The world is enduring another year of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the social, economic and environmental costs are incalculable. Yet, in the midst of these challenges, we see a beacon pointing a way ahead, a path for reducing the frequency of zoonotic pandemics and for increasing the resilience of Asia’s poorest and most marginalized people to social, economic, environmental and climatic shocks. The same path enables us to protect biodiversity, achieve gender equality and enhance food security. This path is community forestry: a community-driven, nature-based solution.
RECOFTC’s preliminary research on the impact of COVID-19 on forest communities, conducted with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, shows that community forests are centres of people power and networks of support. When crisis strikes, they can make the difference between tragedy and resilience.
These findings reinforce the directions we took in our Strategic Plan for 2018–2023. As we enter year four of the five-year plan, the relevance of community forestry is increasingly clear. Without a doubt, investment in community forestry is a winning formula for building back fairer and green now and after the pandemic and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and climate goals. And community forestry’s principles are a solid foundation for achieving the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which is a global rallying cry to heal our planet.
The stories in this annual report show those principles in action across the region. Clear and strong tenure and resource use rights. Meaningful and inclusive engagement. Trust, accountability, transparency and mutual respect. Good governance. Fair benefits. And gender equality.
We are grateful for the strong support, trust and guidance of our donors, sponsors, partners and communities. On behalf of RECOFTC, we wish everyone good health, safety and stability in the time of COVID-19.