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We are building resilience through community forestry
David Ganz
Executive Director, RECOFTC
We are intensifying and expanding our efforts to build strong, legitimate partnerships among forest communities, governments and the private sector based on trust, accountability, transparency and mutual respect.

Many of you reading our annual report will have participated in the consultations to develop our new Strategic Plan for 2018–2023. When we worked together to shape our Strategic Plan, we did not imagine that the gains Indigenous Peoples and local communities have made through community forestry could be derailed or set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, this is indeed happening.

The novel coronavirus does not differentiate between peoples. It attacks both the rich and the poor. But the communities we serve are far less able to protect themselves from COVID-19 than others, and they have the least access to provisions and healthcare. These communities are poised to pay a higher price for the pandemic than the rest of humanity in loss of livelihoods and income. This is also true for the other human-made emergency, climate change.

Therefore, at RECOFTC, we must fight two crises, COVID-19 and climate change, at the same time and with the same solution: community forestry.

We are thinking beyond the pandemic to see how investments in community forestry can spur achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement. We believe that through innovation and a realignment of global priorities there are new opportunities to overcome the most persistent and neglected inequalities in the world. But we will only succeed when solutions respect the views, aspirations and tenure rights of forest communities. They must participate in all decisions about policies and laws that affect their present and their future welfare. This is essential not only to protect and empower forest communities but to protect us all. 

We know that when the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are clear and strong, they are the best stewards of our forests and other precious ecosystems. Research proves this. They are also better able to take care of themselves during times of crisis, less vulnerable to disasters and less reliant on 'outsiders' for food, medicines and other essentials. 

But the benefits of secure tenure and use rights go far beyond their communities. Indigenous Peoples and local communities can also take care of others. When they have secure rights, they are more able to make long-term investments in their lands and to produce products that feed and support urban populations. In this way, forest communities reduce the dependence of regions and countries on imported products, not only in good times but when borders are closed. Forest communities build social safety nets for us all while mitigating climate change and other disasters.

In this time of crisis, governments must protect all poor and vulnerable rural people and recognize how forest communities and community forestry build resilience to disasters for us all. 

In the post-COVID-19 world, we must support meaningful engagement among forest communities, government and the private sector so that they can find and build on shared interests in order to design sustainable and fair solutions to pandemics, climate change and other disasters. To achieve this, we must build and strengthen the capacities of forest communities, civil society and government at the local level so that communities can negotiate and secure an equitable share of benefits. Otherwise, we will return to rampant deforestation and further perpetuate inequalities.

This is where RECOFTC can apply its strengths. And this is how RECOFTC is responding to the challenge of COVID-19 and climate change. As a neutral convener and capacity builder of all, we are intensifying and expanding our efforts to build strong, legitimate partnerships among forest communities, governments and the private sector based on trust, accountability, transparency and mutual respect.

I invite you to learn about our approaches and achievements by reading the stories in this report and to join us in our mission.   

On behalf of RECOFTC, we wish everyone’s families and friends good health, safety and stability in the time of COVID-19.