How can we assess the rights and benefits of forest-dependent people in new holistic ways?
The livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in the Asia-Pacific region are dependent upon forest resources. Their livelihoods are strongly linked with how they interact with forest resources and other stakeholders in managing forests. However, tools to assess the rights and benefits of forest-dependent people are somewhat limited.
Local communities’ involvement in forest management is viewed in various ways; one widely used theoretical term for this is ‘community forestry’ (CF). It refers to ‘initiatives, science, policies, institutions and processes that are intended to increase the role of local people in governing and managing forest resources’. The argument goes that the more local people are aware of and are protected by rights, the higher is the likeliness that their way of living will contribute to healthy forests. In other words, local people hold the key to sustainable forest management. 
Current examples of CF assessment tools include A framework to assess extent and effectiveness of community based forestry (FAO, 2015) and Criteria and indicators of sustainability in community managed forest landscapes (CIFOR, 2000). RECOFTC aims to build on these by developing a more holistic CF assessment framework that looks at forests from angles that include availability of natural resources, tenure rights, governance, participation, adaptive management and how to meet local needs.
In Southeast Asia community forestry is reported to have great potential and positive impacts in reducing deforestation and poverty, providing significant economic, environmental and social benefits from landscape to national levels. This is important as countries around the world strive to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), particularly in reducing poverty (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2), achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and the protection of forests and biodiversity (SDG 15).
However, because of different cultures, types of landscapes and financial situations in Southeast Asian countries, there have been difficulties to share lessons on when community forests work, and when they do not. To tackle this challenge, RECOFTC is developing a manual that outlines practical ways to analyze community forestry at the local level. By doing so we hope to support governments, communities and civil society organizations, or whomever has an interest in understanding CF.
This work is meant to help forest officers and local communities develop ideas of how different community forests can be improved and be able to link to broader development agendas such as the SDGs. The manual builds on RECOFTC’s long experience in CF and includes themes such as rights, benefits and livelihoods.
You can support us! Are you a researcher, local community member, forester, NGO worker or someone with experience in community forestry? We need your help to explain what is needed for a community forest to reach its full potential to make our manual as relevant as possible. You can support us in many ways. For instance, by explaining what you consider are the keys for community forests to be successful in supporting local people’s needs; helping us to test our work; or offering general suggestions related to what a manual like this could look like in order to be easy to read and easy to use. Please email your comments to email@example.com
For more information on RECOFTC trainings and training manuals, see www.recoftc.org/training
 The data includes 62 countries across all regions as reported by Gilmour, D. (2016). Forty years of community based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO Forestry Paper 176.
See also: RECOFTC. 2014. Current status of social forestry in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the ASEAN region: Situational analysis 2013. Bangkok, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests
 Gilmour, D et al. 2015. A framework to assess extent and effectiveness of Community Based Forestry (CBF). Forest and Agriculture organisation (FAO)
 Ritchie, B, McDougall, C. Haggith, M. Burford de Oliveira, N. 2000. Criteria and indicators of sustainability in community managed forest landscapes. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
 RECOFTC, 2016. Current status of social forestry in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the ASEAN region: Situational analysis 2016. Bangkok, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests (in press)
 For detail see RECOFTC (2013). Community forestry in Asia and the Pacific: Pathway to inclusive development. RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, Bangkok.