Good forest governance is key to reducing climate change and poverty

World Forest Day last week focused international attention on the urgency of better managing forests for food, fuel, climate change and natural disaster responses at a time when the stakes have never been higher.

News, 26 March 2012

The Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam,  The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, have invited delegates from 10 countries across Asia and Africa for a four day workshop from March 27 -30 to discuss challenges and opportunities for improved forest governance.

Today, 1.7 billion forest-dependent people find themselves marginalized or in conflict with private and government agencies as they struggle to improve their lives while protecting the environment.

To find practical solutions to these challenges, the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) was set up by IIED in 2003 with support from the EU and the UK. Since then, the FGLG network has engaged with more than 40 international organizations across 10 focal countries in Asia and Africa, producing over 90 policy research documents to improve forest governance.

In Vietnam, changes to governance frameworks have improved benefits for local communities, notably in Pho Trach village, Thua Thien Hue province,  where financial aid has been provided for ‘sandy forest’ regeneration from the provincial budget; in Uganda’s Mabira reserve, the reversal of a Presidential decision to convert forest to sugar plantations secured the livelihoods of local communities and in Mozambique, investments in over-exploitative logging deals have been questioned and prevented  by high-level action. The network has generated over a hundred stories in press, TV and radio advocacy shows.

The workshop in Hue will also focus on international attempts to address climate change by reducing deforestation and forest degradation, which are major sources of greenhouse gases. Under an international scheme called REDD, communities could be rewarded for protecting forests, but big questions remain about how the scheme could be implemented and who will see the benefits.

“REDD is an opportunity to tackle climate change, protect forests and improve the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, but for it to work the systems of forest governance must be fair and effective,” says James Mayers, head of the natural resources group at the IIED. “Communities need more control and more secure rights over local forest resources.  Without this, the risk is that powerful elites will grab all of the benefits and major schemes such as REDD will harm rather than improve local livelihoods.”

Other major international initiatives, such as the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) program to reduce illegal logging, will also be presented at the conference.  FGLG country teams in Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa create  networks to connect governments, natural resource professionals, researchers, and representatives of community and civil society organisations so they can work together to identify ways to increase the power local people have to make informed decisions over how forests are managed.

The workshop will be opened by Dr Nguyen Minh Hieu of Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry; Ms. Nguyen Tuong Van of Vietnam Administration of Forestry and Dr Tint Lwin Thaung from RECOFTC - The Center for People and Forests..

“Community forestry has  been RECOFTC’s passion for 25 years. With FGLG’s practical experience of improving forest governance in countries that are very important for the world’s forests, I think the partnership can help improve the lives of millions of forest dwellers in the region,” says Nguyen Quang Tan of RECOFTC, who convenes the FGLG team in Vietnam.

Read more information about the FGLG

Watch videos about the FGLG and some of its individual country teams