Community Forest Management: empowering communities and preserving the environment

Community forest management has the potential to bring economic development into forest communities and increase their well-being. Good examples of externally supported projects focusing on payment for environmental services as well as direct forest resource extraction, processing and commercialization have been experienced around the world.

One of these cases is with the Noh-Bec community in Mexico. Mexico has about 55% of its forest cover under community ownership through the figure of ejidos (communal organizations). These forest ejidos are mostly focused on timber production. In Noh-Bec, a community in the south east state of Quintana Roo, community forest management started in the 90’s with the support of the government’s Plan Piloto Forestal (Pilot Forest Plan), which included financing from several external actors such as NGOs and international aid agencies for technical and technological development. Up to now, the ejido has managed to construct its own silviculture school which has trained foresters to work in the community business. It also has built a fund that supports students who are willing to study a university program, which has benefited the community by having new generations returning to the community and helping in the timber business, making their community enterprise less dependent on external support. This is all thanks to the good management of their timber. Noh-Bec has achieved sustainable commercialization through the sale of a broad range of timber types, even those considered less marketable through partnerships with construction and toothpick producing companies. Through community forest management, Quintana Roo has managed to preserve 80% of its forest land.

River Bank In Chitwan, Nepal.

In Nepal, the development of community forest user groups has managed to generate rural employment and reduce poverty and the exclusion of vulnerable groups such as women and the elderly. The self-consumption of timber and palms as well as their commercialization have resulted in sufficient incomes for forest communities to invest in a common fund that gives consumer loans to poor family members of these groups as well as productive loans for those wanting to start a forest-based business. The latter also receive technical support from the communal group, training the entrepreneurs in the basic techniques of sustainable forest management. Families outside the member pool are also allowed to extract non-timber forest products for their self-consumption, such as medicinal plants and nuts. Around 35% of the population in 2016 within the country was involved directly in the work of the community forest user groups, generating an income of about 416 million rupees (about 5.5 million USD), of which 75% went back to the communities through development programmes. As a whole, forests in the participating families make up to 15% of the household income.

These two examples depict the relevance of supporting communities with their forest management. Many more examples exist in the world and many are still not realizing their full potential due to a lack of external support. At Offsetra we only support carbon offsets from forestry projects which are tightly connected with bringing local forest communities livelihood sources. We believe forests and people belong together. When both the environment and communities are empowered, long-term environmental benefits can be locked-in for generations to come.

This article was written by Cynthia Sosa. Cynthia is currently finishing her PhD in Community Forest Management in Central America at the Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany. You can follow her on Twitter: @cynthia_sog

If you’re interested in supporting the sustainable management of forests, why not check out one of the carbon offset projects that Offsetra is currently financing? Today we are supporting the Bull Run Forest Carbon Project in Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo District, Belize and the Agrocortex REDD Project in the states of Acre and Amazonas, Brazil.

For questions, get in touch: info@offsetra.com

Resources:

https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/6/11/4295/htm

https://www.inforural.com.mx/noh-bec-escuela-formadora-de-especialistas-silvicolas/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305764062_Community_Forest_Management_A_Success_Story_of_Green_Economy_in_Nepal