Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 315–340 | Cite as

The theory of social forestry intervention: the state of the art in Asia

  • M. R. Dove


This study focuses on the major issues in current thinking about the theory of social forestry development in Asia. The first of these issues concerns the cause of deforestation. The governmental view is that deforestation is a gradual process driven by community-based factors, whereas the community view is that deforestation is a stochastic process driven by external, political-economic factors. The two explanations have different implications for where the ‘problematique’ of social forestry is located — in the forest community or in the forest agency — and how, therefore, it is to be addressed.

A second issue concerns how and when social forestry interventions are carried out. The concept of a ‘window-of-opportunity’ for intervention reflects a widespread belief that it is importantwhen interventions are carried out — with both the costs and benefits of intervention increasing as it is timed earlier and decreasing as it is timed later. A key determinant of the best time for intervention is the receptivity of the forest agency and the broader society. The purpose of intervention is to strengthen receptivity and other factors conducive to change, to hasten extant processes of change, and to minimize the possibility of a reversal of direction.

A third issue is whether the focus of social forestry intervention should be on state lands or on community lands. While there are logical reasons for either foci, the continuing vacillation between them suggests the lack of a theoretical perspective with sufficient breadth to encompass them both. Whatever the focus, attitudinal change within the forest agency is usually mandated in social forestry interventions, but it is rarely accompanied with intervention in the underlying power relations, reflecting a continuing difficulty in viewing the forest agency sociologically. This lack of sociological perspective also is seen in the tendency to focus on adding resources perceived to be in short supply, instead of removing institutional obstacles —including those within the forest agency — to the proper use of existing resources.

The final issue involves the unintended consequences of social forestry intervention. These include redirection of the intervention as a result of bureaucratic resistance or negative feedback, and secondary consequences stemming from the dynamic responses by forests, forest communities, and forest agencies to changes in their relationship.

Key words

Asian forestry community/farm forestry deforestation institutional issues technology adoption 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson RS and Huber W (1988) The Hour of the Fox: Tropical Forests, the World Bank, and Indigenous People in Central India. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  2. Barber CV (1989) The state, the environment, and development: the genesis and transformation of social forestry policy in new order Indonesia. PhD dissertation, University of California. University Microfilms, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  3. Bateson G (1958) Naven. Stanford, Stanford University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Berggren WA and van Couvering JA (eds) (1984) Catastrophes and Earth's History. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  5. Brookfield H and Overton J (1988) How old is the deforestation of Oceania? In: Dargavel J, Dixon K and Semple N (eds) Changing Tropical Forests: Historical Perspectives on Today's Challenges in Asia, Australasia and Oceania, pp. 89–99. Australian National University, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell JY (1992) Joint forest managenent in India. Social Change 22(1): 36–54Google Scholar
  7. Carpenter C (1990) Women and livestock, fodder, and uncultivated land in Pakistan: a summary of role responsibilities. Society and Natural Resources 4: 65–79Google Scholar
  8. Cornista LB and Escueta EF (1990) Communal forest leases as a tenurial option in the Philippine uplands. In: Poffenberger M (ed) Keepers of the Forest: Land Management Alternatives in Southeast Asia, pp 134–144. Kumarian Press, West HartfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Cotgrove S (1982) Catastrophe or Cornucopia: The Environment, Politics and the Future. John Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  10. Devalle SBC (1993) Territory, forests, and historical continuity: indigenous rights and natural resources. In: Howard MC (ed) Asia's Environmental Crisis, pp 73–81. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  11. Dove MR (1990) Review article: socio-political aspects of home gardens in Java. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 21(1): 155–163Google Scholar
  12. Dove MR (1992) Forester's beliefs about farmers: a priority for social science research in social forestry. Agroforestry Systems 17: 13–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dove MR (1993a) A revisionist view of tropical deforestation and development. Environmental Conservation 20(1): 17–24, 56Google Scholar
  14. Dove MR (1993b) The coevolution of population and environment: the ecology and ideology of feedback relations in Pakistan. Population and Environment 15(2): 89–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dove MR and Khan MH (1995) Competing constructions of calamity: the case of the May 1991 Bangladesh cyclone. Population and Environment 16(5): 445–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downs A (1972) Up and down with ecology — the ‘issue-attention cycle’. Public Interest 28: 38–50Google Scholar
  17. Edelman M (1974) The political language of the helping professions. Politics and Society 4(3): 295–310Google Scholar
  18. Eleri EO (1994) Africa's decline and greenhouse politics. International Environmental Affairs 6(2): 133–148Google Scholar
  19. Gadgil M (1989) Deforestation: problems and prospects. Lokayan Bulletin 7: 11Google Scholar
  20. Gibbs C, Payuan E and del Castillo R (1990) The growth of the Philippine social forestry program. In: Poffenberger M (ed) Keepers of the Forest: Land Management Alternatives in Southeast Asia, pp 253–265. Kumarian Press, West HartfordGoogle Scholar
  21. Gould SJ and Eldredge N (1977) Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered. Paleobiology 3: 115–151Google Scholar
  22. Guha R (1990) The unquiet woods: ecological change and peasant resistance in the Himalaya. University of California Press. Berkeley (first published in 1989 by Oxford University Press)Google Scholar
  23. Haeuber R (1993) Development and deforestation: Indian forestry in perspective. The Journal of Development Areas 27: 485–514Google Scholar
  24. Hewitt K (1983) Climatic hazards and agricultural development: some aspects of the problem in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. In: Hewitt K (ed) Interpretations of Calamity, from the Viewpoint of Human Ecology, pp 181–201. Allen and Unwin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  25. Inman K (1992) Fueling expansion in the Third World: population, development, debt, and the global decline of forests. Society and Natural Resources 6: 17–39Google Scholar
  26. Jasanoff S (1993) India at the crossroads in global environmental policy. Global Environmental Change 3(1) (March): 32–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kemp K (1984) Accidents, acandals, and political support for regulatory agencies. The Journal of Politics 46(2): 401–427Google Scholar
  28. Khan M, Lewis DJ, Sabri AA and Shahabuddin MD (n.d.) NGO interactions with the public sector: the experience of Proshika's livestock and social forestry programme. ODI Agricultural Administration (Research and Extension) Network working paper 26Google Scholar
  29. Korten DF (1980) Community organization and rural development: a learning process approach. Public Administration Review (September/October): 480–511Google Scholar
  30. Kuznets S (1966) Modern Economic Growth. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  31. Machfud DS (1989) Social forestry in disputed upland areas in Java. In: Ramakrishna J and Fox J (eds) Voices from the Field: Second Annual Social Forestry Writing Workshop, pp 54–71. East-West Center, HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  32. Malhotra KC (1993) People, biodiversity and regenerating tropical sal (Shorea Robusta) forests in West Bengal. In: Hladik CM, Hladik A, Linares OF, Pagezy H and Semple A (eds) Tropical Forests, People and Food, pp 745–752. Man and Biosphere Series, Vol 13. UNESCO/ Parthenon, Paris/CarnforthGoogle Scholar
  33. Maruyama M (1963) The second cybernetics: deviation-amplifying mutual causal processes. American Scientist 51(2): 164–179Google Scholar
  34. Mather AS (1990) Global Forest Resources, pp 30–57, Timber Press, PortlandGoogle Scholar
  35. Menzies N (1993) Forest and Land Management in Imperial China. St. Martin's Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Mumford L (1967) Quality in the control of quantity. In: Ciriacy-Wantrup SV and Parsons JJ (eds) Natural Resources, Quality and Quantity, pp. 7–18, University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  37. Nesmith C (1991) Gender, trees, and fuel: social forestry in West Bengal, India. Human Organization 50(4): 337–348Google Scholar
  38. Pali S (1991) Participatory management of forests in West Bengal. Indian Forester 117(5): 342–349Google Scholar
  39. Panayotou T (1994) Empirical tests and policy analysis of environmental degradation at different stages of economic development. Pacific and Asian Journal of Energy 4(1): 23–42Google Scholar
  40. Poffenberger M and Peluso N (1989) Social forestry in Java: reorienting management systems. Human Organization 48(4): 333–343Google Scholar
  41. Pragtong and Thomas D (1990) Evolving management systems in Thailand. In: Poffenberger M (ed), Keepers of the Forest: Land Management Alternatives in Southeast Asia, pp 167–186. Kumarian Press, West HartfordGoogle Scholar
  42. Puntasen A, Siriprachai S and Punyasavatsut C (1993) The political economy of eucalyptus: Business, bureaucracy, and the Thai government. In: Howard MC (ed) Asia's Environmental Crisis, pp 155–167. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  43. Repetto R (1988) The forest for the trees: government policies and the misuse of forest resources. World Resources Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  44. Ross L (1988) Environmental Policy in China. University of Indiana Press, BloomingtonGoogle Scholar
  45. Shyamsunder S and Parameswarappa S (1987) Forestry in India — the forester's view. Ambio 16(6): 332–337Google Scholar
  46. Stoney C and Bratamihardja M (1990) Identifying appropriate agroforestry technologies in Java. In: Poffenberger M (ed), Keepers of the Forest: Land Management Alternatives in Southeast Asia, pp 145–160 Kumarian Press, West HartfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Timmerman P (1986) Mythology and surprise in the sustainable development of the biosphere. In: Clark WC and Munn RE (eds) Sustainable Development of the Biosphere, pp 435–453. Cambridge University Press for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Cambridge/LuxemburgGoogle Scholar
  48. Whitehead AN (1925) Science and the Modern World, Chapter 3, MacMillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Wiser W and Wiser C (1970) Behind Mud Walls, University of California, Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Dove
    • 1
  1. 1.Program on EnvironmentEast-West CenterHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations