The training took place at RECOFTC’s main office in Bangkok, and involved 18 participants working on community forestry in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Most of the trainees left the two-week course with the beginnings of a new information management system, while others gained clarity on how to improve their existing systems.
Capacity-building is key
The trainees included Koh Sotheavy, who works in Cambodia’s Registration and Forest Land Use Office. She believes the training will help her country move from spreadsheet-based information management to more systematic structures that better serve decision makers and the public. The training, she explains, showed her how to use online GIS tools and how to collect data from the field. She also says the training impressed upon her the importance of forest cover data in the context of community forests.
Ayi Firdaus Maturidy works in the Administrative Subdivision of the Social Forestry Area Preparation Directorate in Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. As part of the team that developed the goKUPS social forestry information system, he says the training on the use of mobile tools will enhance his work. “Sometimes we have incomplete data or some errors,” he says.
“One interesting thing in the training is that we designed mobile tools to collect data. These mobile tools are easy to use, and we hope they can minimize errors in our data. I think this is one thing that can be improved in our goKUPS system.” - Ayi Firdaus Maturidy, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
During the training, participants from each country were challenged to develop, refine, present and defend an action plan for improving their systems within one to two years.
“This training was very useful,” says Phonephanh Luangaphay, who works in the Village Forest Management Division of Lao PDR’s Department of Forestry. “We have information, but we didn’t know how to make it systematic for sharing and updating.” Phonephanh describes their system as rich with information but not harmonized with many other agencies.
“Mostly, I liked the approaches, the categories of the databases and the types of information we learned about,” Phonephanh adds. “One presentation was very comprehensive on classifying information and how these are linked. We also learned how to manage the information. I think this is very important.”
Ultimately, RECOFTC expects that outputs of the training course will help address the development needs of community forestry at the country level. They may also lead to the development of a regional database as well as network-building among ASEAN countries. RECOFTC also offers training on community forestry data and information systems for other stakeholders in the region.
"Robust information systems would facilitate the work of regional forestry stakeholders such as the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry."- David Ganz, RECOFTC’s executive director.
The working group provides policy recommendations about how community forestry enhances sustainable forest management and contributes to the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and other communities that depend on forests.
“The lack of strong information systems across the ASEAN region is hindering efforts to achieve climate change targets as well as the Sustainable Development Goals that depend on strong forests,” says Ganz. “Missing those goals will have deep impact on every nation’s health and economic well-being.”