Celebrating 30 years of community forestry

Celebrating 30 years of community forestry

Empowering people for healthy forests since 1987


2017 marks RECOFTC's 30th anniversary. Over the past three decades, RECOFTC and our partners have worked together to secure community forestry in Asia, resulting in more community forests, effective people-centered land policies, poverty reduction, and healthier forests. 


In the 1970s, forests in Asia were rapidly disappearing, and along with it the livelihoods of millions local people. Internationally, there was growing recognition that government-controlled forestry wasn't effective in many countries. Community forestry provided a solution, and began to spread to a growing number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. However, it became clear that a lack of technical knowledge, skills, and effective approaches were hindering policy-making and implementation of community forests.


In Thailand, Dr. Somsak Sukwong, Kasetsart University, Faculty of Forestry, recognized this and began to develop a community forestry curriculum which received support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The project grew and on 27 March 1987, RECOFTC (Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific) was established in Bangkok, Thailand. Support came from FAO, the Government of Switzerland (through the Asian Development Bank), and Thailand's Kasetsart University.


RECOFTC initially operated as a Thai national institute to provide training on community forestry to regional forestry practitioners. It has since evolved into an international organization with seven country offices and eight focal countries where it works actively with governments and civil society organizations to improve the lives of forest-dependent people through climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable livelihoods, and preventing and transforming conflict over forestland use. Capacity development, training, and learning events remain central to RECOFTC’s work, together with on-the-ground projects, critical issue analysis, and strategic communication. At present, RECOFTC is managing numerous regional and national projects in countries in Asia and beyond.


Over the past 30 years, RECOFTC has worked to secure the rights of local communities over forest resources and to increase their participation in forest management to ensure optimum social, economic, and environmental benefits. RECOFTC has trained more than 50,000 people from over 40 countries , >30% of whom are women, and been largely successful in developing meaningful partner capacities, contributing to: 
  • More than 100 legislative instruments have been enacted as a result of support from RECOFTC, resulting in improved forest tenure and livelihood security of local people 
  • The establishment of national-level Community Forestry Working Groups in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar, and the regional ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN) 
  • Networks of local-level community forestry groups established in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, and Viet Nam 
  • More than 5.3 million families are  participating in CF in the region
  • Over 38,000 community forestry user groups have been established in focal countries
  • There are now approximately 15 million ha of forest land under community/smallholder management in the region
  • Learn more about RECOFTC's impacts through this infographic highlighting our overarching achievements.

As a result of solid achievements, strong demand for community forestry support from governments and CSOs and donor support for regional and country programs continue to grow in the region. RECOFTC is proud of its reputation as the leading organization for building community forestry capacity in many ASEAN countries. We have much to celebrate and much to look forward to, including ensuring that continued successful community forests contributes toward achieving multiple sustainable development goals (SDGs). We look forward to the next 30 years of empowering local people and building a fairer future for all.


Watch a brief video timeline of RECOFTC's history since 1987, and learn how RECOFTC and our partners have contributed to more community forests, improved people-centered land policies, poverty reduction, and healthier forests in Asia over the past 30 years. 


Events and activities 


In celebration of our 30th Anniversary in 2017, RECOFTC is holding events around the region throghout the year. These include: