Anatomy of a Peoples' Rights Movement:A Case Study of the Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (SAFI)(W-103)

Anatomy of a Peoples' Rights Movement:A Case Study of the Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (SAFI)(W-103)

Publication details

  • Sunday | 01 May, 2005
  • Shaheen Rafi Khan, Moeed Yusuf
  • Working Papers
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Shaheen Rafi Khan, Moeed Yusuf (SDPI)Riaz Ahmed (SUNGI) April 2006  

The Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (SAFI), arguably, represents the only formal attempt to engage in forestry reform advocacy and political activism. Given the importance of developing an understanding of the factors that may lead to the success of peoples’ movements in Pakistan, we conduct a careful evaluation of SAFI’s impact on the forestry reform process and, in general, in terms of sustainable forest management.

SAFI is active in the Malakand and Hazara divisions of NWFP, and in the Southern District and Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The rapidly eroding capability of the State to manage its forests amicably and its consequent impact upon communities and the environment  provided the backdrop for an organization like SAFI.


SAFI emerged with two broad objectives. The first was to mobilize community resistance against the excesses committed by the large forest owners, the contractors and the forest department. The second objective was to convert such mobilization into a critical mass for policy advocacy. SAFI’s successes can be assessed at three levels: policy advocacy, organized resistance and management interventions. In terms of policy advocacy, SAFI has created widespread awareness about the forestry reforms, engaging with communities and other relevant stakeholders in consultations and discussions. SAFI also conducted successful organized resistance in Hazara and Dir-Kohistan to support the cause of the disempowered communities.  It has also made management interventions bringing the realization among public functionaries that partnership with communities offers prospects for sustainable management of forests.

SAFI’s experience provides valuable lessons for broader peoples’ movements in the country. The organization’s experience underscores the need for such movements to involve an extremely broad set of stakeholders in consultations. It further highlights the need for a sufficiently large, formally trained membership base, especially if a movement draws upon volunteers as SAFI does. Finally, given the nature of such efforts, the issue of financial sustainability must be addressed by diversifying income sources so that the movement is not solely dependant on donor support.