Serving society: forestry and people
People-centred forestry is at the heart of ensuring future generations inherit a sustainable Earth. Agroforestry can be its local expression.
Ms Yuliatin, a community forestry leader from Jember in Indonesia, brought a grass-roots perspective to the opening session dealing with forestry and people at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, held 22–26 February 2016, in Clark, Philippines.
After deforestation of the area surrounding her village in the late 1990s, she and other farmers led an agro-reforestation program supported by the local government that saw fruit trees planted in the degraded areas, restoring not only forest functions but also livelihoods and environmental services, such as water supply and cessation of landslides and floods.
‘Now everyone in the village is planting trees and understands the importance of forests’, she said. ‘The forest has returned and is green the way it was before. Now we can get food and materials and water again. There are no landslides or floods. We have learned that we cannot live without nature but nature can live without us’.
Dr Doris Capistrano, moderator of the session and senior advisor to the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change phase 2 project, had earlier provided an international perspective of the long and winding road to the types of outcomes that Ms Yuliatin had described.
‘In the more than 160 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, you will often find forests either specifically referred to or implied’. Therefore, it was vitally important ‘to articulate for a new global audience interested in forests created by this politically-negotiated, broad mandate for concerted action, how social forestry—people-centred forestry—needs to be part of the political mechanisms that decide on the investments in land use that our governments make’.
Mr Ricardo L. Calderon, director of the Forest Management Bureau, Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in his welcome to the session, had underscored this shift of understanding through his own long experience with forestry.
‘In the Philippines, we have seen people once called criminals—because they used forests for their everyday life—become involved in legal forestry processes and be called stakeholders. People and forests: this is something that is close to my heart’.
The first panellist, Mr Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, deputy director-general of the Forest Department, Myanmar Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, explained the steps that his government was taking to protect forests and people, exemplified in the new national land-use policy that had been adopted by cabinet in January 2016. Its objectives were to benefit the people and the country; harmonize land-use systems; balance development and conservation; protect the land-use rights of citizens; and improve the land administration system. Myanmar is also moving forward with Voluntary Partnership Agreements to allow export of Myanmar’s timber to EU markets and has completed a REDD+ Readiness Roadmap with associated activities.
Ms Maria Elder, representing the Pacific Community, noted that SDG 15, to sustainably manage forests—in particular, Target 15.6, to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of forest resources and promote appropriate access to forest resources—was being successfully addressed in Fiji and had become an example for other Pacific island states.
‘Meeting the development aspirations of communities is key to the sustainable management of forest resources’, she said. ‘And equitable and fair distribution of benefits from the forests is key to sustainable management. Resource owners were convinced to better manage their forest resources after seeing financial gain from efforts in applying sustainable forest management. The active involvement of resource owners in the process increased their capacity, the social and economic aspects of forest management and helped further develop the community. The whole process has had a significant institutional impact in Fiji with the concept of sustainable forest management being fed into the national forest policy and code of harvesting practice’.
Forester Orlando A. Panganiban, chief of the Forest Resources Management Division of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the leader of the Philippine component of the ASEAN Social Forestry Network, reinforced the message of Mr Calderon, stating that, ‘Forests and people are interdependent. Every day, we are affected in one way or another by the life-sustaining values of forests: from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, our clothing, shelter, and more. The protective, aesthetic, cultural and ecosystem-service values of forests, including carbon-dioxide removal, make these resources truly indispensable to society’.
How to then promote sustainable development in line with society’s economic, social, and environmental goals through forestry and the people? In the Philippines, this has meant integrating forest values into national and local planning and poverty-reduction strategies.
In other sessions of the Week, delegates will be thrashing out how to expand these kinds of successes throughout the region to ensure a sustainable future—one in which agroforestry looks set to play a pivotal role—for the planet’s forested land and forest-dependent communities, which, in the widest sense, is all of us.
Stream 3 of the Week was co-organised by RECOFTC: The Center for People and Forests and the ASEAN Social Forestry Network in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program Asia, Asian Farmers Association, Asia Indigenous People’s Pact, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Forest and Farm Facility and the Rights and Resources Initiative with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.