ASEAN forests currently cover approximately 213 million hectares of land across 10 countries. Their diverse composition consists of tropical lowland forests, mountain forests, coastal mangrove forests, and peat forests, as well as the remnants of what is believed to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. It is well recognized that these forests and their ecosystems provide both products and services for local livelihoods.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 1992) community forestry has three core elements: (a) Provision of fuel and other goods essential to meeting basic needs at the rural household and community level (b) Provision of food and the environmental stability necessary for continued food production (c) Generation of income and employment in the rural community.
Experiences gained from social forestry in the last three decades give a good basis for believing that local communities can both reduce causes of climate change and respond effectively to its impacts. This makes social forestry an invaluable component of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies implemented at the local level.
It is expected climate change will affect forests and the livelihoods of people that live in and around forests in Asia and the Pacific greatly. Millions of people across ASEAN countries depend, directly or indirectly, on the range of economic, environmental, and socio-cultural benefits services derived from forests. Forest-based industries contribute significantly to economic growth, providing employment, raw materials, and export revenues. Up to 300 million people – or over 50% of the ASEAN region’s population – live in rural areas and use forests for subsistence needs, including food, fuelwood, timber, medicines and income (FAO 2010). Forests are also central to cultural identity and spiritual beliefs for ethnic minorities and indigenous people.
Good forest management by local communities and indigenous peoples is exactly the type of effective and efficient response that will encourage and facilitate other forms of climate change adaptation. The most practical support to forest dependent communities and indigenous people is to ensure that they have secure rights over forests and other resources, and are able to use those resources to diversify and strengthen their livelihoods.
Approximately 17% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from the damage and destruction of forests. Considering more than 450 million people living in and around forests in the Asia-Pacific region, the active involvement of local communities and indigenous people will ensure the success of forest-based mitigation.
Local people are not the only key players, but because of their numbers and dependence on forests, they are the most important for forest-based mitigation efforts. New initiatives such as REDD+ are increasingly recognizing the vital role of local people and offering new opportunities to engage local people in the climate change fight. Social forestry is a proven and effective means of mobilizing and motivating local forest managers to guarantee both a sink for and a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
To promote community forestry as an important tool in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies requires interventions at different hierarchical levels (from local to global) and support through a variety of capacity building efforts. RECOFTC facilitates learning: analyzing and synthesizing lessons learned; delivering capacity-building programs, products and services; engaging in regional networking and dialogues to raise awareness of appropriate policies and practices; and providing technical services to government agencies, forestry organizations, and beyond.
More information about the role of local people in climate change adaptation and mitigation can be found in our publication, The Role of Social Forestry in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in the ASEAN Region, freely available on our website.