Current status of Social Forestry in climate change adaptation and mitigation in ASEAN region

May 2014

This report covers eight ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia (particularly the state of Sabah), Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam). The report examines the current status of social forestry in climate mitigation and adaptation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and aims to update the Initial Baseline Assessment on Social Forestry and Climate Change published in 2010. Additionally, the paper seeks to facilitate information sharing within the region, and the continued development of policies and programmes through providing up-to-date information to all stakeholders. Covering eight countries in the ASEAN region, the research for the report was collected through desk-based research, reviews of national laws and policies, and technical reports.

The report found that forest cover in the ASEAN region is slightly less than 200 million ha, with deforestation resulting in the loss of around 1.2 million ha annually. Indonesia and Myanmar are experiencing the greatest rate of loss, while Vietnam and the Philippines actually increased the amount of forest coverage. Average temperature rise, sea-level rise, and increased and more severe extreme weather events have all been noted, while precipitation has greater regional variation. Seasonal patterns are also becoming increasingly difficult to predict. Social forestry programmes have continued to grow since 2010, with the area of land allocated to local people having increased by more than 2 million ha to a 2013 total of 8.8 million ha. This is particularly notable in Cambodia, where the figure has increased by 61 per cent, and in Thailand by 154.2 per cent. In terms of actual transference of land however, progress is slow, with less than 10% of allocated lands having been transferred in Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

In terms of adaptation and mitigation, considerable progress has been made in the region. The majority of countries have a climate change strategy supported by high-level offices, though implementation of these strategies still require significant scaling-up. A number of factors impede the rapid expansion of social forestry, including legal frameworks, complex land allocation processes, overly restrictive and bureaucratic rules, and limited financial capacity at the local level. Allocating better quality land to generate greater social and economic benefits, simplifying allocation processes, and extra support for adaptation and resilience building would go a long way to resolving the issues that have arisen. If progress in this direction can be achieved, the report suggests that there is great potential for social forestry to contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as meeting the basic, immediate needs of the local communities themselves. 

The information on forest cover and social forestry is based primarily on the latest data from national governments, provided by the members of the ASEAN–Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change Learning Group.