Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

2020 Annual Report

August 25, 2021

The year 2020 was unprecedented. The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March, and in the months that followed no one was spared from its impact. Apart from the existential threat of the disease itself, the resulting
lockdowns, movement restrictions and curtailing of some civil liberties have resulted in a dire situation worldwide. Although vaccines were in rapid development by the end of the year, talks of building back better still seemed superficial and a distant reality. Health, food, climate, biodiversity, and the state of global to local economies during the pandemic were in their rightful places as priority agendas for all nations in the world for what seemed to be a turn for the worse for both people and planet.

The year 2020 was supposed to kick-off a decade of action to 2030 for the SDGs. Before the pandemic, the SDG reports have already shown uneven results. With the pandemic, any progress from previous years were undone with devastating results for food security, nutrition, and hunger. For climate and biodiversity, alarming rates of biodiversity loss, extreme weather, and the highest concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were marked in 2020. The nature and biodiversity goals for the last decade, particularly targets for ecosystem protection, were only partially
achieved. In fact, habitat loss and forest degradation have been found to contribute to the rise of zoonotic diseases.

On that note, COVID-19, as an “emerging infectious disease of probable animal origin”, spotlighted zoonotic diseases as an effect of both climate change and nature and biodiversity degradation. The importance of forests couldn’t have been more pronounced and relevant for the 1.6 billion people in the world (including over 200 million of indigenous population in the Asia-Pacific) who are dependent on forests for food, medicines, shelter, and income. The importance
of forests during the pandemic became pivotal during the crisis period, beyond its seasonal contribution.

Yet these forests are being ravaged by threats fueled by an unsustainable and inequitable economic model, further aggravated by the already life-threatening circumstance of the pandemic. Forests and biodiversity figured as truly essential for the survival and sustainability of all peoples and our planet. The clamor for a shift to more sustainable lifestyles was no small outcry; it was a recurring message throughout the year. Furthermore, such agendas carried through to 2021 as the global talks on food for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, climate and biodiversity for the Conference of Parties, and the development goals for the SDGs continued.

Sadly with the global pandemic, we also saw some national governments taking advantage of the situation by passing controversial laws such as the Omnibus law in Indonesia, the Anti-Terror Bill and the division of Palawan island into three provinces in the Philippines, and other policies which are being amended in the absence of transparency. In India, a farmer’s protest against farm acts passed by parliament in September 2020 have been described as “anti-farmer” by

Civic spaces continued to shrink and dissenting voices were either silenced or threatened with force and even extrajudicial means. Promoting ICCAs remained challenging, with the appreciation for these territories of life still yet
to gain support from lawmakers. One strategy to overcome this is the active participation of the NTFP-EP in regional and international events on ICCAs and grabbing opportunities that allow for advocacy of ICCAs. In our strategic planning, NTFP-EP concurred with the global message that transformational change is extremely vital now and towards the next decade.

NTFP-EP sees the need for transformational change in the status of IPLCs, women and youth in terms of recognition and defense of their rights, their livelihoods, well-being, and health. Their persistent invisibility in statistics and policies need to be directly addressed. The defense of threatened community forests, natural resources and ecosystems and working towards inclusive conservation, where the link between people and forests were emphasized as part of our key strategic actions in the next decade.

The global message of transformational change resonated well with NTFP-EP. IPLCs, women, youth, and civil society have vital roles and contributions to building a better future for all. We summed this up in our theory of change by enabling communities and elevating Community-based Forest Conservation, Indigenous Knowledge, Systems, Practices & Culture, Gender Equality and Women Rights through the enhancement of capacity and space for IPLC, women and youth leadership, building knowledge and evidence, catalyzing stakeholders’ engagements, modeling and facilitating change, and stabilizing our foundation as we mainstream gender and strengthen the organization in the next 10 years.

To this end, NTFP-EP will continue to work towards realizing its vision: “Resilient Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, with women and youth in Asia, are respected stewards of healthy forests and living securely in their land for generations to come.”