Charting a new course for Asia-Pacific forests

“Every seed is a dream, waiting to be fulfilled. Every tree is a reality… Every forest is a community, joining together to stand as one.” This extract from Randell Terre Aranza’s winning essay in the Asia Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) writing competition sums up the spirt of the event, writes Kristen Carusos, of IUCN's China office.

Epiphyte of Borneo

More than 1,000 people from Asia-Pacific countries are gathering in Beijing for this week. Held by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the APFW brings together participants from governments, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector to chart new pathways across the evolving Asia-Pacific forest landscape.

During the Community Forestry Enterprises for Livelihoods: The Way Forward session, experts discussed how non-profit organizations, international businesses, and forest communities can work together to produce timber and non-timber products that are not only environmentally sustainable, but also improve the living conditions of the indigenous forest communities.

These indigenous people rely on the forests for virtually everything from food and medicine to flood prevention. These Community Forestry Enterprises stretch all across Asia and bring many short term and long term benefits to local people.

For example, in Cambodia, forest officials help teach forestry community members about sustainable forest products and potential bio-resource enterprises. These forest officials provide the community with skills training and sustainable resource management. They collect data, research market viability, and create business models for these communities.

In Nepal, community-based forestry enterprises have reached extremely remote areas that are not accessible by roads. These programmes incorporate forestry micro- enterprises and lease land to community members. Through the improvement of natural resources management through enterprises in the Phillipines, forest officials and associates conduct market research and have published information regarding more systematic management of natural resource based enterprises.

The International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) stands out for its success in South America, Africa, and Asia. Through product diversification, sustainable resource management, and training and production centres, INBAR has used bamboo to substitute virtually every timber product from boats to desks to matches. Their marketing strategy and quality standards allow bamboo products to compete in the world market. All of these organizations use market principles to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of forest communities while consolidating natural resources and returning deforested and degraded environments to their original conditions. These programmes empower men, women, and children and encourage further entrepreneurship. Success creates economic incentives and provides tools for sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation.

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