RECOFTC, Thailand renew pact to strengthen community forestry
Forests throughout Southeast Asia are under continued pressure of deforestation and forest degradation because of clearing for agriculture and infrastructure development. Local communities, whose livelihoods and cultures are tied to the environment, are the best stewards of forests, working with officials to keep them healthy and resilient for future generations.
RECOFTC is coordinating with the RFD to increase the capacity of local communities to sustainably manage the landscape, so they can generate income from forests and forest products, while also protecting biodiversity and conserving ecosystems.
RECOFTC and the RFD renewed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue this work which includes training and sharing knowledge of community forestry policies and practices with officials, local communities and other stakeholders. Supporting connectivity among community forestry networks by co-developing databases is an important part of this partnership, along with coordinating research on community forestry in Thailand.
RECOFTC executive director David Ganz said communities living in or near forests were vulnerable not only to climate change, but now also to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Strengthening the rights and abilities of local people to manage their forests and enhance their livelihoods was more important than ever.
“Forest communities are poised to pay a higher price for the pandemic than the rest of humanity in loss of livelihoods and income,” Ganz said at the MOU signing at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, where RECOFTC’s main office is based. “This is also true for the other human-made emergency–climate change. Therefore, together, we must fight two crises, COVID-19 and climate change, at the same time and with the same solution: community forestry.”
Enhancing participatory forest management is a focus of the MOU to ensure community concerns and ideas for sustainable solutions are heard. Developing models and other innovations that enable local people to participate equally and meaningfully in future decisions about forests is crucial. As part of these efforts to strengthen forest governance, RECOFTC and the RFD will establish a monitoring system and an independent complaints mechanism.
“The Royal Forestry Department is dedicated to promoting and supporting communities so that they play a role and are involved in the management of the forests, together with the improvement of the livelihoods of the people,” RFD deputy director Somsak Sappagosolkul said at the signing.
The two organizations will focus on building sustainable community-based forest enterprises in Thailand so that local communities can increase their incomes. These efforts help reduce poverty and lay the foundations for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the climate change goals under the Paris Agreement.
They also help conserve Thailand’s forests and support the Kingdom’s efforts to combat climate change because healthy forests store large amounts of carbon. Strengthening livelihoods can build the resilience of local communities to better adapt to the impacts of global warming.
Ganz pointed to collaborative work underway in Nan Province for two years to help communities clarify their land rights, restore and protect the landscape, and forge partnerships with companies to plant production forests, make sustainable products and sell to markets.
“Our approach gives communities in Nan a secure interest in restoring and sustainably managing their forest landscapes, in equitable partnership with the private sector,” he said.
RECOFTC is a trusted non-profit organization established under a charter signed by the Royal Thai Government and other founding members in 1987. Since then, RECOFTC has helped more than 1,900 community forestry groups in Thailand formalize their forest rights.
RECOFTC has also trained more than 11,000 people in sustainable management of natural resources in Thailand, many of them women. And it has supported 8,500 local communities in the management of their forests, land and water.
RECOFTC has worked with governments, civil society and local people throughout Southeast Asia for more than 30 years.
RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).