Government and NGO staff learn how tenure rights are the foundation for good forest governance

Strong and clear tenure rights are essential for sustainable management of forested landscapes. In a recent course, staff from government and non-governmental organizations developed plans to strategize and initiate tenure reform in their own countries across Southeast Asia.

Tenure rights are the legal and customary institutions and relationships that govern access to land and resources. They determine who owns the land and how resources are used and managed. Often, communities face many challenges to securing legal tenure rights. These include access to information, top-down decision making, lack of trust among stakeholders, limited consensus on what tenure rights encompass, as well as persecution and violence.

Course participants analyzed these challenges, different forms of tenure rights and the links between good forest governance and tenure rights. All participants created action plans to strengthen the tenure rights of communities in their countries.

“This training is very important in helping us do our work successfully, especially in supporting rural communities,” said Khamla Sinthavong, deputy head of village forest management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Lao PDR. “Clear and strong tenure not only helps the government achieve our targets of increasing forest cover and ending poverty, but also provides security to communities so they can protect and benefit from their forests.”

Participants from Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam plan to replicate this course at national levels in their countries. Jennifer Anak Frances, assistant director in the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources in Peninsular Malaysia will use the training as part of a “roadshow” to support reform processes related to forest tenure in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Social forestry exists in a small scale in Sabah, and we are just starting to set up a framework in Peninsular Malaysia,” she said. “When I joined the training, I thought that Malaysia did not have any issues with tenure rights, but through exercises and experiences from other countries, I realized that Malaysia might have significant challenges.”  

The Center for People and Forests conducted this course, titled “Strong and clear tenure rights for good forest governance,” in the Nan province of Thailand. Participants from eight countries in Southeast Asia attended the course. The course covered the theory, concepts and tools necessary for providing clear and strong tenure rights. The participants also conducted field visits in Baan Pang Kob village in the Dong Paya sub-district of Nan.

The course was supported by the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation) and the European-Union funded Voices for Mekong Forests project. For more on our courses, training approaches and learning resources, visit the Learning Services section of our website.