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Research Report

towards wellbeing in forest communities: a source book for local government

Marco Antonio Albornoz
Michel Becker
Ade Cahyat
Peter Cronkleton
Wil de Jong
Kristen Evans
Dante Fuentes
Christian Gönner
Rolando Haches
Michaela Haug
Ramses Iwan
Godwin Limberg
Moira Moeliono
Eva Wollenberg
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2007
Pages: 96
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)
    Frances Seymour

    A huge potential exists to enhance the wellbeing of forest communities, who remain among the most impoverished groups in the world. Local governments have an important role to play in meeting this potential. Across the developing world, decentralisation has given local governments new authority for decision making and commensurate responsibility for service delivery, including poverty alleviation.

    Local governments, however, often lack data and information to identify causes of poverty, prioritise interventions or target specific groups of the poor. Previously bypassed by centralised planning, local governments have little experience in the preparation and implementation of local development plans. Insufficient devolution of...

  2. (pp. 3-8)

    The hardships of poverty are well known to people living in natural forest areas in developing countries. Most of these people are used to the difficulties of living in remote places, far from adequate healthcare, education or cash earning opportunities. In the past, major development efforts have had difficulty reaching people who live in forested areas, and have considered the families that live there too marginal to serve.

    This may be changing. Many countries have shifted their budgets and decision making responsibility to local levels of government that are located physically closer to the people and forests, such as districts,...

  3. Part I. Concepts

    • (pp. 10-14)

      Understanding wellbeing and poverty is the first step to reducing poverty. Meaningful definitions are important in order to identify the causes of poverty, the objectives of poverty reduction, and the scope of what should be done.

      Local governments need concepts of wellbeing and poverty that are locally relevant and that will help them make appropriate decisions. The concepts presented here can serve as starting points for discussions within governments and communities about poverty, wellbeing and the relationship between the two.

      Declining poverty means increasing wellbeing. Both terms are interwoven and look at the same problem from two different sides. A...

    • (pp. 15-22)

      Local governments have enormous potential to address poverty. Yet it can be difficult for them to set priorities, define strategies and take action. The following guidelines can help governments identify aspects of poverty they might attempt to influence.

      A local government’s scope for addressing poverty is shaped by the legal framework provided by decentralisation policies, the resources available to it and decisions it makes to use these rights and resources (Box 2). It is important to determine whether the factors driving poverty can actually be influenced by local government to decide a strategy for actions.

      There are many reasons why...

    • (pp. 23-28)

      Local governments trying to reduce poverty in forest areas face different challenges from those in agricultural or urban areas. Forests can create unique opportunities for reducing poverty or present conditions that trap people in poverty.

      The link between forests and poverty varies depending on several factors, including the degree of remoteness of the forest, the resource mix found in the forest, and how local people interact with these resources. This link can be complex. For instance, in Pando, families enjoy one of the highest average per capita incomes in the country, because Brazil nuts harvested from natural forests provide a...

  4. Part II. Monitoring and Planning Tools

    • (pp. 30-30)

      Local governments are closer to the poor than central governments. However, this does not mean that local governments are always successful at reducing poverty; they may have the will, but lack the resources, capacity or political mandate to be effective.

      In spite of the obstacles, there is an important first step that local governments can take towards poverty reduction: they can directly involve the poor in government decision making.

      Figure 4 shows a simplified example of a local government decision making cycle. This model reflects how decisions are ideally made in Bolivia and Indonesia

      Figure 4 also demonstrates how the...

    • (pp. 31-34)

      Monitoring is the systematic gathering and analysis of information in order to gauge if something is changing. Monitoring is a key function of government and an essential part of the learning process for local governments that have been charged with new responsibilities and resources under decentralisation. With the information provided by monitoring, local governments can analyse whether their programmes are working and determine how to improve them. They can learn from both successes and failures.

      Monitoring can help local governments understand if new government processes are participatory. For instance, monitoring can answer questions such as:

      Are community leaders giving all...

    • (pp. 35-37)

      Planning is the systematic process of preparing for the future by setting goals, selecting strategies, choosing activities, making schedules or budgeting resources for a period of time. When different people with distinct needs, perceptions, powers and responsibilities are involved in planning it is called participatory planning. Participatory planning generally involves the following steps, although not necessarily in this order: local government presents a proposal, collects feedback and input from constituents, and seeks to build an agreement among different interest groups. Land use planning and annual government budgets are examples of plans that can require review or input from citizens before...

    • (pp. 38-45)

      Interactive mapping is a participatory tool for organising poverty information and local knowledge visually on maps. Any information can be included on the maps, such as the incidence of disease, quality of roads, location of health services, or household income, depending on what issues are locally relevant. Charts of data are often difficult to understand. However, when the same information is presented on a map, it becomes more useful and understandable to a wider range of people.

      The method builds local capacity to produce simple reference maps that can be modified to represent different types of data and updated as...

    • (pp. 46-63)

      A local wellbeing monitoring system is a programme that regularly checks and analyses the poverty and wellbeing condition of households or communities. The monitoring system is called ‘local’ because it is based on local concepts of poverty and wellbeing and uses locally meaningful indicators.

      Poverty and wellbeing are often measured at a national or international level. But local wellbeing monitoring systems have a number of advantages, such as:

      Local wellbeing indicators are less abstract;

      Local wellbeing monitoring systems provide more detailed data relevant to the local culture and geography;

      In Indonesia, national poverty standards qualify only houses with dirt floors...

    • (pp. 64-75)

      Community evaluation is a way for local government to learn whether programmes are having the desired impact. There are many ways to conduct evaluations—the tool selected for this source book deals with focus group interviews. Focus groups are panels of similar individuals brought together to discuss or evaluate specific topics guided by a facilitator. Focus groups provide a quick and cost effective means of collecting a diversity of opinion drawn from the selected group. For our purpose here, focus group members are from communities that were the intended beneficiaries of the government programmes being evaluated. They should know how...

    • (pp. 76-89)

      Scenarios are pictures of a desired future. They are useful for exploring and communicating expectations people have about the future. Scenario-based planning can help people develop a vision, develop plans to meet that vision and communicate their plans to other people, including local government.

      Scenario-based planning can help local governments understand communities’ needs. It also helps communities:

      Make individual expectations, goals and future desires more explicit;

      Identify differences, unrealistic assumptions and common ground among participants;

      Reach agreement about a shared agenda—goals to work towards, priorities or pitfalls to avoid;

      Develop a plan broken down into steps defining how and...