This paper is the main output of a research project initiated by Pyoe Pin, and led by ECCDI with support from the University of East Anglia, whose aim has been to fill the gap in knowledge over the progress of Community Forestry in Myanmar through a systematic study. This paper presents the key data and findings, and offers policy recommendations based on these.
Of Myanmar‟s 67.6 m ha land area, forests currently cover around 48%, although there has been a declining trend for the last century (they covered over 65% early in the 20th Century). The declining trend is particularly dramatic for dense forests, which have more than halved in the last twenty years, from covering 45.6% of land in 1990, the single largest land use, to now just 19.9%.
The long -term decline in forests, is due to a combination of factors; change of land use (especially land hunger from the growing population), commercial timber harvesting (and the indirect effect of increasing accessibility through road construction), and also intensifying pressure on remaining forests for livelihood needs especially fuelwood.
Unleashing the potential of community forestry enterprises in Myanmar will increase local incomes and government revenues, and incentivise local people to manage and restore forests. Without enlisting the help of rural communities in these efforts, it is likely that forest loss will continue and the contribution of forests to the rural economy will continue to decline.
This report presents field research highlighting particularly promising community forestry enterprise options that can be integrated successfully with existing agricultural systems. The report urges a more concerted effort towards the government’s Forest Master Plan target of 918,000 hectares of community forestry (2.8% of the total forest area) by 2030, which are drastically behind schedule. It also recommends raising tenfold the level of government ambition by introducing a new target of allocating 25 per cent of the total area of Myanmar forest to communities – matching roughly the global average for forest controlled by local groups. Doing this by 2030 could make six million people forest user group members and make community forest enterprises a genuine engine of rural economic growth.
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