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ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC)

community forestry


Tropical forests in South East Asia are under great pressure. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change and its adverse impacts, not least due to its heavy reliance on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other natural resources. Of its population of 600 million, about 70 million people are dependent on forests for their livelihood. As an estimated 17.4% of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation and forest degradation, sustainable forest management is critical to the realisation of an outwardlooking ASEAN Community with economies that are vibrant, competitive and highly integrated, and an inclusive community that is embedded with a strong sense of togetherness and common identity.

Social forestry is an effective and transformative approach when it comes to improving livelihoods of communities, preventing deforestation and restore forest ecosystems – which are essential carbon sinks.

The long-lived ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC) is a partnership programme with the ten Member States of ASEAN and the Government of Switzerland, via the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Partnership aims to simultaneously address poverty alleviation, food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation at local, national and regional level in ASEAN by focusing on the role of local people and communities to conserve, protect, and manage forest resources sustainably. It does this via the ASEAN Multi-sectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security (AFCC) and the ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN). Specifially the partnership aims to:

  1. Develop and integrate social forestry approaches into the climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies of ASEAN and the Member States; and
  2. Derive socio-economic benefits from the inclusion of communities, women and vulnerable groups in social forestry and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

The partnership, which came to a close in Febuary 2020, has generated extensive knowledge and resources on sustainable forest management practices, strengthened communities and provided instrumental guidance for ASEAN member states for the formulation of social forestry policies and programmes. This article summarises the key outcomes of the partnership.

What is social forestry?

Local communities use and manage forests throughout the world for subsistence, trade and cultural purposes. In Southeast Asia, close to 140 million people generate livelihoods from forests.

Social forestry is an approach that balances the needs of local people with multiple external interests. Social forestry:

  • Engages communities living in and around forests in sustainable forest use and management
  • Empowers communities by raising awareness, building capacity, developing policies with local people, and recognizing their rights and systems of knowledge
  • Provides communities with benefits and access to forest resources in return for participating in sustainable forest management

In this context, social forestry broadly refers to any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity. It includes: 1) the use of forests by individuals or households for subsistence and cash, and 2) community management of forest where a group of local people collaboratively manage forests either independently or with external support.

Learn more about social forestry and Effective, Efficient and Equitable (3E) criteria for determining the success of a policy or program here.

The ASFCC approach

ASFCC has five implementing partners: RECOFTC, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). These partners conducted research, provided policy advice, implemented training, funded pilot projects, organized learning exchanges and supported deliberation among forest stakeholders from governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and communities.

ASFCC consists of three basic components: (1) social forestry policy framework development; (2) knowledge sharing, capacity building and networking; and (3) learning interventions, research and assessment. Working closely with the ASEAN Secretariat and in collaboration with GIZ, ASFCC has contributed to ASEAN’s Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security and to the regional Plan of Action on Forestry Cooperation.

ASFCC has been implemented in three phases: Phase I in 2011-2013, Phase II in 2014-2016 and Phase III in 2017-2020.

Key ASFCC outputs

ASFCC closing event toolkit

This toolkit contains presentations from the closing event of the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC) held at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, 25-26 February 2020. These presentations summarise key work undertaken by ASFCC, including on social forestry trends, promoting gender equity and empowerment, up-scaling social fprestry implementation and finance for forest and farm producer organizations.

The Knowledge Tree

The Knowledge Tree is an online platform allowing practitioners to easily navigate a rich source of knowledge about social forestry practices in Southeast Asia based on the context, interests and needs. It provides ideas, concepts, evidence and tools to help users to better understand the context in which social forestry operates, and to tailor effective, efficientand equitable (3E) social forestry to a specific context.

Key publications

This is a selection of numerous resources produced by ASFCC. Find the full list of ASFCC resources here.

  • Ensuring social forestry delivers through participatory action research (2020). This policy brief discusses the opportunities and challenges facing social forestry in Southeast Asia and recommends that ASEAN Member States, universities and international research organizations mainstream participatory action research (PAR) in social forestry to overcome these challenges and maximize these opportunities.
  • Community Forestry Participatory Assessment: A Guide for Practitioners (2020). This illustrated guide lays out a detailed, easy-to-follow participatory assessment method that ensures local people who use forests are directly involved.
  • ASEAN Guidelines for Agroforestry Development (2018). These guidelines outline 14 principles accompanied by 74 guidelines and five implementation considerations. They were adopted by the region’s ministers of agriculture and forestry in October 2018 and seek to provide technical support to ASEAN Member States pursuing agroforestry development.
  • Social Forestry and Climate Change in the ASEAN Region (2017). Part of a series of reports on the status of social forestry and its role in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the ASEAN region, this analysis presents the most up-to-date government data available on social forestry and climate change at national and regional levels, and identifies key changes and developments during the last three years.
  • The Role of Community Forestry in Climate Change Adaptation in the ASEAN Region (2016). This paper summarizes key discussions from the 1st ASFCC Learning Group workshop organized by RECOFTC in August 2015. The discussions highlight a number of ways community forestry can support local communities in adapting to climate change.

ASFCC stories and news

You can read numerous ASFCC stories here, including on moving from opium and conflict to ecotourism and cooperation and financing forest landscape restoration in Asia and beyond.

You can find ASFCC news stories here, including on the numerous knowledge exchange and training events between policy makers, NGOs and communities that have helped inform policy and practice.

Outcomes and impacts

  • From 2010 to 2020, the number of hectares managed by local communities under social forestry doubled in ASEAN. This achievement is the result of new laws and policies introduced by ASEAN Member States and supported by ASFCC.
  • In the past 10 years, ASEAN Member States have seen a 100 percent increase in the amount of forests managed by local communities under social forestry. A growing body of evidence suggests that social forestry has had positive economic, social and environmental impacts across the region.
  • Today, many countries in ASEAN have adopted or are about to adopt new or significantly revised social forestry laws, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. These significant policy achievements have been accompanied by institutional changes. Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam have all restructured certain ministries to support social forestry. These countries have provided clear mandates, roles and budgets to social forestry units within the ministries responsible for forestry.

“This work brought together people, often for the first time, to hear each other’s opinions and understand the evidence presented by organizations involved in the partnership,” said Doris Capistrano, senior advisor to ASFCC, at the ASFCC closing event. “This, in turn, has led to widespread improvements in policies and practices across the region.”

Remaining challenges

Yet challenges remain for social forestry in ASEAN. Economic growth in the region is rising rapidly, and at an uneven pace, driving conflict over land use and migration. For many communities across ASEAN, land tenure still remains weak and unclear. These challenges significantly undermine the ability of governments to implement and expand social forestry initiatives.

But challenges in tenure and implementation remain to be overcome.

Next steps

At the closing event, ASEAN Member States, ASFCC partners and AWG-SF declared their commitment to overcome these challenges. Their plans, according to the Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation in Social Forestry (2021-2025), will focus on securing tenure, integrating forestry into the climate change sector, and strengthening human resources as well as ASEAN’s ability to tackle these problems through joint mechanisms.