The rise of global deforestation is popularly recognized as a climate change issue. Yet this is but one layer of damage, as deforestation also constitutes a major threat to the survival and cultural integrity of indigenous groups and other forest-dependent peoples. Indeed, the forest serves as an intricate network of resources and relationships integral to the economic, political, and cultural dynamics of many peoples.
A large portion of the world’s poor depend on forest resources for basic livelihood security. Yet, their local needs must compete with a large external demand for forest products. Balancing these demands can only occur when forest-dependent people and civil society organizations have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in forest policy design, implementation, and review.
ICAI supports the rights of forest-dependent peoples to play a central role in determining forest policies, and implement sustainable forest management programs rooted in their traditions and informed by current political, economic and cultural realities.
ICAI understands that strains are being placed on non-timber forest product (NTFP) industries and agriculture production, which impact local populations. ICAI thus advocates for policies that promote sustainable agricultural practices and preservation of natural resources. In the field, our member organizations assist communities to integrate the objectives of sustainable agriculture and NTFP harvesting – environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity – into customized programs for securing communities’ livelihoods and addressing local needs.
Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degredation: National Workshops
Finding appropriate solutions to complex problems such as deorestation requires a clear understanding of the issues and drivers involved. With this desire to understand the deeper roots of forest resources mismanagement, ICAI partnered with the Global Forest Coalition (GFC), an Amsterdam- based NGO involved in international forest policy. The goal was to support ICA-led national workshops on the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, allowing actors at all levels to create forums for meaningful change.
In 2008, three national ICAs hosted national-level workshops that brought a diverse array of actors together and addressed this wide gap in human development policy:
Participants in these conferences represented different sectors of society, and included members from all levels of decision-making bodies including:
- local and international NGOs
- local or village government insitutions
- national government representatives
- small- and medium-size businesses
- community-based organizations
- local and national media
- community members
Cameroon is home to some of the last remaining tracts of tropical rainforest in the world. These forests provide a critical habitat for thousands of threatened and endangered species and provide livelihoods for millions of local people. Unfortunately, as rates of deforestation continue to climb due to widespread logging, little virgin forest is left to preserve, and many forest-based communities are finding themselves at risk.
ICA Cameroon is working to expose the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, by pushing for more effective and equitable forest policies, and empowering local communities to protect and sustainably manage the forest resources. In 2008, Cameroon hosted a National Workshop on the Underlying Causes of Deforestation, which successfully brought together 32 institutions, including community- based organizations, national and international NGOs, and government institutions – like the Ministry of Forest and Fauna – in a series of workshops.
In bringing these stakeholders together, a nuanced set of commitments was reached that reflect the needs of the multiple participants involved. In these workshops, in-depth case studies of different forest ecosystems in the country were selected for review. The results of these studies, and the ensuing discussions, debates, and recommendations for further action, were made available to a wider audience. A publication of the project reports and recommendations was also called for, along with advocacy activities to help shift towards more sustainable management of different ecosystems in Cameroon. ICA Cameroon is continuing to develop further strategic partnerships with other international NGOs and will continue to work in the area of sustainable forest management to make an even greater impact.
With the support of Global Forest Coalition (GFC), ICA Nepal carried out activities that promoted the rights of indigenous communities’ access to and use of forest resources. It organized orientation, training, and the development of case studies for its national level workshop on indigenous communities and their often complex relationship to forests. During its workshop, ICA Nepal produced 12 recommendations to present to the Nepalese government for immediate consideration.
The workshop identified political instability as one of the main underlying causes of rampant deforestation in Nepal. Other resolutions considered giving special care to the culture, skills, and traditions of indigenous populations, providing better education opportunities to local communities, compensating indigenous and ethnic communities for their products, guaranteeing free alternative energy for indigenous and ethnic communities residing in or near forest areas, and new government-led arrangements for cattle raising and grazing.
ICA Nepal understands that Nepal’s rapidly growing population puts great pressure on natural resources. Through Eco-clubs and sustainable agricultural programs, children and adults respectively are encouraged to think about ways to use their environment in a sustainable way. Trees have been planted, and nurseries and kitchen gardens started as a result of this program. Furthermore, through training and facilitation, ICA Nepal has motivated thousands of people towards protecting the environment.
In 2008, ICA Bangladesh made large advances in its forest management work by also hosting a national workshop to explore the underlying causes of deforestation, and to propose pathways and actions to address these underlying causes. The event brought together over 100 participants drawn from among policy makers, NGOs, indigenous peoples, the media, and other stakeholders. The workshop began with presentations from research studies on three major forest areas – Mangrove, Saal and Chittagong Hill
Tracts reserve forest – undertaken from February-April 2008. The research and intense discussions highlighted the fact that deforestation in Bangladesh continues to occur at alarming rates and that the underlying causes of this deforestation are manifold. The study also identified the main actors involved in the process and recommended effective measures to address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation in Bangladesh. The event received substantive and varied media coverage, helping to raise the profile of forest management issues in the country.
With help from ICA Ghana, local farmers in the country’s rural communities are integrating improved agricultural methods into their natural resource management strategy of non-timber forest products (NTFP).
In 2008, ICA Ghana continued ongoing, far-reaching village campaigns on conservation practices, aimed to educate farmers on allanblackia harvesting. The extracted seed-oil from the native allanblackia tree provides an alternative to palm oil, which is used as a commercial production input. Whereas palm oil is an exotic species farmed as a cash-crop with dangerous social and ecological consequences, allanblackia can have a positive impact on biodiversity and local livelihoods if sustainably harvested with equitable sharing of benefits among stakeholders. Farmers engage in wild picking of the allanblackia, which helps with biodiversity conservation and sustainable agroforestry systems.
ICA Ghana reached farmers in diverse ways, including socioeconomic surveys and radio programming, thus benefiting over 100 communities from this information and knowledge sharing.
ICA Benin’s programs are geared to directly address changing environmental conditions caused by global warming. One important problem facing many communities is desert expansion, as desert sands are rapidly advancing their borders, affecting local ecosystems and traditional resources.
Desert expansion is linked to deforestation, soil degradation, and drought, such that many communities are seeing their livelihoods threatened.
In fact, the desert on the border between Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger has been advancing more than ten kilometres per year. To help slow this advance, ICA Benin, inspired by the United Nations Environment Programme Plant for the Planet Campaign, is working with communities in Alibori, Atacora, Borgou and Donga to plant 2.5 million trees in three years.
This project will contribute to stabilizing local soils and climate, which will help allow communities to remain self-sufficient.
Over the past decade, ICA Tanzania has established numerous projects which have furthered human development in areas across the country. While focusing on increasing the capacity of community members to participate in their own personal progress, the ICA Tanzania acts as a resource for community development.
To improve the efficiency of local government groups, training is given on resource management, planning and communication skills, including sustainable natural resource management. In 2007, ICA Tanzania launched the Novella Project which educated over 1,800 farmers on constitution formation and their obligations within community development objectives.
This post was first published on the ICAI website in 2008.