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Research Report

Assistance to Forestry: Experiences and Potential for Improvement

Reidar Persson
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2003
Pages: 129
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-4)

    The international debate on ‘assistance to forestry development’¹ is focused largely on how to obtain more funding for forestry and to identify international mechanisms for cooperation (Moura Costa et al. 1999, Chipeta and Joshi 2001, ITTO 1997). I am interested in complementing the appeals for money with a debate on what can be done to use existing funds more effectively (‘spending smarter’ or even ‘doing more with less’). To this end I have compiled this report that attempts to describe and discuss the current situation and challenges.

    The purpose of this report is to stimulate international discussion on where we...

  2. (pp. 5-10)

    International forestry assistance during the last 30–40 years can be said to have passed through four different phases (or paradigms), which have followed one after the other, but to some extent, have also appeared simultaneously. These phases or paradigms are more easily visible in the international discussion than in the actual implementation of projects and programmes. A brief summary based on Persson (1998a) is presented below.

    International forestry assistance during the last 30–40 years can be said to have passed through four different phases (or paradigms), which have followed one after the other, but to some extent, have...

  3. (pp. 11-23)

    The total area of forests in the world is estimated at between 1400 million ha (Bryant et al. 1997, for virgin forests) and 5000 million ha (all types of naturally wooded areas). In many tropical countries, however, the most important tree resources are found outside what are normally called forests. About half of the world’s forests (if we use the FAO’s figure of total forest, 3900 million ha) are located in developing countries (FAO 2001a). At present, the forests are, according to FAO, being reduced by about 9 million ha or 0.25% per year (0.6% in tropical countries). Depending on...

  4. (pp. 25-39)

    An anecdote (from Neil Byron) tells that a new Director General of an aid organization asked for a success project. He never got one. I have approached colleagues in IFAG and ETFAG to get hold of good examples of successful forestry projects (and failures if anyone was prepared to admit such things). A number of reviews have been given to me. But nothing has really struck me as outstanding. When trying to show examples of successes, I often end up in other sectors than forestry (e.g. agriculture, health).

    The literature is full of examples of ‘disaster projects’ (and some success...

  5. (pp. 41-51)

    In this chapter I will try to list the problems and experiences that I have identified in forestry assistance. It is based on my own work and on discussion with colleagues. I have also gone through numerous reports (e.g. DANIDA 1995, Shepherd et al. 1999, MPI/UNDP 1999, UNSO 1999, Neil and Crapper 1997, WB/OED 2000a and b, DFID 1998, Ford Foundation 1998, Dove 1995, Kaaraka and Holmberg 1999, Hisham et al. 1991, Wardell and Hansen 1998)26 that contain evaluations of forestry, environment or other sectors of relevance. These reports clearly confirm what I have found during practical work and discussion...

  6. (pp. 53-62)

    One message conveyed by this report is that assistance to forestry experiences many problems. Forestry is, however, not the only sector that experiences problems with development assistance initiatives. One can point to a number of assistance projects that clearly have failed. Assistance to certain countries seems to have been a complete waste of money (Carlsson et al. 1997), and there are even cases in which assistance probably has produced negative results (see 5.3) However, there are also encouraging examples of assistance having a positive impact, such as in Botswana, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand.31 Much is written about how...

  7. (pp. 63-67)

    This paper argues that we know quite a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in development assistance, forestry and forestry assistance. If basic rules are followed, assistance can probably work quite well (World Bank 1998). Botswana is a case in point (Carlsson et al. 1997). The basic prerequisite for success seems to be commitment and ownership (and realism) at all levels. There are also many other do and do nots. Why, then, is this knowledge not being used?

    Let us first discuss the role of some of the stakeholders.

    Donor governments give development assistance because they want to...

  8. (pp. 69-76)

    There are a number of things that need to be changed if forestry assistance is to be made more effective. Some issues of importance for the continued discussion are elaborated on in this chapter.

    This report lists problems encountered by assistance to forestry. It also tries to explain why donor organizations have problems with forestry assistance. Forestry has a reputation of using ‘2% of the resources but giving 98% of the problems’ (WB). Why not give up? Forestry advisors do of course want to continue to work with forestry. Certainly, there are arguments against ‘giving up’. Below I list the...

  9. (pp. 77-87)

    This report has described numerous problems in both the recipient countries and in donor organizations. There is a need to change the ‘rules of the game’ to make it more efficient (see 5–8). It is, however, not very likely that dramatic changes will take place in developing countries. Changes there are often politically difficult. Forestry is rarely so important that governments are prepared to take on a severe political fight. In addition, it is unlikely that there will be any drastic changes on the donor side. So, we may also in the future have to tackle some of the...

  10. (pp. 89-95)

    At the end of last century a number of books and reports discussed the future of foreign aid (e.g. Sida 1997, Tarp 2000, Hook 1996). Some of these reports expect rather dramatic changes. Aid is already now in a transition period.

    Globalisation is one reason given for the rapid changes to be expected. Donors have also learnt that lack of capital is not the main constraint on growth in many of the poorest countries. More important is the policy environment. If money is not the main problem targets like 0.7 % of GNP lose some of their meaning. If policies...