Managing the consequences of timber legality standards on local livelihoods (Ghana and Indonesia)

The conservation and wise use of tropical forest resources is of global concern. Recently, the international debate has been focusing on the issue of illegal logging and the legality of timber as a contribution to sustainable management of forests. This is reflected in the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative launched by the EU.

Part of the initiative is the development of voluntary partnership agreements (VPA) with a number of important timber trade partner countries. Central to the VPA processes, and future VPA-based timber trade, is the use of (broadly accepted) Timber Legality Standard (TLS) in producer countries. Four pilot VPAs are currently being negotiated in Ghana, Indonesia, Cameroon and Malaysia. Success of the VPAs requires the process to include wider social and environmental issues around forestry. An important question, which has been largely overlooked in FLEGT processes so far, is: how will the enforcement of agreed TLS affect the lives of rural communities, especially those dependent on timber extraction and trade for their livelihoods?

The proposed action aims to strengthen livelihood considerations in forest policy development to enhance its effective implementation. The short term objective of the action is to develop broadly supported governance mechanisms that manage the consequences of VPA legal timber legality standards on local livelihoods and to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders to (re)negotiate institutional arrangements for sustainable resource use in Ghana and Indonesia. The three year program proposes an action research contribution to current VPA negotiations and forest management reforms in Ghana and Indonesia through developing mechanisms for improved policy dialogue and stakeholder participation in a limited number of pilots. In Ghana, the research will take place at national level and in eight communities in the High Forest Zone, as selected for the EU-funded project on chainsaw lumbering. To put the results from Ghana into a wider context, a comparative analysis will be carried out in Indonesia with studies both at the national level and in East Kalimantan Province.

The conceptual framework for this proposed research is the landscape approach as a tool for multi-stakeholder planning. Landscape-level approaches are increasingly recognized as integrated planning approaches for natural resources management that link community interests with the wider national and regional perspectives of natural resource management. They represent a variety of innovative approaches that attempt to merge ecosystem thinking with
multi-stakeholder processes for promotion of more equitable and sustainable development and good natural resources governance. Given the complexity and the conflictuous nature of the logging issue in both Ghana and Indonesia, the action research will support a social learning process among the involved stakeholders. The trans-disciplinary approach brings scientific and local knowledge and insight of stakeholders together in an iterative process of strategic planning. The added value lies in the increased understanding of (longer term) implications and the consequent ownership of negotiated solutions.

Four work packages support the multi-stakeholder dialogue process at local and national level. WP1 and WP2 provide analytical tools and methods for enhanced understanding among stakeholders of the livelihood strategies and their impact on the landscape. WP1 will provide participatory methodologies and tools for optimising land use planning and ecosystem goods and services under various scenarios, such as VPA implementation. WP2 will contribute insights in the
impact of TLS enforcement on livelihood strategies and the relevant governance mechanisms at stake. In the final stage of the project, the results of these WPs will be up scaled to be of use for other VPA processes. WP3 supports capacities for facilitation and action learning among all the partners ensuring the integration of lessons learnt and adjustments in line with policy development. Through WP4 a communication initiative will engage researchers, policy makers and the wider public in an ongoing dialogue to ensure that the project results will be disseminated to as well as accepted and up taken by policy makers. Research, capacity building and institutional strengthening are interlinked components of the project.

The 12 partners involved in the project have complementary backgrounds and expertise. The selection of the partners has been made based upon scientific expertise, practical experience in the VPA discussions and processes, and representation in the South: Ghana and Indonesia are two of the four pilot countries in the EU VPA negotiations. The organizations have also been
selected based on existing working relationships between partners, which are extensive. In Ghana, the action will be embedded in the TBI-Ghana programme and its extensive local network. The scientific quality of this project is ensured as it addresses the three key issues of credibility, transparency and applicability. It also addresses two of the three WUR priorities: environment and livelihoods. Through assessing the impact of timber legality standards on livelihoods and through developing governance mechanisms to deal with this impact, this
proposal also addresses the WUR priority theme of ‘governance’. Finally, through the comparative analysis and a senior consultancy at the end of the project, the lessons from this project will be up-scaled to international level.

The action is clearly demand driven. Ghana envisages creating an environment that promotes sustainable forest management, improved rural livelihoods and good governance with the VPA process. The action will target the demands of the VPA process specifically in Ghana to strengthen the evolving multi-stakeholder platform and other governance mechanisms, to minimize conflicts among stakeholders in the sector, and to build capacity in how to use trans-disciplinary research to inform policy developments. Also in Indonesia it is acknowledged that current forest law enforcement unfairly targets small-scale operators such as local communities. The governance mechanisms that will be developed through this project will ensure empowerment of local communities and other stakeholders to participate in policy development aiming at sustainable forest management and improved livelihoods. In this way it contributes to MDG 1 and 7 and DGIS policy.