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By Katrina Borromeo

Do people care about forest crime?

The 2022 Knowledge, Attitude, Practices Survey on Forest Crime shows that only half of the respondents care enough to act against illegal logging and illegal forest trade.

The Lower Mekong region’s forests are important carbon sinks and are crucial in the fight against climate change. But they are under threat – in 2020 alone, the region lost about 1.1 million hectares of its forests. While forest crime is not the only culprit for this loss, it remains one of key drivers.


To end forest crime, our systems need to transform.  And behavioural change, along with other technical and policy interventions, is needed to influence lasting positive changes at the economic, political and societal levels.  


Who are the people we want to influence? What is their level of knowledge and awareness on forest crime? Do they comply with rules and norms? Do they show concern and willingness to act against forest crime? What are the main barriers for changes in behaviour and compliance?  From January - July 2022, a Knowledge, Attitude, Practices (KAP) survey among 2,450 respondents in the Lower Mekong countries and China was conducted to shed light to these questions. 





This is our reality. 


The Knowledge, Attitude, Practices scores are low across the Lower Mekong countries and China. A KAP score lower than 60 indicates that some form of intervention to drive changes in behaviour is needed.

Further analysis shows that urban and rural respondents in each country have different levels of knowledge, hold different attitudes and do not behave in the same ways. However, there is an overarching concept that can explain some of these differences and that people are at different development stages when it come to how well they understand the link between demand for hardwood and the impact of illegal logging.

The KAP analysis also shows that conventional thinking is linear; illegal logging can lead to wider deforestation and contribute to climate change. Because of the attention given to illegal logging in the media and the ongoing debate about climate change, it is easy to see how these issues are on top of the minds of many people.

But this simplified view of the problem takes the regular consumers out of the equation, putting them on the sideline as a spectator rather than as a participants. The common thread across all countries is lack of knowledge regarding how consumer demand could drive illegal logging, attitudes dominated by apathy (do not care about illegal logging), and not being willing to report a forest crime or supporting forest protection activities. 




Key Findings 



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KAP Indicators

Illegal logging and trade are complex issues, and responses to them are generally characterised by a lack of data and evidence-based methodologies. This is especially true in this case when we are trying to measure outcomes of “soft” interventions that seek to effect incremental and difficult-to-measure changes in behaviour such as buying only sustainably sourced wood products. 

Below are some indicators used for understanding people's KAP scores. 



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Knowledge Indicators


  • Know what is legal and illegal
  • Know the causes and impacts of forest crime
  • Know how to address forest crime 


Survey respondents have a good understanding of what is illegal and legal and how forest crime impacts the environment. But they do not see the link between consumer demand and the incidences of forest crime. 


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Attitude Indicators


  • Care about illegal logging and illegal forest trade
  • Think that forest crime can be solved by this generation  
  • Think that economy is more important than forests


People express apathy towards illegal logging and think the problem is exaggerated. Moreover, they do not feel illegal logging is a problem that can be solved and there is a perception that buying furniture from protected tree species is more important the impacts of illegal logging.

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Practices Indicators


  • Buy certified forest products
  • Report illegal logging and illegal trade activities
  • Support environmental protection activities/ donate money to environmental causes


China stands out as the country with the highest level of compliance. Respondents say they prefer to buy certified wood products and have participated in forest conservation activities. In contrast, respondents from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Lao PDR shows lower levels of compliance in both urban and rural areas. Fewer people will report illegal logging or trading of protected trees, most have not supported forest protection activities nor donated money to environmental causes.

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Where can we start? 


The KAP handbook uses a combination of survey data, research and analysis to provide countries a step-by-step guide on developing effective campaigns that will stimulate behavioural change to fight forest crime. 

This involves undertaking a baseline study and situation analysis (Step 1), identifying the audiences, channels, messaging, strategies, expected outcomes, timeline and budget (Step 2); and designing a monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress (Step 3). 











National communications plans


We've worked with countries to develop campaigns  based on KAP survey results.  These campaigns are context-specific, with each country or community requiring a tailored mix of interventions, channels and activities that not only resonate with the audience segment, but addresses their core values, concern or barriers to action.


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China: From apathy to interest to concern.

Our campaign asks people to commit to conserving endangered species such as Rosewood, which has been traditionally high value in all of China and the Lower Mekong.  Read the campaign plan here. 

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Cambodia: Awareness of alternative solutions


Our campaign in Cambodia will seek to raise awareness among forest-dependent communities on regulations against illegal logging and possible alternative livelihoods.

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Lao PDR: Increase knowledge and awareness


In Lao PDR, public speakers will be used to broadcast information related to illegal logging and illegal forest trade.

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Myanmar: From individual awareness to networks of knowledge


Our campaign will raise awareness on what is legal and illegal forest trade among individuals living near forest areas and scale this knowledge through NGO networks. 


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Thailand: Changes in decision making and lifestyle


In Thailand, our campaign ramps up the use of the Pitak Prai app to encourage people to report forest crime. 


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Vietnam:  Forest communities as role models 


In Vietnam, our campaign will put the spotlight on forest-dependent communities as role models for leading community-level forest actions in collaboration with government authorities.



What does success look like?


Campaign plans have been developed – now is the time to implement them. And just as importantly, we need to track how behaviour changes over time. The KAP Monitoring Framework uses KAP score indicators to track and monitor whether our interventions are effective.






Behaviour doesn't change overnight. And it doesn't happen in isolation.


The drivers of forest crime are multi-dimensional and complex. The results of the KAP survey shed light to different factors linked to illegal behaviour which can then inform the development of more effective campaign programmes and behavioural interventions.

But to enable lasting, meaningful and transformational change to end forest crime, we need to bring different pillars - competitiveness, market access, forest viability, safeguards, and behavioural change, together.




Story by Katrina Borromeo; Illustration and graphics by Dino Dans 

This article is part of the 8-story mini series featuring key highlights, lessons learnt and insights in the first phase of the UN-REDD Lower Mekong Initiative. Click on the link below to read the rest of the articles.