“Invest in us for sustainable forests” say community forest members, indigenous peoples and smallholders from Asia

Bangkok, Thailand - Local people from forest communities in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Thailand and Nepal came together in Bangkok recently to discuss forest issues that are priorities for them and to prepare for the upcoming XIV World Forestry Congress. The Congress is the largest and most significant gathering of the world's forestry sector, to take place in Durban, South Africa in September 2015.

“If you want your country to be green, you need to invest in local communities,” said Mr Krirk Meemungkit, a forest farm smallholder from Thailand. “I make my livelihood from a sustainable forest plantation, and I’m using my knowledge to benefit other local people so they can also develop sustainable forest plantations, and in turn they are teaching other local people how to do this.”

“Local people can and want to protect forests, especially because climate change is already making our lives more difficult,” said Ms Theya Chaw, an indigenous community member from PeinNeiKone, a remote area of Myanmar, who traveled for more than seven days to reach the meeting in Bangkok. “But to do this effectively we need resources.”

At the meeting, participants identified four priority areas, from local perspectives, that forest decision-makers must invest in for forests to be managed sustainably:

• Participatory processes for policy and enabling regulatory framework development
• Formalizing tenure rights and the establishment of community forests
• Funds and resources for community forest implementation, and livelihoods/enterprise development
• Capacity development for leadership empowerment, information access, network advocacy

Under the four areas, solutions and best practices were identified, along with specific actions and investments needed to scale these up – to be shared and influence forest decision-makers on the global level at the World Forestry Congress.

At the end of the meeting, the local people participating in the meeting voted and elected four local people to represent them on the global level at the upcoming World Forestry Congress in South Africa in September 2015.

The four local representatives to the WFC 2015 from left to right: Mr. Em Sophoan, CF ChrosSvay, Cambodia; Mr. Krirk Meemungkit, Small holder, Sa Kaeo Province, Thailand; Ms. Theya Chaw, Indigenous representative, Myanmar; Ms. Hoang Thi Chuyen, Member of Women's Union of Vietnam.

RECOFTC, which focuses on empowering local people through participatory processes and promoting forestry from local peoples' perspectives in Asia, conducted the meeting with simultaneous translation in seven languages. The process enabled local people, who are often time not directly included in regional meetings (as they are frequently conducted in English) to participate fully.

“When we have the capacity, we can do anything,” said Mr Em Sohorn, manager of a sustainable bamboo enterprise in Chrous Svay community forest, Cambodia.

For more information: Caroline Liou, Communication Manager, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, tel +66 (0)2-940-5700 x1236, mobile +66 (0)86 067 3228, caroline.liou@recoftc.org

• This event was organized by RECOFTC and its partners: ASEAN-Korea Forest Cooperation (AFoCO), ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) with support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).