Forests play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s natural capital. Forest ecosystems serve as habitats to a wide array of plant and animal species. Furthermore, forests are home to many indigenous communities in Asia. For these communities, the connection to forests is natural and goes beyond the physical.
Forests have been nothing short of provident in that almost everything is directly or indirectly related to forests – from the products we use, food that we consume and up to the activities that we do. Despite its importance, the global forest cover has continually been on a decline over the past decades and has been continuously under due to human-caused exploitive activities. Moreover, issues on tenure and rights to land and governance continue to beset forest-dependent communities.
NTFP-EP recognizes the importance of forests not just for nature conservation, but also for people. Thus, we support indigenous peoples and local communities in advocating for local action and nature-based, innovative solutions grounded on traditional knowledge, systems and practices.
We work with communities towards a balanced use and management of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) with the belief that it not only nourishes their organic connections with the forests, but it also provides a strong incentive for involvement in forest conservation through basic livelihoods which provide for their needs.
Through our strategy of linking people and forests, we are able to take a participatory and integrative approach to enhancing the capacities of communities in ecosystem and NTFP management so that together, we are better able to hurdle challenges such as (a) the lack of data on conditions of the resources and ecosystems; (b) limited capacities to document, manage and analyze information for monitoring and protection; (c) declining interest to document traditional ecological knowledge and practices and community NTFP protocols and management systems; and (d) the lack of support from government and the public due to poor appreciation of the value of forest ecosystems and NTFPs.
Our target outcomes for community-based conservation are the following:
- Effective community-based ecological monitoring is practiced;
- Traditional ecological knowledge and practices are maintained and revitalized;
- Community forest areas are restored, protected and managed effectively;
- Sustainable NTFP harvest practices are in place;
- The government and public, value forest ecosystems and NTFPs, and that they will provide support to community based conservation initiatives.
- Establishment and/or strengthening of community ecological monitoring teams;
- Encourage and engage the youth in local and indigenous communities to practice their traditional ecological knowledge, systems and practices for increased recognition;
- Engage with governments to accelerate the recognition of community forest tenure rights and practices of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities;
- Implement activities that conserve, restore and protect forest areas;
- Document the traditional ecological knowledge and management practices of partner communities;
- Support the formulation and updating of community management and conservation plans, employing technological approaches such as climate proofing and land use planning, when possible;
- Establish NTFP learning centers in all member countries;
- Establish partnerships and linkages for better appreciation and support for community-based conservation and non-timber forest products;
- Forge linkages with scientists to complement sustainable NTFP harvest practices and ecological health;
- Utilize social marketing tools and relevant media to aid community-based conservation activities;
- Popularize the NTFP-EP’s work and non-timber forest products among governments and the general public;
- Conduct staff capacity building on this theme for continuous improvement and learning of NTFP-EP regional and country offices.
Current and recent projects of NTFP-EP related to community-based conservation include the following:
- Training on participatory resource management and development of related tools and resources to support field documentation and monitoring activities;
- Support for partners in learning exchange events and capacity building measures that enhance knowledge and skills on community-based conservation;
- Organizing expert groups for the development of sustainable harvest protocols;
- Support for the strengthening of participatory guarantee systems and community certifications of NTFPs which highlight the importance of community-based efforts on sustainable harvest and conservation practices;
- Support to ICCA mapping, documentation and registration;
- Supporting both sub-national, national and regional meetings and workshops that aid in the development of resource management plans and community conservation plans;
- Community-based rainforestration projects, including the establishment of nurseries and research stations to engage community members, especially the youth in reforestation and rehabilitation of NTFPs.
Our projects on community-based conservation are supported by the Linking People and Forests project of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation/ Svenska Naturskyddsföreningen (SSNC); IUCN NL GLA for the strengthening of territories of life/ICCAs; and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) through the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change project (ASFCC), especially in terms of policy advocacy of social forestry and tenure rights which support community-based conservation and management.