Small-scale & Traditional Logging

In contrast to large-scale and commercial logging operations, in many parts of the world logging takes place at much smaller scales. Compared to large-scale or industrial logging practices, small-scale logging is more likely to involve selective logging or removal of small areas of trees (such as for shifting agriculture) rather than large scale clearcuts. However, even with lower intensity of timber removal, small-scale or selective logging can still have direct negative impacts on forest wildlife and remnant trees if certain felling practices, such as those in Reduced Impact Logging, are not utilized.

In developing countries, particularly those in the tropical zone, significant proportions of the population are engaged in logging for subsistence purposes, such as to provide fuelwood, construction materials, or income. In many cases, this type of logging is technically illegal according to national laws or international standards, but still practiced due to poor enforcement or lack of alternative livelihood options.  For instance, small-scale logging is a significant source of income for forest communities in Cameroon, Ghana and other countries in West and Central Africa, and supplies local and regional markets. While such artisanal logging or informal chainsaw milling may be illegal, governments do not have the capacity or incentive to regulate or enforce this informal industry.

There have been increasing trends of decentralizing states’ role in controlling forests and increasing the role of local society. This process of decentralization may be enacted by granting control to local government units or community forestry programs. In some cases, government agencies may grant logging concessions to smallholders, in order to increase tax revenues. However, while such practices may be legal, they are not necessarily sustainable. In some cases, the costs of formalization of are often too high for the people engaged small-scale logging, leading to a continuation of ecologically unsustainable practices.

Despite the potential challenges and shortcomings of decentralizing forest management and logging practice, due to limited local capacity or governance in some countries, “community forestry,”  where community forest users manage and protect state-owned forests, is being increasingly regarded as a means of improving equity, capacity, and livelihoods for rural communities in proximity to forests. It is also considered that community forestry may offer better sustainable management, due to greater emphasis on multi-use functions of forest, such as for food, non-timber forest products (NTFPs), medicines, timber, and ecosystem services. For example, community forestry programs overall in Nepal have succeeded in improving forest cover and biodiversity conservation via reforestation efforts. However, challenges exist due to a variety of factors ranging from the definition of the “community” as a managing unit (which is not always a defined legal entity), to limitations in technical knowledge or political will. Overall, the lack of national data in regions such as Southeast Asia or sub-Saharan Africa prevents any broad generalizations about the efficacy of community-based forest management.


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