Resilient forest dependent communities need supportive government policies and strengthened institutions
A Special Event on ‘Sustaining Forests for Mitigation and Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change’ was organised by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD); The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India; and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India on the sidelines of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS2011) in Delhi on 4 February 2011.
Based on the presentations made by Dr. Giridhar Kinhal and Mr. Hari Krishna from ICIMOD and Dr. Yogesh Gokhale of TERI, panellists and participants from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and others deliberated on the various aspects of the topic and called for enabling and supporting policies from governments of the region and strengthening of local forest management institutions to support REDD+ approaches and practices aimed at sustaining forests, reducing poverty, and building community resilience for long-term mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.
The panel discussion was held with Dr Pema Gyamtsho, Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan; Dr R B S Rawat, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttarakhand; Mr B M S Rathore, Joint Secretary, MoEF, India; and Dr Partha Das of Aaranyak, Assam, India. The discussion was moderated by Dr Madhav Karki, Deputy Director General of ICIMOD. The panellists emphasised the critical role of forests as carbon sinks, important habitats for biodiversity, and as a basis and source of resources for diversifying livelihoods to support community resilience building. A case related to bay leaf in Uttarakhand highlighted the importance of value chain assessment and identification of leverage points for interventions to help the local community to get maximum value from the produce and diversify their livelihood options. This was made possible through a policy change by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand that improved the access to bay leaf products, enabled local collectors, and brought the market closer to the collectors. This has helped the communities to more than triple their income from bay leaf collection and marketing.
The key messages that came out of the Panel discussion and wrap-up sessions were that a) enabling and supporting policies and strengthening of local forest management institutions are the key requirements for achieving success in REDD+ that can help sustain forests; and that there is a need to b) improve and implement community-based forest management policies; c) give more access and benefit sharing rights and management responsibilities to local communities; d) document traditional knowledge and strengthen information sharing between upstream and downstream communities to prevent and manage flood disasters; and e) enhance community resilience and adaptation by enhancing carbon stocks in forests, conserving biodiversity, and diversifying livelihood opportunities by enhancing high value products and environmental services.
Participants suggested that the way forward lay in assimilating successful local experiences in sustainable forest resource management strategies and action plans, and encouraging local efforts towards adaptation and resilience. Mr B M S Rathore emphasised the importance of such successful interventions and assured the participants that the MOEF will work to create opportunities for such policy changes at the Government of India level, and will take up the issue with the committee dealing with NTFP policy development. It was concluded that with supportive policies, forest dependent communities can improve the status of forest resources by adopting sustainable harvest mechanisms and realising the benefits of global REDD+ facilities.
A TERI publication on ‘Medicinal Plant Wealth of India: A Comprehensive Review of Selected Species’ was released on the same occasion. The book, targeted at herbal product manufactures, scientists, health authorities, and practitioners, provides a critical analysis of currently available information on ten species.
Dr Andreas Schild, ICIMOD’s Director General, gave the concluding remarks. He thanked all those present and stressed the need to work together to ensure the success of the opportunities such as REDD+ to achieve climate mitigation and adaptation in the region.