Amidst rapid commercialization and economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) deforestation has become increasingly prevalent, impacting rural and urban communities alike. Due to such consequences, it could be argued that this rapid economic progress has not necessarily improved the well-being of the smallholders who are engaged in agriculture and forestry. For example, the replacement of traditional forest crops with intensively managed rubber and banana plantations has largely led to disappointing returns for certain smallholders, while reducing forest cover by 1,359,694 ha annually (RECOFTC, 2017). This combination of financial instability and deforestation consequently has distorted the smallholders’ ability to adapt to and mitigate the effects of global climate change.
The negative correlation between economic growth and deforestation that is sometimes provided does not need to be the only narrative expressed by those engaged in the region. Commercialization of agriculture and sustainable forestry are not part of a simple dichotomy that is in constant tension with one another. There are ways in which local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments and private sector can partner effectively to achieve mutually beneficial results. One such way is through production-driven forest landscape restoration (FLR), which aims to enhance forest cover and secure more cohesive landscape functions while enhancing livelihoods.
Within this context, The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) has received financial support from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Energy (BMU), under International Climate Initiative (IKI), to implement a four years project aiming to “enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of forests in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries through innovative and production-driven forest landscape restoration (FLR).” The approach will be driven by emerging private sector-community partnerships to stimulate production-driven forest landscape restoration.
RECOFTC, with the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), Nan Community College (NCC) and selected private sector actors, will work closely in three landscapes within Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The project will integrate in a succinct manner with the national strategies of the target countries, as well as provide tangible goals and results. In pursuing such an objective, this project will cover four important thematic areas: climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and contribution towards sustainable development.
In essence, this project aims to develop community-private sector business partnerships in achieving forest restoration, forest productivity and improved livelihoods in three landscapes in the following countries:
Lao PDR: Facing an annual forest loss of 16,000 ha (FAO, 2015), the Lao PDR is also losing living biomass at a rate of 9,400,000 ton/year. The potential project site is considering a two to five km corridor along the Mekong river, encompassing Bokeo-Sayabouri-Luangprabang provinces, focusing specifically on engaging with community lead forest production and conservation models. In particular, by including teak and non-timber forest products in these models, they will have the potential to achieve significant economic and restoration outcomes. The aim of these models is to strengthen community lead sustainable forest management practices while making them attractive to the local timber, fuel and bark processing industry
Viet Nam: With an annual forest loss rate of 12,000 ha (FAO, 2015), the project will pilot a forest production model that seeks to reverse this trend.Specific support will be provided to a cluster of communes in Nghe An province, which have control over smallholder plantations--primarily bamboo--and natural forests by virtue of the Red Book (Certificate of Land Use Rights granted as per Viet Nam’s land use policy). The aim is to work with the well established market opportunities for bamboo and other wood products and assess and improve efficiency in forest product value chains, with particular focus on realistic life cycle and carbon footprint assessments in different primary production and transport options.
Thailand: Living biomass in forests is being reduced by a rate of 7,200,000 ton/year, while the government seeks to restore forest cover to 40% (FAO, 2015). In one of the major timber producing regions, Nan province, the project will work with smallholders and the Forest Industry Organization to support in lowering the impact of timber extraction on some of the plantations, and assist in government restoration activities. Small and medium scale wood processing facilities will provide for potentially innovative opportunities to improve carbon-footprinting in the harvesting and wood processing stages.