[Table of Contents]

[Better Tools for
Forest Management


Criteria and Indicators


In 1998, CIFOR completed the initial four-year phase of its pioneering project to develop objective methods for determining whether forests are being managed sustainably. Known broadly as "criteria and indicators" (C&I), this work has generated so much interest in the forestry and conservation sectors that dozens of institutions and individuals around the world have teamed up with CIFOR to field test C&I for possible use in a wide range of forest settings.

The results of this work are closely followed by many national and international agencies that are struggling to discover ways of defining and measuring sustainability, and of making timber and forest product certification programmes viable. Some of the impetus comes from a recent push by the World Bank and the World Wide Fund for Nature to have 100 million hectares of tropical forest certified as sustainable by the year 2005.

"Criteria" are not measurement instruments but standards by which to judge the situation under study. "Indicators" are a means of measuring the realisation of the standards.

Indicators have long been an important instrument in the health, education and financial sectors, for monitoring potential problems and guiding the adoption of corrective measures and policy changes where needed. Similarly, criteria and indicators should make it possible to monitor the health and management of forests.

Biological vigour, as indicated by conditions such as levels of biodiversity, is one important gauge of sustainability. The development of C&I for biodiversity is one component of CIFOR’s research programme. But additional measures are needed to assess social conditions and the relationship between forest-dwelling people and the area they inhabit.

Because tropical forests are complex and varied, no "universal set" of C&I is possible. Instead, researchers must devise locally tailored sets of C&I that are appropriate for various settings, such as forests where logging concessions operate.

CIFOR’s C&I research programme, led by Dr. Ravi Prabhu and now part of a newly restructured programme headed by Dr. Carol J. Pierce Colfer, has focused largely on the development of indicators for social sustainability in relation to forest management. A major achievement in 1998 was the completion of a series of tools to guide the development of C&I. These include a generic template for constructing a minimum set of criteria and indicators, and a set of manuals. One example from that set is The BAG (The Basic Assessment Guide for Human Well-Being), which helps users draw on various social science methods for C&I development and assessment. The newest addition, CIMAT (Criteria and Indicators Modification and Adaptation Tool), is a computer-based model that integrates C&I related to production of goods and services, policy, social issues and ecology, and provides assistance to those wanting to incorporate community-based and other location-specific knowledge into C&I.

In 1998, CIFOR researchers described the results of ongoing work in several countries to devise appropriate and effective ways of assessing human well-being in a variety of forest settings. A key area of focus is the relative benefits accruing to various stakeholders at forest sites and related issues, such as the degree to which local people have "rights" in forest management and how those rights are allocated.

One study, for example, explored this issue at sites in Indonesia and Cameroon that were judged "forest rich" or "forest poor." The researchers found that while government and timber companies dominated access to cash-generating timber, local people chiefly had access to other forest resources. There were important variations in this distribution of benefits, and future work will analyse patterns that contribute to these differences.

Meanwhile, at a workshop in March sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, a group of biodiversity experts, including geneticists and ecologists, discussed key issues in efforts to develop C&I for biodiversity assessment. In 1998 CIFOR’s research in this area changed its emphasis to focus more on broader issues of biodiversity, in line with the centre’s overall biodiversity research programme. Major undertakings in 1998 included the preparation of a literature review of critical thresholds of biodiversity C&I, as well as planning for field tests that were scheduled to begin in mid-1999.