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Improving the Lives of People in Forests

About the Task Force

The purpose of this website, developed by IUFRO’s Task Force on Improving the Lives of People in forests, is to make widely available information and materials that can be more widely used to improve such people’s lives.

The five year Task Force was established to respond to the widely held perception that people who live in and around forests have not received sufficient attention and that their ways of life and standard of living have been adversely affected by this neglect. There is some agreement that such neglect interferes with the beneficial management of forests as well. There was further a sense that many people whose decisions affect those dwelling in or near forests would like to attend more carefully to them, but do not have the understanding or the conceptual and methodological tools with which to do so.

This website contributes to addressing this felt need. We have categorized the materials into tools and methods, teaching materials and analyses and actions. We provide cases, other websites, manuals, films, and a wide variety of materials that we believe can contribute to making life better for those living in forests.

IUFRO Task Force: Improving People’s Lives in Forests


There is a growing global recognition that communities living in and near forests tend to be under-recognized and under-served. This Task Force will proceed from the belief that forest communities, in the broadest terms (including those within and those near to forests), represent an important global treasure that has yet to be acknowledged and therefore have yet to find the support they deserve. On the one hand, forest peoples represent a resource that can benefit others; and on the other, they are actors whose involvement in management and governance decisionmaking is critical, both practically and in terms of global justice. To accomplish this, forest peoples’ rights must be better recognized, their capabilities and potential contributions must be activated and they themselves must be empowered to participate meaningfully in formal forest management. The Task Force will examine and experiment with various approaches to recognizing forest peoples’ ‘agency’ (ability to act) and catalyzing the potential of these forest communities in improving both human well being and forest management using rights-based approaches.

Terms of Reference:

The Task Force recognizes the existence of a growing body of experience and literature on processes that can catalyze and empower forest communities. There is a need for more effective sharing of these perspectives, findings, and experiences among researchers already engaged in such efforts; and there is a need for dissemination of this group’s findings to personnel in other, more conventional forestry institutions. In our efforts, we will not spend a great deal of time focusing on failures (though we would expect to acknowledge them and try to learn from them). Instead, we will be seeking what Ravi Prabhu has called the “upscaling of small successes.” We anticipate that many of the successes in working with communities will be small on a global scale, but that they will provide key insights that are applicable more widely. There is also an important need to develop better mechanisms to share community research findings with policymakers and implementers. One avenue that has only begun, but which we believe has potential for expansion, is the conduct of action research with policymakers. Although the group’s focus will be on communities, we will also address issues that transcend the local, such as global trends and policy dilemmas, insofar as they impinge on local communities. Examples might include the controversy over fortress style conservation vs. ICDPs, the significance of population issues in people’s lives, possible conflicts between equity and tradition, or the impacts of policy change in one part of the world on forest peoples in another area.

The primary foci of the Task Force will be:

  • To provide a platform---particularly available to people within the forest research community---for international exchange of experience in the efforts to improve people’s lives in and around forests
  • To share lessons learned more widely through publication of findings in forms more readily available to the wider forestry community
  • To encourage forestry researchers, trainers, officials, and field personnel to incorporate human well being concerns in their own research, through collaborative arrangements, improved curricula, and/or through expansion of their own expertise.
  • To stimulate the development of new and better approaches, through continued dialogue and cross-fertilization among researchers, practitioners, communities, and other concerned parties.
  • To strengthen interdisciplinary approaches to addressing problems that plague the people – forest connection and to building on successes in this realm.
  • To report to IUFRO in whatever mode and with whatever regularity the IUFRO leadership deems most useful.

The International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) has constituted a special IUFRO Task Force on ‘Improving the Lives of People in Forests’. One of the activities of this Task Force --- which will remain in existence until 2010 --- is to pull together materials that will help others work more effectively with peoples living in and around forests.

We welcome suggested additions to this website (and suggestions for improvements) from readers.

Please contact:

Carol J. Pierce Colfer
Task Force Leader