Perceptions and terminology: the case of forest plantations

Actual practices or terminology: what matters most to stakeholders’ perceptions of plantation forests? At CIFOR Indonesia.

Planted forests encompass a great variety of ecosystems and modes of management. It is common to oppose multifunctional and smallholder plantations to industrial, large-scale and intensively-managed forest plantations. These oppositions go beyond negative perceptions that would be associated to industrial plantations – understood here as plantations operated at a large scale under centralized private management and aimed at supplying national or international markets. Indeed, the latter’s alleged capacity to mobilize capital and modern technologies to reach high levels of productivity and meeting the demand for fuel and fiber is also praised.

Assuming that timber production from planted forests will have to increase if the future demand of timber is to be satisfied, the proper mobilization of funding and acceptance by a number of stakeholders will have to be secured. This aim can hardly be achieved if forest plantations develop in a context where perceptions are not aligned with the reality of land uses that are implemented on the ground. It is not argued that large-scale monoculture plantations should be promoted for their claimed positive aspects; but having diverse management practices with diverse impacts on the environmental and socio-economic local and national conditions might be well-recognized and reflected in terminology and discourses that largely determine perceptions by stakeholders.

The intern will therefore review existing studies of perceptions about planted forests and plantations, and make connections between stakeholders’ perceptions and the types of plantations that are targeted as well as the terms used to qualify these. The main research question will be: “Actual practices or terminology: what matters most to stakeholders’ perceptions of plantation forests?”.

Requirements and deliverables

The internship is expected to last for about 5 months, in spring-summer 2014. The intern will be based in CIFOR Headquarters in Indonesia. The intern will have a background in forestry and social sciences. The compulsory final product of this research will be an MSc report. Another publication should also be pursued as an objective depending on progress made over the course of the internship, policy brief or scientific article.