Community based forest management

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[[Has Status::Read all comments from expert and peer review.

Primary topic: Partnerships with Local Communities and Indigenous People. Waiting for comments from Mohamed Sessay (Ecosystems Management). Expert review completed for the main topic. Sent to Andrew Mattick for consolidation of comments.| ]]



Rural communities in arid and semi-arid areas are dependent on the forest (where forests exist) as part of their livelihood strategies. When crops fail through drought farmers turn to the forest for food and income. But management of forest resources is not well organized or coordinated between communities. When people are hungry and poor, day to day survival is the issue, not long-term planning for natural resource conservation .

Government forestry services are poorly resourced and lack the capacity (and motivation) to effectively manage forest resources, particularly in more remote areas. Meanwhile, ever increasing demand from the cities for charcoal, firewood and building materials, coupled with indiscriminate and uncontrolled burning of forest grassland puts forests under unsustainable pressure. In Gaza province of Mozambique forests are disappearing at an ever accelerating rate.

Through meeting with several rural communities, held in the presence of government forest staff, the JP learned that there is a widespread perception among farmers that the forests are being destroyed. There is also a genuine desire to take action to conserve forest resources before it is too late. These were two of the findings that form the justification for the elaboration of a community based forestry management plan. The plan is being implemented within the context of a range of climate change adaptation activities designed to provide alternatives for farmers and thereby ease pressure on forests.

Purpose of the activity

The objective is to put in place an effective and well coordinated community based forestry management plan whose implementation will guarantee the long-term, sustainable use of forest resources.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The baseline study revealed Intensive use of the forest for construction, food and, more recently, income (charcoal and bush poles). The important role of women in forest exploration, at least equal in terms of work to that of men.

Almost complete lack of a system of forest management at community level , based on rules, norms and local authority.

Widespread interest among farmers in implementing measures to improve forest management, tree cutting techniques, control burning and promote forest zoning for easier management.

The confidence that the population place in their local leaders and in the Government in terms of improving forest management.

Strategy chosen to address the issue

The JP is implementing this community based activity through the Government forestry service whose planning and management capacity is being strengthened as a result. JP forest consultants and technicians work hand- in- hand with government colleagues, at the community level, at all stages of the development and implementation of the forest management plan . Target communities are encouraged to lead the process to instill a sense of ownership. Community members were trained how to demarcate land under forest, carry out a forest inventory and from this calculate the permissible level of exploration of the main tree species present.

Implementation of the strategy

A baseline study identified the role of the forest as part of livelihood and coping strategies and how the forest is becoming more important in the face of drought exacerbated by climate change.

Initially working in 4 villages, community leaders were assisted to make a preliminary demarcation of the forest areas falling within their respective jurisdictions. Boundaries were recorded using GPS and a report produced that maps out the area of forest belonging to each village. A total of 47,000 hectares was demarcated in this pilot phase.

JP forestry consultants trained government staff and community members to conduct a forest inventory to detail the main species present and their socio/economic importance for use and conservation. A report was produced

Based on the inventory report, a market study was conducted to identify potential markets for the main forest species or their products.

The JP then assisted the 4 communities to draft a forest management plan which was discussed, revised and finalized. It is intended to be a practical tool to guide rural communities and government officials in sustainable forest use.

The work was expanded to a further 11 villages, using the information gained in the pilot villages. 15 village forestry management committees are being legalized. A total of 24 community forest guards have been trained and officially recognized by the Government forest service.

Results and impacts

Rural communities involved in this initiative have been provided with the tools and guidelines to manage their forest resources, something which they lacked before the JP began.

Communities are sensitized to appreciate the importance of the forest and the need to conserve it for future generations. There is a general sense of optimism that this initiative will bring positive results in the future.

The forest guards have been trained and equipped (including bicycles) and are actively patrolling their respective forest. The community management committees, although still in the process of registration are taking their roles as forest guardians seriously. Several individuals have been detained and handed over to the police for illegal cutting of trees. Licenses for forest concessions (charcoal, timber, poles) emitted in the provincial capital city of Xai Xai are coming under scrutiny and the collusion between corrupt officials and loggers, often involving village leaders, is being revealed. There is perceptible sense of responsibility for forest management among target communities that was lacking before the JP began.

On the negative side, some village leaders, who should set an example, are among the biggest charcoal cutters and are resisting change. With big money at stake and ever growing demand for timber, charcoal and building materials corruption among the major players is widespread. Given the high levels of poverty and food insecurity at the village level, overcoming these problems to guarantee the survival of forests will not be easy. For this reason this initiatives is one of a range of activities being conducted by the JP designed to diversify livelihood options in the face of climate change.

Next steps

The implementation of the management plan is only now being put into practice. The management committees, forest guards and government forest staff are being assisted and supported to implement, monitor and take corrective action as part of the JP sustainability strategy.

A three year timeframe for this type of initiative is clearly inadequate to institutionalize this type of forestry management system. However, the basic tools have been developed and provided to those responsible for the forests (the users). The methodology used and the tools developed show that it is possible to take action to conserve forests in areas where they are being degraded.

Potential replication / application

The experience gained by the JP provides a valuable lesson that has replicability for other districts in Mozambique where forests are under threat from overexploitation. As well as providing a step-by-step methodology for designing and implementing a community based forestry management plan it also highlights the constraints and problems that need to be overcome if this type of system is to work effectively.

Additional information

The reports mentioned above, in Portuguese, are available on request from this JP (contact Andrew Mattick).

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