PROSPER is currently assisting the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to implement the “nine steps” required to set up Authorized Forest Communities in eight pilot sites. As is now clear, establishing an Authorized Forest Community will take significant resources, time, and technical expertise. The FDA must verify that a community has met all regulatory requirements, but it is also supposed to assist communities with developing management and administrative structures to govern forest resources. Chapter 5, “Duties And Powers Of The Forestry Development Authority,” of the Community Rights Law (CRL), establishes that the FDA should support communities with “technical assistance and support for management of forest resources” directly, or by helping them identify other suitable partners. It specifically mentions the need to assist communities “document community forest resources,” help establish “forest management structures,” and provide “minimum standards for and assist in drafting model forest management plans, forest rules, forest agreements and other technical documents for use by [Community Forest Management Bodies] CFMBs.”
Given that the FDA is already overburdened, it is sensible to consider how others may be able to assist communities in the “nine steps.” Although the CRL is silent on the issue of whether third parties are permitted to assist communities in this process, the FDA arguably has the power to authorize additional modes of support. The implementing regulations of the CRL (the “Regulations) already provide limited opportunities for “other sources” (Chapter 4, Section 10), “institutions, donors, or individuals with skills in community forest management” (Chapter 8, Section 1), and “donors and third parties” (Chapter 10, Section 2), to assist communities. However, these relate to “preparing Forest Management Plans, enhancing the knowledge and skills of Community Forest Management Body members and implementing community forestry programs” (Chapter 4, Section 10 of the Regulations), all of which take place once the “nine steps” have essentially been completed. This policy brief seeks to determine whether third parties should actually be able to assist communities through the nine steps, and, if so, whether existing arrangements should be altered.