests throughout the world are under growing pressure as societal demands increase and diversify. If the drivers for this pressure are not coherently addressed, forest destruction, and their ecological, economic, and social implications will continue. It is ever more recognized that local people (here local people refers to communities and smallholders) living in and around forests can play a significant role in facilitating the sustainable management of these forests. In many ways their knowledge of and their connection with the forest makes them ideal stewards of the forests in their locality.

This belief is underscored by the understanding that if they have access to the forests, have an enabling environment and support to manage and make a living from the forests, and the capacity to take advantage of the livelihood opportunities that the forests offer then they will ensure that their investment in the future, namely the forests, is managed in a sustainable manner. The cornerstone of this assumption is that the communities and smallholders will be allowed to make a better living from these forests.

Unfortunately evidence shows that often this is not the case. This leads to the question of Why are local people unable to make a better living from forests? The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests have been conducting research in five Asian countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam) in order to answer the question.

Key Findings

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