“The Devil is in the details”: An innovative twist makes bamboo harvesting more profitable

By Claire Fram, ForInfo Project Associate

ForInfo’s team is back in the field in Bokeo Province, Lao PDR. During our first day in Huay Xai, we were reminded of how important it is to use sustainable and appropriate technology at a project site: we went searching for basic items like light bulbs and screws, but came up empty handed.

In Laos, where many of the goods traded in local markets are imported from China or Thailand, you cannot take anything for granted. Standard equipment for harvesting timber is tightly regulated, and the rare chainsaw that you can find is typically poorly made. After a rare chainsaw sighting, ForInfo’s technical adviser Fabian Noeske explained that our work to support three villages in improving land usage may depend on the equipment available to them and, as our senior expert Bernhard Mohns remarked, “The devil is in the details.”

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Witnessing community forestry in action in Cambodia

The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Cambodia and a team from the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation (AECID) from Madrid visited community forestry sites in Cambodia

In January 2012, AECID Madrid (from the NGODs Service and Funds Department and NGOD Monitoring Department) together with AECID in Cambodia visited two community forestry projects in Cambodia being implemented by RECOFTC in partnership with Spanish and local NGOs and the Forestry Administration (FA).

During the visit to the community forest of O’Krasang in Kratie Province, the community forest management committee (CFMC), community members, and local authorities gave presentations on formal recognition of the community forest in December 2011. Under the community forest agreement (CFA) between the FA cantonment and CFMC/CF members, the community of 46 families was given the legal right to sustainably manage and directly benefit from the 1,749 ha of community forest for a period of 15 years, renewable for another 15 years. The CFA for O’Krasang is one of eight CFAs in Kratie Province, and the first ever signed in Northeast Cambodia since the promulgation of the MAFF prakas on CF guidelines in 2006.

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Carbon Money or Felled Timber?

RECOFTC’s Program Officer for Gender and Rights, Bhawana Upadhyay, writes on the implications of a proposed amendment to Nepal’s Forest Act 1993.

Community forest in Nepal

Community-managed forestland in Nepal (Photo credit: Regan Suzuki)

The forest means everything to 31 year-old Laxmi Tamang of Dadeldhura, Nepal. She nodded while saying, “We will fight to the death, but won’t let our forest pass into the hands of encroachers,” to a passerby who asked her about the news of Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) passing a proposal to amend the Forest Act 1993.

I wondered if our politicians and lawmakers have adequate ears to listen to hundreds of thousands of voices like hers. To date, there are more than 1.6 million households engaged in conservation and sustainable management of community forests in Nepal.

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Films a Powerful Medium to Protect Forests and Empower Local Communities

How can the media support environmental conservation? One approach is to tell the stories of the importance of these natural resources and the people fighting to protect them.

A packed audience watches Hope in a Changing Climate

A packed audience watches Hope in a Changing Climate

The first Bangkok International Forest Film Festival, held 17-19 February 2012 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, sought to bring these messages to a wider audience and encourage individuals to act through inspirational tales from around the world. As Prayuth Lorsuwanasiri, Deputy Director General of the Royal Forest Department, Thailand, said in his opening remarks, “Today marks an opportunity, through this partnership, to spread awareness about protecting our natural resources. …I am confident these movies will be useful for our audience, especially for the youth, and bring more accountability to the world at large.”

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Proposed Forest Act amendment could derail community forestry in Nepal

Ganga R. Dahal provides a viewpoint on a proposed amendment to Nepal’s Forest Act of 1993 that would threaten the vitality of community forestry in that country. 

A recent proposal to amend the Forest Act of 1993,  put forward by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, has generated concern among people and organizations involved in the promotion of community forestry and the establishment of forest resources rights for  communities and indigenous peoples over the last 30 years.

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‘Beauty for a Cause’: Miss Earth Focus on People and Forests Appeals to Younger Audiences

Among the organizations who went the extra mile to raise awareness for the International Year of Forests (IYF), Miss Earth made its presence felt in a variety of settings. From presenting  the communications plenary at the APFW Forest Week in November 2011 in Beijing, to having the reigning Miss Earth visit schools and youth camps around the region last year, the pageant’s organizers have been steadfast in their commitment to ‘Celebrating Forests for People.’

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Closer to Nature: women, livelihoods and community forestry

RECOFTC’s Program Officer for Gender and Rights, Bhawana Upadhyay, writes on the importance of including women in natural resource management decision-making, using a case study from Nepal.

I had a great belly laugh last week while I was reading through case studies of Nepali rural women and their roles in natural resource management for my presentation at an upcoming conference. One case study explaining what happened when women were excluded from the decision making process in a Community Forestry User Group (CFUG) was a particularly entertaining read.

Here’s the story:

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Mainstreaming Gender in REDD: Beyond Livelihoods to Identity

By Regan Suzuki, REDD-Net Asia Pacific Coordinator

Experience from Nepal shows women value forest resources, but taking part in public meetings on REDD provides a democratic space for engagement that enhances their sense of identity

Haven’t we been talking about gender and the need to mainstream it for decades?  Why then does it seem to re-emerge every time a new ‘development’ or international issue (such as climate change) makes it into the spotlight? More to the point, what about gender in the context of climate change could possibly be new?

While climate change negotiations have breathed new life into efforts to improve women’s conditions around the world, the reality remains: if the push to mainstream gender over the last decade had succeeded, we wouldn’t need to be having these discussions now. If mainstreaming efforts thus far have fallen short of ambitions, what makes us think we will be any more successful under the rubric of climate change and REDD+?

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The Year of ‘Forests for People’ – Living Between Hope and Reality

By Yurdi Yasmi, Manager, Capacity Building and Technical Services, RECOFTC

The United Nations International Year of Forests, with the theme ‘Celebrating Forests for People,’ just drew to a close. Many applauded the UN for choosing a theme that signaled attention to people, the stewards of forests, who have long been neglected.

In fact, ‘forests for people’ is not a new discourse at all. In 1978, the World Forestry Congress had the same theme. So now, 33 years later, we must ask ourselves again: how much progress has been achieved for forest-dependent people? Are they now playing a more active role in forest management? Are they benefiting more from forests and forestry?

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How a village and a National Park built a forest management system from the ashes of conflict

Sam Phak Nam villagers learn to co-exist successfully with a neighboring National Park through a training program to resolve conflicts and prevent exploitation of forest resources

Reporting by Xiang Ding

A monk serving breakfast

A monk serving breakfast

Sam Phak Nam, Thailand, June, 2011: “We want to foster a harmonious relationship between forest, temple, and community,” says the head priest of  Sam Phak Nam’s temple, sitting cross-legged in a traditional golden-yellow robe. I had come for a ritual breakfast prepared by the village women and served by their children to a group of 10 monks. Outside, the rising sun outlines the limestone mountains towering above plantation fields and trees. It’s hard not to feel at peace.

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An innovative livelihood project uses teak as collateral in Laos

By Claire Fram, Research Fellow, Livelihoods and Markets

November, Bokeo, Laos: Last month, members of RECOFTC’s team and representatives from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland traveled to Bokeo, Lao PDR to follow up on site development for the ForInfo project. The three-year project, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, aims to empower forest-dependent communities and small holders in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam through holistic development of information networks at the community level.

The project takes the well-known premise that knowledge is power and turns it into a tool for poverty reduction. Helping local people learn how to generate quality information about their forest resources makes them better equipped to access markets for their products and services. Ultimately, improving rural people’s ability to generate and use information about forest resources can contribute not just to poverty reduction but also to the sustainability of forests, and global efforts to mitigate climate change by helping communities adapt.

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Realizing forest rights in Vietnam

Vietnam’s forest tenure reform will lead to desirable outcomes only if local communities can realize the rights given to them, say Thomas Sikor and Nguyen Quang Tan

One can easily get the impression that forest policy is predominantly made at global summits and in transnational initiatives these days. Consider, for example, the attention given to the recent Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Durban.

Yet in practice, national governments remain the primary actors in forest policy-making in most countries. National law defines the statutory tenure rights granted to local communities. National regulatory frameworks condition local communities’ ability to utilize forest tenure rights in practice.

For this reason, national policy analysis and national-level engagement with stakeholders remain of critical importance for community forestry and sustainable forest management. Thus, a new publication edited by Thomas Sikor from the University of East Anglia and Nguyen Quang Tan from RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests entitled Realizing Forest Rights in Vietnam: Addressing Issues in Community Forest Management provides valuable insights into forest policy in Vietnam.

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Supporting Participatory Forest Management: RECOFTC hosts Regional Model Forest Network-Asia Board Meeting

Lena Buell, RECOFTC Assistant Communications Officer, writes on RECOFTC’s support for the Regional Model Forest Network- Asia board meeting, held in Bangkok October 4-5 2011. Based partly on an interview conducted with IMFN Secretariat Executive Director Peter Besseau.

Managing and maintaining a vibrant forest ecosystem requires the strengths and insights of a diverse group of people. The Regional Model Forests Network-Asia (RMFN-Asia) is a branch of an international network seeking to bring more voices into forest management—and recently collaborated with RECOFTC to sharpen the network’s strategic vision and deepen its ability to support Model Forests around the region.

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Forest communities hold the key for every form of REDD+ finance

Arriving on a stormy Durban Sunday I dropped in on the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)’s ‘REDD+ poverty reduction and sustainable development’ workshop, where the theme of the day was ‘cost-effective REDD+ pro-poor options’. An impressive number of people turned down their Sunday morning lie-ins to attend – can’t say I usually find myself talking social safeguard information systems before 8:00am!

Despite the jet-lagged haze, a recurring message came through to me clearly: whichever way you finance REDD+, local people will always make or break it.

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Two Decades of Community Forestry in Nepal: What have we learned?

Jane Carter and Bharat Pokharel of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation provide insights into the development and findings of their new publication on lessons-learned from community forestry in Nepal over the past two decades.

In July 2011, the Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project (NSCFP) came to an end after 20 years in originally two and eventually four districts of Nepal’s middle hills. All those concerned with the project felt that it was important to draw out the lessons learned from this long experience. They included members of community forest user groups, the Nepal Forest Department, a variety of service providers, project staff (both past and present at the time), the implementing agency Întercooperation, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Representatives of these various stakeholders participated in a “capitalization” process that began in early 2010, and took shape during a number of sharing events, focusing on self-reflection and the identification of lessons learned.

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Book Review: Forests and People: Property, Governance, and Human Rights

Well-known community forest researcher Don Gilmour reviews a new book edited by Thomas Sikor and Johannes Stahl, Forests and People: Property, Governance, and Human Rights on the rights-based approach in forestry.

Forests and People book cover
Available from: Earthscan, London and New York

Rights-based approaches have become an important aspect of the general development debate during the past decade and are increasingly emphasized at international and national conferences and workshops. Rights are frequently cited as a rationale for demanding action to change national regulatory frameworks as well as for more fundamental societal changes. This book, edited by Thomas Sikor and Johannes Stahl, aims at advancing the rights agenda as it applies to forests, with an underlying premise that such scholarship is critical to the pursuit of socially just forestry. The book consists of a series of chapters written by participants at a workshop on forest rights held at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009. (more…)

Moving Gender Forward: RECOFTC signs Memorandum of Understanding with WOCAN

Signing the WOCAN-RECOFTC MoU

WOCAN Executive Director Dr. Jeannette Gurung (left) and RECOFTC Executive Director Dr. Tint L. Thaung (right) sign the MoU with Program Coordination, Monitoring, and Evaluation Manager James Bampton (far left) and Strategic Communications Manager Prabha Chandran (far right)

On Friday, September 23, 2011, RECOFTC hosted a formal ceremony for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (WOCAN).

This MoU represents an important step in taking a direct approach to mainstreaming gender in our program with WOCAN’s Executive Director, Dr Jeannette Gurung, appointed as RECOFTC’s new Gender Advisor based in our headquarters in Bangkok.

The partnership will help integrate gender mainstreaming in RECOFTC’s strategic program and promote the voice of rural women through WOCAN’s participation in regional community forestry networks. Among the first joint activities is “Innovations for Gender in REDD+: A Strategic Planning workshop” in Bangkok to identify innovative approaches for gender in REDD+ from October 31 – November 1, 2011.

Guest post: Indigenous rights in Vietnam

People and Forests E-News reader Anura Widana wrote us in response to our recent publications on policy reform in Vietnam. Here are his thoughts on ethnic minority rights in Vietnam. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments! 

Dear People and Forests E-News Editor,

I’ve read the most recent e-newsletter with interest, and wanted to express my deep concern about the erosion of rights of ethnic minority people to control their own traditional land in Vietnam.

I’m aware about the manner by which their traditional lands are taken over by so-called development projects, which is a matter for huge concern. In the long run, these minority people not only will lose their land—which as you rightly pointed out has been used for generations—but their very survival is at a crossroads. Governments must recognise that one of the main characteristics of ethnic minority people is their communal attachment to land base which is sine qua non for their very survival.

I have a couple of questions and concerns about the story of ethnic minority people and about their eroding rights on land and resource management in Vietnam.
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Benefits and drawbacks to protected areas in Thailand

Ms. Somying Soontornwong of RECOFTC’s Thailand Country Program

Ms. Somying Soontornwong

A series of recent studies led by Amherst College (USA) Professor Katherine Sims indicates that protected areas in rural Thailand have contributed to local economic development and lessened rates of poverty in surrounding areas. The studies indicate protected areas can contribute to local livelihoods through eco-tourism and infrastructure development as well as protection for environmental services that contribute to agricultural and forest crop productivity.

These findings strike a contrast with the popular conception that restrictions on land use and access in protected areas limit the economic potential and livelihoods options of local people. While warning against equating environmental protection as a tool for poverty alleviation, Professor Sims suggests that these findings indicate the resiliency and adaptability of local economies under the right conditions.

In a brief interview, Ms. Somying Soontornwong of RECOFTC’s Thailand Country Program shares her experience with protected areas and community livelihoods in Thailand, noting that while in some cases protected areas can improve community livelihoods, they can also place harsh restrictions on resource use and access to the detriment of local people. Clearly, the question of protected areas versus community land does not come with an easy answer.

Courtesy visit to Kasetsart University Office of the President

On September 12, 2011, the last day of his term at RECOFTC, outgoing Executive Director Dr. Yam Malla made a courtesy visit to the Office of the President of Kasetsart University to bid farewell and thank the Royal Thai Government and Kasetsart University for their tremendous support for RECOFTC over the past 24 years. Dr. Damrong Sripraram, Vice President for Academic Services and Dr. Wanchai Arunpraparut, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry of Kasetsart University met with the delegation and Dr. Malla took the opportunity to introduce the new management team, led by incoming Executive Director Dr. Tint Lwin Thuang.  Both parties commended past collaborations, but also agreed to work even closer together in order to scale up activities to support community forestry in Thailand and beyond.
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