|A group from Vietnam presents on a forest equity and community engagement approach.|
Regional learning groups continuing to strengthen engagement with forest communities
USAID’s Grassroots Equity and Enhanced Networks in the Mekong (GREEN Mekong) and RECOFTC (The Center for People and Forests) organized the 2nd Regional Learning Group on Equitable Forest Governance from September 9 to 12 in Hue, Vietnam for 20 local government officials in the forestry sector from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The four-day event gathered subnational officials from across the region and exposed them to the different dimensions of equity and governance through hands-on experience and field visits. As the second phase of their training, participants came away with real skills to develop questions and approach forest communities and forest community members.
Specifically, they explored methods to address equity issues using different communication tools and identify primary equity issues to focus on in their existing project sites. The group visited Huong Loc Commune in Nam Dong District to meet with villagers where they learned about their equity and meaningful participation in community forest management that enables benefit sharing for livelihood development of community members.
Equity is a new concept for many officials, making it essential that they understand the implications in the region. The RLG workshops have targeted these needs, facilitating both learning and important experience exchanges from the different national contexts. The Equity Assessment exercise that included the participants visiting Huong Loc Commune was one of these knowledge exchanges. During this exercise, the officials asked questions they developed on their own to better understand the equity level of forest management in the commune. This included comparisons between their own community forest management and Huong Loc Commune with the other groups noting that, "benefit sharing in Vietnam is a well-established process which includes community level participation," while the consensus was that this needs to happen in other countries as well. One official commented on the visible role women played and saw its importance. Other observations covered the process itself where participants suggested "community members and state officials should be interviewed separately so they can speak freely".The Regional Learning Group has been a direct response to the gap in capacity in the region. Most of the forestry officials are on the front line engaging with the communities and implementing forest law enforcement and policies. However, they lack skills to engage with the forest communities and understand concepts important to protect them. This gap was the motivation to create the RLG and what has made it a success with members learning how to engage with the local communities.
While the second RLG focused on capacity development needs for research as a result of group identification for this skill development, participants voiced the need for development of facilitation and discussion abilities for the next workshop. This group identification ensures GREEN Mekong prioritizes needs in a more effective way.
While participants developed their own questions in Vietnam, they put them to use upon return home. They have been using their new tools in between workshops to develop their own case studies and gather information on equity.
For an inside look at the 2nd Regional Learning Group, watch our new video from the event, featuring interviews with participants about their experiences. Available at: http://youtu.be/7WBEVCJXcVs
The third RLG will take place in early March in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where members will share ideas on what they can do with the data and further develop their capacity for facilitating discussions.
The GREEN Mekong Regional Learning Group is a series of four workshops for the same members to attend in order to strengthen their individual capacity and respective agencies through exchange of social equity information, experiences and lessons learned within their countries and across the Lower Mekong region.