David Gritten, RECOFTC Senior Programme Officer, makes the case on how it is imperative to listen to those who know the forest best – local communities living in and around forests – to achieve the SDGs.
“The strongest voice is the one based on truth” so my (Yoda like*) grandmother once told me. Well, my grandmother would have heard the voice of Ms. Yuliatin, a 29 year-old preacher, from the village of Jember, Indonesia, loud and clear thousands of kilometers away in Scotland as Ms. Yuliatin requested the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission to hear her voice, and the voice of her fellow villagers.
At RECOFTC, we advocate for strengthening the voices of those living in and around the forests. This is based on the simple understanding that they know the forest best, depend on the forest the most, have proven to be the most effective forest managers and most importantly, have rights to their forests. This is why we feel it vital these voices are heard.
The recently concluded Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW), organised by FAO and DENR in the Philippines, brought together over 1300 people (mainly government officials, and NGO staff) to discuss the challenges facing forests in the region and share stories of success. At the event, RECOFTC together with the ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN) organized a series of sessions on the topic of “Serving society: forestry and people”, focusing on the recently launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Stream included sessions covering areas of how community forestry can support achieving the SDGs.
During the APFW, each of the organisers had the opportunity to share their findings and a single recommendation with the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC). It was a great opportunity to encourage the Commission to support community forestry.
Enter Yuliatin, a participant in RECOFTC’s regional project on Grassroots Capacity Building for REDD+. Speaking in Indonesian language, with only powerpoint slides translating her message, she more than captivated the Commission members. Her story is one that is felt by millions in the region – the importance of forests for her village, her family and for her. She expressed her desire for people throughout the region to understand this, to hear her voice and to hear the voice of her fellow villagers. She wants people to understand the insecurity that she and the rest of the village feel about threats to their forests, including threats driven by the lack of clarity in the tenure and rights they currently have for their forests.
Looking at the SDGs, one can see how community forestry can help us achieve all the Goals, not only only Goal 15, which focuses on ecosystems. Hearing the voices of Yuliatin, of those living in and around the forests, is vital if we are going to achieve the SDGs. Listening to Yuliatin’s story and heeding the call of those living in and around forested areas is critical to the achievement of the SDGs. After all it is they who hold the knowledge to sustainably manage forest resources and just as importantly the desire to do so.
*She isn’t small and green and talked backwards, it was more that is she is all knowing like all grandmothers.