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Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 63 (1997) 1-16

Agriculture at


Indigenous exploitation and management of tropical forest resources: an evolutionary continuum in forest-people interactions
K.F. W i e r s u m *
Department of Forestry, Wageningen Agricultural University, PO Box 342, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Accepted 13 November 1996Abstract

Since the early 1980s several new approaches towards forest management, which include active participation of local communities, have been tried out in many tropical regions. As a result of these efforts recognition has increased about the various ways in which many local communities are already actively managing their forest resources. The planning of development interventions tostimulate more efficient community involvement in forest management can often be based on such indigenous forest management systems. This paper aims to improve the understanding about the diversity and dynamics of indigenous forest management. The analysis consists of three parts. First an overview of the various types of indigenous forest management and their dynamics is presented. Subsequently, thebasic principles of forest management are discussed. Forest management is characterized as involving a set of both technical activities and social arrangements for the protection and utilization of forest resources and the distribution of forest products. Three major categories of forest management practices are identified, e.g. controlled utilization of forest products, protection and maintenance offorest stands, and purposeful regeneration. The practices in the first category are both socially and biologically oriented, whereas the activities of the last two categories are biologically oriented. These principles are then used to develop a classification model of the various evolutionary phases in forest management. Along the lines of a similar model developed for exploitation ofagricultural crops, various stages of forest management are distinguished along a gradient of increasing input of human energy per unit of exploited forest. This gradient represents a continuum of forest-people interactions; it illustrates how the various manifestations of indigenous forest management may be arranged along a nature-culture continuum.© 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.
Keywords: Community forestry;Forest management; Forest use dynamics; Domestication of landscapes

1. Introduction

Since the early 1980s various new approaches towards forest management, in which local communities are more actively involved, have been tried out

* Tel: +31-317-482545; fax: +31-317-483542; Freerk.Wiersum@ BHHK.BOSB.WAU.NL.


in several tropical countries. These efforts reflect a growinginterest in the scope of community participation in forest management. This interest has emerged in response to concerns that have arisen relatively independently in the fields of forestry, nature conservation and development of tribal people (e.g. Allegretti, 1990; Poffenberger, 1990; Arnold, 1991; Nepstad and Schwartman, 1992; Redford and

0167-8809/97/$17.00 Copyright © 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.All rights reserved. PII S 0 1 6 7 - 8 8 0 9 ( 9 6 ) 0 1 1 2 4 - 3


K.F. Wiersum/Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 63 (1997) 1-16

Padoch, 1992; Colchester and Lohmann, 1993; Wells and Brandon, 1993). Although the scope for community involvement in forest management has only recently been recognized by foresters, ecologists and rural development experts, various types of communityforest management have been in existence for centuries. In the past these management systems were rarely taken seriously by scientists and professionals. However, the growing interest in the scope for community forest management has led to an increased interest for indigenous forest management. Several recent studies have indicated that local people living in or near forests should not a priori...
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