In late August, the USAID-funded GREEN Mekong program wrapped up its three-year training of civil society representatives, who have already started to see impacts from the skills they learned.
The program trained civil society organizations from Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam with an approach to engage forest communities and make their voices heard, granting them equity in forest management with government officials. Eight CSOs received additional grants through the GREEN Mekong Challenge Fund (GMCF) to carry out further activities. While originally conceptualized to support CSO participants in implementing the action plans produced during training workshop, the GMCF has since provided opportunities for the CSOs to put their equity training to use while utilizing their knowledge of the local context.
The final regional CSO training also included a field visit to a forest community where representatives put their skills to the test in consultations with forest community stakeholders in Baan Hua Hin Lard Nai, Thailand. Here, participants saw firsthand how equity strengthened the community and enabled them to engage government officials to protect their rights. One of the CSO representatives, Teng Rithiny from NGO Forum in Cambodia, commented, “The forest community came together to protect their forests and share the benefits. And they shared their work with the national park. I saw how government officials listened to the community and their proposals because of the engagement.” Other trainees expressed a new confidence in their abilities to facilitate discussions, analyze the information to understand if the process is equitable and share their results to enact change.