Filipinos ’think locally, act locally’


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Anyone who has ever lived in a small town knows how quickly information can spread there. Everyone seems to know everything. Why in the world would they need a formal system to monitor what goes on?

But to get people to mull over their situation and make plans collectively requires more than just casual conversations. The different local organizations need to have a sense of where they are, where they want to go and how to get there. They must also convince the central authorities to support them. That calls for facts and figures and serious thinking.

Researchers and NGOs have been developing methods to help local organizations and communities do these things. These can be powerful tools for improving forest management, as well as for community development.

’Collective Action and Learning in Developing a Local Monitoring System’ analyzes one attempt to apply these tools to community forest management in the Philippines. Herlina Hartanto from CIFOR and Maria Cristina Lorenzo and Anita Frito from the University of the Philippines in Los Baños recently published it in the International Forestry Review.

The article focuses on three villages in Palawan where the Filipino government has entrusted a local cooperative with 5,000 hectares of forest. The authors participated in a team that assisted the cooperative and encouraged ties between the cooperative and the government forestry department, local governments and NGOs, a women’s group, a fishermen’s association, and the provincial council for sustainable development.

The team first held workshops to discuss the various groups’ visions for the future, plan activities, and create a joint framework for monitoring progress. In the workshops the cooperative agreed to monitor the harvesting of timber, rattan, and resin, the municipal environment office said it would monitor illegal forestry activities, and the women’s association offered to monitor the prices, costs, and markets for handicrafts. The groups later shared the information collected through meetings, newsletters, and bulletin boards.

As a result of these efforts, cooperative members now feel better informed about their organization’s activities and participate more actively. The fishermen and women’s associations, the teachers, youth, and health workers, who had never been concerned with forestry issues, have also become interested and involved; and the cooperative has begun to consult all these groups about its forest management plan. Community members have learned more about how to handle illegal forestry activities and how to market their handicrafts more effectively.

No one says it has been easy. The community organizations have somewhat distinct concerns from the government agencies. People sometimes have trouble analyzing the data they produce. Some groups are more committed to the process than others.

Still, the results are encouraging. Thinking locally has led to acting locally, and it does not stop there. When people act they monitor what happens and think about what they find. Then they act some more.


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Further reading

Click to download the free electronic copy of this paper in English

To send comments or queries to the authors you can write Herlina Hartanto at