Philippines Ahead of the Game in Social Forestry

CIFOR’s Catriona Moss reports on Yurdi Yasmi’s address at the ASEAN Conference for Social Forestry in Brunei.

Ensuring community participation in the sustainable management of forests is one of the main challenges in REDD+ implementation, but the Philippines is leading the South East Asian pack with community rights already being legally incorporated into the REDD+ process, according to Yurdi Yasmi, Manager at the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC).

“Some [countries] are more advanced in community management, such as the Philippines where the role of communities has been [legally] recognised.  Approximately 8 percent of forest land is managed by communities and indigenous people in this region but not many of these rights have been formally recognised,” he said in his address at the ASEAN Conference for Social Forestry today in Brunei.

In the ASEAN region, over 300 million people live in rural areas and a quarter of them are highly dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods. However, only 8 percent of this land is currently managed by local people.

Social forestry, the encouragement of rural participation in the management of natural resources, will enable communities to take an active role in managing their forests, helping to prevent further deforestation. Social forestry schemes in India have already made a considerable difference in overall forest cover in a short time.

Yudi emphasised how social forestry could be used as entry point to link local level forest management with broader REDD+ strategies. The success of REDD+, he added, was dependent upon getting communities on board by including them in the design, implementation and monitoring of REDD+.

“To ensure forests are protected, you need to involve local people who have been managing forests for generations. Community forestry offers best practice of forest management that can be used in REDD+ schemes. Communities have inventory skills and knowledge, they already run social forestry schemes and they have already demonstrated successful models of benefit sharing.”

The Philippines is considered “ahead of the game”, with civil society organisations such as the Filipino organisation Code- REDD, successfully securing community rights and the protection of livelihoods in the development of a national REDD+ strategy.

In Vietnam, the Forest Land Allocation programme hands over forests to households or communities.  Indonesia has 10 models where government has handed over 35 years of users’ rights to forest dwelling communities and Cambodia has developed eight steps to establish community control of the forest over the last 50 years.

It seems that the much-needed dialogue between forest dwelling communities and government is beginning to materialise, and maintaining this transparency will prove to be critical for the future success of REDD+ projects across the region.

This post, written by Catriona Moss, first appeared on 22 June 2011 on CIFOR’s blog. Read the original version here.

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