To keep our coasts, coastal communities must benefit from sustainable enterprises

By David Ganz, Chandra Silori and Maung Maung Than

Three quarters of the world’s population living in coastal zones are in Asia[i]. These coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as a consequence of the dynamic economic growth being experienced in Asia that is driving a dramatic loss of biodiversity. Mangrove ecosystems – and the diversity of life they encompass – are critical for a healthy, safe and prosperous natural and social heritage. So how can mangroves be sustainably  managed, and what is the role of coastal communities themselves?   

Successfully tackling the challenges facing mangroves and coastal communities must be undertaken using a holistic approach. RECOFTC takes such an approach by testing, advocating and providing evidence of how community-based natural resource management can provide sustainable solutions for balancing human, social and economic well-being of coastal ecosystems. RECOFTC’s expertise on community forestry includes integrated coastal resource management, partnering with local communities and organizations like Mangroves for the Future (MFF).

Recently RECOFTC and partners had the privilege of awarding 18 Community Forestry certificates to 18 villages in Gwa township, Rakhine State, Myanmar. This was part of a three-year project funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Myanmar to scale up community forestry in Myanmar. RECOFTC was accompanied by the Ambassador of Norway to Myanmar, Tonne Tines, Myanmar’s Deputy Director General of Forestry, U Kyaw Kyaw Lwin and the Country Director of The Nature Conservancy (and former Executive Director of RECOFTC), Tint Lwin Thaung. Just a month earlier, RECOFTC similarly had the honor of hosting the Ambassadors of Sweden and Switzerland, Staffan Herrström and Ivo Sieber, and a representative of the Norwegian Embassy, Chatri Moonstan, to visit the coastal communities of Pred Nai, Trat Province in eastern Thailand. These coastal communities have all benefited from over 20 years of support from RECOFTC and MFF.

CF Area location map , Gwa , Rakhine AKN

As a result of the Scaling Up Community Forestry in Myanmar (SuComFor) project, RECOFTC and partners awarded community forestry certificates to 18 local community villages in Gwa township, Rakhine State, Myanmar.

Over the years, RECOFTC has been fortunate to work with MFF and have come to learn and respect the challenges of mangrove restoration and coastal resource conservation. While MFF and RECOFTC continue to invest in local participatory approaches to integrated coastal management, we are often reminded of sustainability concerns of projects, policy reform and regional coastal management initiatives. For both of the sites that we visited in Myanmar and in Thailand, success can be tempered by the increasing need for additional resources, namely donor-led initiatives. Now more than ever, there is an increasing focus on sustainable community enterprise development.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

RECOFTC and partners continues to invest in local participatory approaches to integrated coastal management, but now more than ever there must be an increased focus on sustainable community enterprise development.

In Thailand, the communities of Ban Pred Nai and Ban Tha Ra Nae in Trat Province have begun to tap into the local eco-tourism market. While these communities have pursued grants to develop mangrove walkways through the community-managed coastal areas, they continue to seek outside support for their community-led conservation and development programs to restore large areas of heavily degraded mangrove forests and set up rules and procedures to effectively manage natural resources within the larger landscape. In order to bridge the gap, these communities are looking to learn from the Marriott-inspired turtle conservation program in Mao Khao Beach, where each tourist is asked to contribute to a development fund upon checking out of their resort. The same could be pursued with the communities of Ban Pred Nai and Ban Tha Ra Nae and several large resort enterprises that have started to work with youth as local eco-tourism guides to escort tourists through the community-managed coastal areas.

In Myanmar, the communities of Long Kyo, Gwa township, Rakhine State, are in a very precarious situation. Road building and encroachment continues to threaten coastal areas and in particular a rare form of mangroves that are stunted in their growth and resemble bonsai trees. Now that local communities have been awarded CF certificates, these communities are in a better position to address threats. There is an expectation that a sustainable tourism enterprise can bring in much-needed resources to maintain the coastal resources for future generations. Despite being supported by the Rakhine Coastal Regional Conservation Association, these communities need additional support for developing economic solutions and building local partnerships with other economic development interests to help protect the mangrove and coastal resources. These communities, which have developed 30-year forest management plans (a requirement to obtain their CF certificates), are now bolstered in their ability to negotiate with outside investors or to develop sustainable community-led small scale enterprise that values the forests, rivers, wetlands and coastal resources.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

The coasts of Gwa township, Myanmar, are home to a rare form of dwarf mangroves that  resemble bonsai trees.

Image may contain: 7 people, child, outdoor and nature

Now that communities have community forest certificates, local people are in a better position to participate in sustainable small scale enterprises as long as enabling conditions are met.

In each of these cases, the prevailing paradigm for RECOFTC and its partners is to promote integrated coastal management and private sector solutions which recognize that communities must have ownership the business and the businesses’ impact on their coastal resources. That is, these private sector solutions must have arrangements for communities to manage coastal resources that are built on a shared understanding between the community, local government and private sector.  There are a series of enabling factors that allow these critical elements of integrated coastal resource management to develop. These are:

  • The community has the capacity to make implementable decisions that reflect their objectives.
  • The community derives benefits from the integrated coastal resource management.
  • There are both an internal capability and external conditions for communities to make meaningful inputs into decisions on how coastal resources are to be managed.

Ultimately, these conditions must be met for sustainable community-led small scale enterprises to succeed. If outside investors are going to have entry points then they must focus on the community’s capacity to make decisions and give meaningful input into how eco-tourism or any other private sector solution is tested as a business case for sustainable community enterprise development. Organizations like RECOFTC and its regional partner MFF will continue to assist in these private sector solutions. While RECOFTC and its partners are well positioned to continue to build the community’s capacity to make these decisions and negotiate with the private sector, sooner or later, it will be very important for local institutions like the Rakhine Coastal Regional Conservation Association and the Good Governance for Social Development and the Environment Institute (GSEI) to step into this critical capacity building role.

For more information, see:

Embassy of Norway’s coverage of Scaling Up Community Forestry in Myanmar https://www.norway.no/en/myanmar/norway-myanmar/news-events/news2/scaling-up-community-forestry-in-myanmar/

Ambassador of Sweden Staffan Herrström’s blog on community forestry in Pred Nai, Thailand (in Swedish) https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1524082227604340&substory_index=0&id=120425627970014

RECOFTC’s country program in Myanmar https://www.recoftc.org/country/myanmar (in Myanmar-language)

RECOFTC’s award-winning video of Pred Nai communities in Thailand (in Thai and English) http://www.recoftc.org/videos/voices-forest-thailand

ScandAsia’s coverage of  Ambassador’s visit to Pred Nai, Thailand http://scandasia.com/swedish-representatives-visited-trat-mangrove-forest-restoration/

RECOFTC’s coverage of Ambassadors’ visit to Pred Nai, Thailand http://www.recoftc.org/press-releases/swedish-swiss-ambassadors-norwegian-embassy-visit-recoftc-field-project-prednai

[i] IUCN

Advancing the rights of local people: How REDD+ can continue to foster open and honest dialogues about natural assets to better manage forested landscapes

by Dr David Ganz, Executive Director, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests

22 April is Earth Day! To celebrate the occasion, RECOFTC Executive Director Dr David Ganz makes the case that now more than ever we must continue to work to empower local people to effectively engage in mechanisms like REDD+ and other forms of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to better manage their forested landscapes.

I am often asked where I stand on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD+. As RECOFTC’s new Executive Director, I am also asked where the organization stands on REDD+. For those who do not understand this issue, let me briefly explain.

In the early days of REDD+, advocates of community forestry viewed it as a new way to compensate forest users for the opportunity costs of foregoing deforestation and degradation and incentivize more “climate-friendly” livelihood options, such as sustainable small-scale forest enterprises and climate smart agriculture. Protecting rights, including livelihoods, became a major concern in REDD+ policy, e.g., as reflected in the ‘‘safeguards” adopted at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.

However,  more than a decade after the REDD+ concept was proposed, direct payments to forest communities remain rare, while concerns about safeguarding livelihoods are increasing. The argument stands that while REDD+ has been very useful for changing the public discourse on conservation and the way national policy-makers view natural assets, the flow of investments, incentives and/or co-benefits has not made it down to the village level. Initially, REDD+ was viewed as a way to compensate actors for foregoing income-generating activities that involve deforestation and degradation. Therefore, we should have seen more smallholders and communities compensated for (or benefiting from) their opportunity costs of changing behavior and practices or development of other metrics that capture the co-benefits that REDD+ aspires to achieve.

While working with The Nature Conservancy, I had the chance to conduct research with Professor Kathleen Lawlor.  We analyzed the initial outcomes of REDD+ projects that systematically reported their socio-economic dimensions. We conjectured that REDD+ projects could affect local well-being by:

“(1) creating  (or  blocking)  material  opportunities  for  wealth  creation  and  well-being,  such  as  jobs, revenue streams, infrastructure, and improved educational conditions;

(2) enhancing  (or  weakening)  populations’  security,  including  tenure  security,  food  security, livelihood security, and adaptability to climate change; and

(3) facilitating  (or  preventing)  the  empowerment  of  individuals  and  communities  to  participate  in decisions affecting local land-use and development. “

DSCF3212

Eucalyptus felling in Srakaew, Thailand.

These are the underlying issues that face RECOFTC, which is committed to empowering local people to effectively engage in mechanisms like REDD+ and other forms of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to better manage their forested landscapes. While RECOFTC works on advancing the agenda for local people to have a strong voice in climate mitigation and adaptation, there is still a perception that the social and environmental safeguards are not yet aligned with REDD+, the Green Climate Fund and more broadly, green growth finance. This is far from the case. In my humble opinion, the timing is right for even more investment in climate mitigation, REDD+ and PES, especially from the private sector.

Like other sustainable forest management initiatives, REDD+ suffers from the inability to transform government organizations and institutions into having stronger governance structures, rules, regulations and enforcement. RECOFTC remains committed to working with both state and non-state actors on climate change mitigation through improved forest conditions and improved forest governance. We have, and must, continue to remain active on issues like REDD+,  and now with donor support, we are working closely with Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements and these government-led dialogues to hear and incorporate “local voices” for more equitable decision-making processes that strengthen forest governance in the region.

Ahleichaung CF Rakhine explaining iron wood management3

Local community members in Ahleichaung community forest in Rakine, Myanmar discuss iron wood management.

Lastly, RECOFTC also must view its engagement with REDD+ with a “no regrets” mindset — just as many countries and donors have begun to do.  Overall, the investments into these approaches and initiatives  are helping to transform the forestry sector into one that takes into account the intersection with agriculture and other land uses — a more holistic landscape approach for the Agriculture Forestry and Land Use sector. REDD+ investments have been instrumental for forestry to take on this larger perspective, as well as to update and upgrade critical infrastructure like National Forest Monitoring Systems or set up National Spatial Data Infrastructure for initiatives like One Map in Indonesia and Myanmar. In many REDD+ countries, this investment has led to the development of robust, repeatable forested landscape inventories, sometimes including ancestral rights and land tenure systems. These investments have helped create open, honest dialogue about a country’s natural assets, how they are managed and, more importantly, how local rights are allocated and/or strengthened.

Now, when people ask me whether I believe we should continue working on REDD+ and FLEGT, I can honestly answer, “Yes I do…. as it can continue to foster the spirit of community engagement in forest governance and management”.

To what extent has women’s rights to access and control over forest resources been recognized and addressed in forest policies and laws in Asia and the Pacific?

By Ratchada Arpornsilp, Country Program Coordination Officer, RECOFTC

Gender report coverInternational Women’s Day is 8 March. This year RECOFTC is launching the new report ‘Mainstreaming gender into forest policies in Asia and the Pacific’ which was developed as a part of the regional initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. It aims to shed light on how gender perspectives are being integrated or mainstreamed in the forest policies of eight countries – Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The report and policy briefs for each of the eight countries included in the study are available at http://www.recoftc.org/reports/mainstreaming-gender-forest-policies-asia-and-pacific

While countries in Asia and the Pacific have made progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment, women’s participation and representation in forest management structures and decision-making process still have a way to go. RECOFTC’s new report asks: to what extent has women’s rights to access and control over forest resources been recognized and addressed in forest policies and laws?

All of the studied countries are signatory to key international instruments that promote women’s rights – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Fiji is the only country that has not signed UNDRIP. While a number of national efforts have been developed in each country, with regards to gender concerns in forest policies, the key findings from the report are as follows:

  • Cambodia – The Forestry Law provides a legal framework for the involvement of user-groups in forest management and protection but different needs, priorities, capacities and customary practices of women and men have not been recognized. Although the Sub-decree on Community Forestry (CF) Management encourages women’s participation in CF Management Committees, no specific quota is guaranteed.
  • Fiji – Inclusion of women in the Forest Decree and National Forest Policy Statement is unclear due to an absence of gender-specific guidelines to enhance women’s participation and representation in forestry.
  • Indonesia – The President Instruction in 2000 instructs all government agencies to mainstream gender throughout the development process of policies and programs. But it is far from being adopted in any specific forestry regulations or laws.
  • Nepal –Nepal commenced to acknowledge women’s inclusion in community forestry in its Master Plan for the Forest Sector, forest law and regulation. A Gender and Social Inclusion Strategy and associated monitoring framework were developed, following by an amendment of CF Guidelines which mandate the composition of 50% women represented in CF Users’ Groups executive committees.
  • The Philippines – The National forest strategy and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act are people-oriented and have recognized the rights of people living in forest lands, ensuring access to forest resources for forest-dependent communities, including women. The Community-based Forest Management strategy mandates 30% representation of women in its committees.
  • Sri Lanka – The Forest Sector Master Plan emphasizes the empowerment of people and rural communities to manage and protect forests for multiple uses, but has no specific recognition of gender differences. The Forest Department so far has no gender strategy to facilitate women’s inclusion in forestry planning and interventions.
  • Thailand – Recognition of women’s rights, participation and representation, as well as gender differences, in forest management and decision-making remains absent in laws governing forest protection and management. In implementing some of these laws, such as the National Parks Act, women’s subsistence and income generation are hindered with the denial of access to forest resources.
  • Viet Nam – The Law on Forest Protection and Development provides equal land rights to men and women and the National Forest Strategy acknowledges the need for promoting a gender focal point unit, gender-sensitive research and capacity development of forestry officials.

In general, the report considers Nepal and the Philippines to be relatively progressive. Nonetheless, all countries still face common challenges, including 1) lack of legal framework or implementation gaps if the laws have already incorporated gender considerations; 2) lack of evidence-based research on gender and gender-disaggregated data in forestry; 3) limited technical expertise and resource availability for effective implementation and advocacy; 4) imbalanced representation of gender in leadership and decision-making positions; 5) deep-rooted gendered norms and cultural prejudices that reinforce male domination in forestry activities.

These challenges seem to always be present and there is nothing new about them. The assessment simply unpacks and supports them with more evidence. It is time to implement some practical steps to move forward. Recommendations include:

  • Hold national and sub-national consultations and dialogues to discuss and keep abreast of the issues and gaps in existing policies and practices as well as facilitate multi-stakeholder exchanges and platforms for advocacy.
  • Knowledge generation and understanding on gender rights, roles and responsibilities among forestry officials and communities.
  • Gender working groups and women’s representation with clear functions and obligations to raise women’s leadership roles and participation in decision-making.
  • Gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation systems to develop gender-disaggregated data necessary for policy planning and implementation.
  • Gender-responsive budgets that provide specific budget allocation for gender relevant activities.

It is important to note that gender mainstreaming is not an end in itself but a process toward gender equality. One small action from each of us can aggregately make a difference. RECOFTC strongly believes that women’s empowerment is a key component of sustainable forest management. Thus in collaboration with its partners, RECOFTC continues working to strengthen social and gender equity in all aspects of community forestry.

Forestry officials in Lao PDR take on new teak plantation management practices

Evan Gershkovich, Associate Communications Officer, provides an update on ForInfo activities in northern Lao PDR.

Houay Xai, Bokeo province, Lao PDR – In northern Lao PDR, RECOFTC’s ForInfo project is conducting trainings for local forestry officials. By introducing them to new technologies for better surveying practices of teak plantations, the project hopes to ultimately increase local peoples’ livelihoods.

“Our staff has really learned how to better conduct teak plantation management. We are sharing this knowledge with district authorities, and have even trained district staff on these new skills,” said Khame Phalakone, Director of Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office of Bokeo (PAFO), who has been working with RECOFTC since the introduction of the ForInfo project in 2011.

Before the project, PAFO staff would calculate teak plantation areas by the number of teak trees that were planted, essentially an estimate. That is, if 10,000 seedlings were given to a farmer in one year, for example, PAFO would record that it had planted a certain number of hectares of land that year. But 10 years later, PAFO would not be able to know if the 10 or 20 hectares all still contained teak trees – the farmer might have harvested the teak trees and planted rice instead.

Since, ForInfo project staff has supported the implementation of government-sponsored teak management certificates. The certificates give farmers temporary user-rights to their land for the duration of utilization, and ultimately, ForInfo intends the certificates to serve as loan collateral based on a plantation’s current market value and commercial volume for financial institutions so that farmers do not have to harvest their teaks before they reach commercially viable sizes.

“Before farmers had this certificate, they only had memory of their land – they didn’t know the volume of the trees they had because they didn’t do surveys,” said Mr. Phalakone. RECOFTC staff trained PAFO and the District Agriculture and Forestry Office of Bokeo (DAFO) in the use of tools like global positioning software (GPS) and open-source mapping software (QGIS), and have taught the staff how to conduct on-site plantation registration surveys, forest inventories, and issue plantation certificates.

The provincial and district officials are now better able to manage the teak plantations, the farmers who operate them, and the contractors who purchase the teak timber. In the process, the officials have also gained a much better understanding of the existing teak resources and the quality of teak available in the province.

“Improving the capacities of the local officials is essential for the success of ForInfo,” said Fabian Noeske, ForInfo’s Technical Advisor. “They are learning how to manage these methodologies on their own, making the future of the project sustainable.”

The improvement of the agriculture and forestry officials’ capacities will be essential in the coming years. Although establishment of new teak plantations has stagnated recently because of other land-use options, one of the main alternative options, rubber, has been on the decline. While rubber prices are falling rapidly, and its market deteriorating, global teak prices have been on a constant rise, and its use as timber is increasing in popularity.

“With improved teak management practices, smallholders in northern Lao PDR will be able to access the growing teak markets, and will gain increased financial diversification, as well as the security of long-term savings” said Mr. Noeske.

Through better management of teak resources, smallholders will be able to improve their financial future.

About ForInfo

Since 2011, RECOFTC, with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, has been working on the ForInfo project, which aims to provide local people with better access to markets for forest products and environmental services through clearer and more accurate information about their forest resources. In Houay Xai, Bokeo province, Lao PDR, one of ForInfo’s 8 sites in 4 countries of the Lower Mekong region: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, ForInfo has been working to improve community livelihoods and create access to markets from teak cultivation based on sustainable forest management principles.

Stay Connected to ForInfo

http://www.recoftc.org/site/resources/ForInfo
https://www.facebook.com/RECOFTC
https://www.twitter.com/RECOFTC

“The Forest is Our Supermarket…and We Don’t Need Money”

RECOFTC’s first Executive Study Tour on food security brings up questions on need, greed and forest creed.

Image

Organic rice field at Huai Hin Dam.

With the steep rise in global food prices pinching millions of poor rural households, families are becoming more dependent on natural resources for their sustenance. RECOFTC –The Center for People and Forests, has been working with local communities living in and around forests in the Asia-Pacific region for 25 years, trying to understand the challenges and solutions for improving their lives through community forestry.

On October 12, 2012, RECOFTC organized its first Executive Study Tour on “Forest and Food Security” for 11 senior government and civil society professionals from four countries in the region. The group visited the ethnic minority Thai Karen village of Ban Huai Hin Dam, some three hours  west of Bangkok, and spent the day listening to their story of settlement as refugees 200 years ago, the threat that led to the formation of their community forest in 1995, and what it means for their way of life today.

In a materialistic world, it’s important to remind ourselves that there are also people who regard money as meaningless when life depends on the preservation and skillful use of natural resources. It’s a powerful message that resonated throughout the presentations made in the morning, the lunch served from forest products, and the walk through an organic farm and agro-forest plantation in the afternoon.

Regenerating the forest…and their lives

Tracing the story of the community forest on a hand drawn map, the Village Head Mr. Joe Kueng Ba Ngamying  recounts how a logging concession from 1974-89 led to the loss of farming land for the community and destroyed the forests and watersheds, leading to drought, loss of sustenance and great distress for the community. Continued encroachment of the open land even after the concession ended in 1989, brought the community, now 567 strong, together to preserve their environment and their way of life. With support from NGOs, the community forest committee was formed in 1995, boundaries were demarcated, and regulations for the joint and sustainable use of natural resources were put in place.

RECOFTC has been active in the area since 2000, helping the community sustainably manage and monitor utilization of their forest resources through a project called “The Thailand Collaborative Country Support Program” until 2008. Action research on Bamboo monitoring and planning for the community forest was completed by 2004, after which RECOFTC acted as a facilitator for boundary demarcation and resource management. Two years later, RECOFTC included Ban Huai Hin Dam in its youth-focused “Strengthening Young Seedlings Network: Youth Capacity Building for Sustainable Natural Resource Management,” project under which capacity building work still continues.

Today, life has improved visibly for the community: “We get clothes, food, medicine and shelter from the forest,” says Mr. Noei Aimchan, Chairman of Community Forest Committees of Ban Huai Hin Dam. “The forest is our supermarket. When you go to the supermarket, you need money. We don’t need money but we need to educate people how to use the forest.”

Huai Hin Dam Spirit House.

A Spirit House at the Huai Hin Dam.

Mr. Kwai Ngamying, the local wise man and advisor to the community forest committees, describes a way of life based on inversing the consumerism of the West: “In the West we believe that forests belong to people, but in the East we believe people belong to the forest.” It’s a telling difference fortified by reverence and rituals that have sustained the community for decades. Rituals that include meditating in the forest to know oneself, planting food as offerings for other living creatures and testing one’s wisdom by navigating a maze through the forest during a festive season.

18 years to build trust

To avoid conflict, the community has divided the forestland into zones for growing food, conserving wildlife and plant species, and for human habitation. The creation of a Pu Toei National Park in 1997 presented some problems as it encompassed an area traditionally used by the community for sustainable rotational agriculture. As we walked in that area admiring the abundant vegetables, fruit and grain crops, a committee member explains that trees are felled in a particular way to level a field for planting so that the stumps stay alive and can regenerate when the land is lying fallow. “We had to prove that we could conserve the forest and even improve it with our cultivation methods,” he says, “before the National Park authorities would agree to let us use it. It took 18 years for us to build the trust but we have a good understanding today.”

Through organic farming, the community has ensured a bumper crop of papayas, potatoes, eggplants and bananas and a particular variety of organic rice that is not available in the market. They deliberately  introduce different species on residential and forestland  to enrich the forest ecosystem and diversify the biosphere.  “We don’t use any chemicals here because we make our own organic fertilizer from rice husk and dung,” explains Mr. Kwai Ngamying, as we walk around a compost heap to examine the bark of a medicinal tree. “It’s quite strange, but if you have these leaves when you are sick, you get well. But if you have them when you are well, you may die,” he says, giving us an example of the forest lore which sustains communities even if it seems contradictory to outsiders.

Traditional medicine thrives in the many residential gardens which function as pharmacies, providing a range of remedies for common ailments. Delegates were offered a bitter brew made from forest herbs but many give up after the first few sips from their bamboo cups. I can vouch for the powerful cleansing properties of that drink however, after 24 hours.

Food Security Insurance: A rice bank

Being the basis of nutrition, a rice bank has been established in a small wooden hut opposite the community hall.  Under a barter system, a family may borrow up to 20 buckets (1 bucket = 15 kg.) of rice, but must replace it with 10% interest by the next season. The community also reserves a percentage of their collective cash for the poorest families, ensuring that the food security of all is preserved.

Some of the women community members at Huai Hin Dam.

The women of the community make their own important contribution to livelihood activities. Mrs. Lamyai Kongkae, the head of a women’s group from a neighboring village is here today to learn from the study tour discussions. Like the other women in the village, she is attired in a beautiful hand woven sarong and blouse that would not look out of place around the best addresses in town. Young girls are dressed in white by contrast, to signify purity. Pastel pinks, dusky browns, blues and red, the women look splendid in their ethnic creations. A selection of table runners, scarves, bags and other items woven by the women using natural dyes and the finest cotton are on sale.

The delegates buy presents for family members back home and suggest the women take up the activity on a commercial basis. This startles them as they are used to producing and harvesting only enough for their needs. It is what differentiates them from the consumer culture prevalent outside these communities.  The villagers don’t see a particular value in acquiring more than they need. As one of them points out:  “First you own the land, but later, you become the land.”  Trying to instill these creeds in a younger generation is more challenging they say, because development paradigms from the west are impacting their ancient belief systems. As the youth leader says, “In the west you protect forests with fences, here we protect them with love.”

Community Leaders Attend RECOFTC’s Silver Jubilee in Indonesia

RECOFC’s Silver Jubilee celebration in Indonesia was organized on 20 September 2012 in Jakarta. The event was attended by 30 participants representing government officials from the Ministry of Forestry, donor agencies, NGO partners, and community leader representatives.

Guests participated in the celebration of RECOFTC’s Silver Jubilee.

Indonesia is a key country for RECOFTC given the wealth of its forest resources and the millions of local people who depend on them for their subsistence. Despite the commitment of the central government to boost community forest development, lack of capacity at provincial and district levels has hampered progress to date. The process of acquiring official permits for community forests remain slow due to complicated procedures and bureaucracy, not to mention the lack of support provided to community forest proponents. Reversing this power equation and “Putting the Last First,” as recommended by Robert Chambers in his publication of that name, should be the norm for local government units.

These were some of the candid reflections at a panel discussion held in Jakarta on 20 September, 2012, to mark the 25th Silver Jubilee of RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests. The panelists were Mr. Subhan, a prominent community leader from Labbo Forest Village, Bantaeng district, South Sulawesi, and one of the first officially recognized village forests in Indonesia; representing the government was Mr. Haryadi Himawan, Director of Land Rehabilitation and Social Forestry at the Ministry of Forestry; and Mr. Kusworo, from Flora and Fauna International, who was the civil society representative.

The participants credited the strong commitment and collaboration amongst the villagers of Labbo, RECOFTC, the district government, and the University of Hasannuddin, as key to the successful realization of the first Village Forest. Legal recognition and the ensuing security have already resulted in better management of forest resources and improved livelihoods – in one study, the income from coffee has increased some 50%.

However, the slow follow up in recognizing other Forest Villages has caused concern. RECOFTC’s field and capacity building work, particularly with the Center for Forestry Education and Training (CFET), Bogor, Indonesia was seen as both relevant and warmly appreciated in this context by Dr. Agus Justianto, head of the organization. Indeed, RECOFTC has had an active training program in Indonesia for over 14 years and recently renewed its MoU with the Government to widen and deepen its support for the community forestry movement.

The event was attended by 30 participants representing government officials from Ministry of Forestry, donor agencies, NGO partners and representatives from communities. The informal gathering provided a good opportunity for networking and a better understanding of RECOFTC’s activities in Indonesia with the scope for widening collaborations in the near future.

Please click here for more information on our Silver Jubilee.

Please click here to be directed to our Indonesia country program page.

%d bloggers like this: