Participatory action research (PAR): a tool tailor-made for community forestry (CF)

Bangkok, Thailand – 13 September 2016. Today marks culmination key milestone of RECOFTC’s ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC) initiative on developing participatory action research (PAR) capacity for developing community forestry in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. The PAR work, which kicked off in 2013, has completed 13 research reports on various topics that are important to the development of CF in the region. Some 22 participants gathered today in Bangkok to share lessons learned from the PAR research implementation in the three countries.

Today’s sessions highlighted the meaning and purpose of PAR in the context of community forestry. Dr. David Gritten, RECOFTC Senior Program Officer and lead PAR trainer, summarized the participants’ recollection of what PAR is with the following: social research addresses specific problems, generates knowledge and brings about positive change – PAR is the most effective way of achieving all these three aims.

Although, the PAR approach is a method tailor-made for CF, participants agree that political and government structures pose challenges to effectively developing and promoting CF. One of the most commonly observed challenges is the slow process in obtaining legal status for CF including how the government communicates the procedures at the grassroots level. A participant from Indonesia stated that “Provisions of the law are difficult to follow,” pertaining to the hassles of establishing CFs. With PAR however, the solutions to CF issues can be immediately felt – because PAR is conducted by the local people for the local people. They become not just researchers but actors in the pursuit of solutions to achieve positive change.

PAR researchers from the three countries also shared their findings on customary and tenure rights, CF legal procedures, management planning including livelihoods and markets, climate change adaptation and factors affecting successful coordination between government and local people in CF implementation. Lessons learned in the use of PAR methodology will be further examined on the second day.

In recent years, the use of research- and evidence -based data in policy and decision making has been at the center of discussions in various international forestry conferences. However, research methods in general in the field of sustainable forest management remain highly ‘extractive’ – that is data is extracted from the people by an external party, analyzed separately by experts and shared most of the time only amongst the scientific and academic communities.

The 2-day workshop which runs from 13th – 14th September 2016 aims to shed light and unleash the potential of PAR in guiding forest communities in pinpointing and resolving not only the issues in sustainable forest management but also in self-reliant development.

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