A delicate balance
Community and Participatory Management of Natural Resources: Experiences from Mesoamerica’s Indigenous Peoples and Forest Communities
By Jeff Brez and Greg Benchwick
In today’s side event Community and Participatory Management of Natural Resources: Experiences from Mesoamerica’s Indigenous Peoples and Forest Communities, IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division hosted a robust discussion on how international organizations, indigenous peoples, governments and other key stakeholders can come together to create sustainable livelihood solutions from the world’s forests. It’s a matter of balancing development with poverty reduction - and sustainable forestry management with economic development - to create business (and development) models that work for all involved.
What was very clear in the discussion was the strong desire of the communities to identify more sustainable livelihood solutions within the forests, both from timber and non-timber products. These types of mechanisms would allow them to continue their way of life.
There was also a lot of excitement regarding the variety of ways that some communities are managing to earn sustainable incomes - such as through the sale of resin or by tapping the still-unknown potential of the forest to provide other sources of income, for example through medicinal plants or protection of biodiversity that may have other medical applications. Strengthening of value chains was a recurring theme, and it was felt that building mutually beneficial relationships with both industry and government is still an uphill battle, although ground is being gained.
Another hot topic was carbon: Who owns it? Because of land tenure issues in many countries, ownership of the land was unclear and by corollary rights to carbon income made accessing REDD+ mechanisms and carbon markets messy business. Jesus Quintana, Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for the LAC region with IFAD, pointed out that this is of crucial importance not only for reasons of justice, but also for the practical reason that clear ownership or rights is the foundation for a sound enabling environment for investment.
A final point of difficulty for communities is the short project and contract terms for forest management. The representatives pointed out that five years is too short a time period to show proven performance in sustainably managing a forest. What they see as more reasonable are 40-year renewable contracts that are automatically renewable if the management is indeed sustainable and effective. That would give communities certainty in planning their economic and ecological future, and also a broader base from which to gain social, environmental and cultural benefits.
In this insightful video produced for an event on Community and Participatory Management of Natural Resources: Experiences from Mesoamerica’s Indigenous Peoples and Forest Communities, at the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) annual Governing Council, indigenous community leaders and forestry experts examine the challenges and opportunities of sustainable forestry. Indigenous communities are the protectors of the world’s biodiversity. Only by providing them with the means, tools and mechanisms to protect the world’s forests can we hope to ensure a sustainable future for our little green planet. In Spanish with English subtitles.
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