“This work brought together people, often for the first time, to hear each other’s opinions and understand the evidence presented by organizations involved in the partnership,” says Doris Capistrano, senior adviser to the partnership. “This, in turn, has led to widespread improvements in policies and practices across the region.”
Watch social forestry rising
As a result of new laws and policies introduced by ASEAN Member States, the social forestry area has more than doubled from 6.7 million to 13.8 million hectares, and continues to rise. If Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam reach the targets they have set, the total forest area managed by local communities will exceed 30 million hectares by 2030. That’s almost a 500 percent increase in just 20 years.
“The countries increasing forest cover are those with social forestry,” says Capistrano. “You can see it on satellite imagery.”
In Myanmar and Lao PDR, recently revised laws lay the foundations for using social forestry as a mechanism for community-based enterprises. These laws, along with other policies passed in Thailand and Indonesia, suggest that ASEAN Member States have also changed the way they view and implement social forestry. Ten years ago, the focus was on conservation, subsistence, conflict resolution and better governance and management of forests. Today, they recognize social forestry as a way to adapt to and mitigate climate change. They also place greater emphasis on gender equality and on economic development.
“Through this program, I came to learn about the potential for social forestry to support climate change mitigation and adaptation,” says Ei Ei Swe Hlaing, assistant director of Myanmar’s Forest Research Institute and one of the national focal points who received training under ASFCC. “Being a member of the Forest Department’s community forestry unit, I could share and apply my knowledge in formulating the Community Forestry Instructions 2019, the Community Forestry Strategic Plan for 2018 to 2020, and the Community Forestry Guidelines.”
By empowering communities to manage and protect forests, ASEAN Member States can support sustainable livelihoods, improve food security and draw carbon out of the atmosphere. Doing so can help them meet their national development goals as well as their international commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.