Forest products and green growth in Southeast Asia
All over the world countries conclude agreements with each other in order to receive access to foreign markets. The Member States of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)* want to establish a common market in 2015 to promote economic growth. Officially ASEAN has formulated the goal of making this growth as sustainable, fair and inclusive as possible. However, in many cases local communities that depend on natural resources such as forests will be the victims of this agreement.
Non-timber forest products
This need not be the case: local communities have the potential to fulfill an essential role in greening economic growth in Southeast Asia. This was demonstrated during the 'Forests Asia Summit', which took place on 4 and 5 May 2014 in Jakarta. Our partner NTFP-EP (Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme) co-organised a session about ASEAN’s plans for the sustainable development of the market for so called non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the role of local communities in this context. NTFPs are all products from forests that do not require harvesting trees. The conference, which was opened by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, focused on the question how the region can achieve green growth by better managing its forests and landscapes. The session included a screening of a film about the production and sale of honey from the forest.
Growth market for forest products
Paul Wolvekamp , deputy director of Both ENDS, is a member of the board of NTF-EP. NTFP-EP is a network of NGOs and local groups in Southeast Asia that supports local forest-communities with the sustainable use and management of their forests. According to Paul, this issue has become increasingly important in recent years. "Within the ASEAN region, 300 million people depend on NTFPs, especially indigenous groups. Yet legislation relating to matters such as land acquisition usually favour industry and mining at the expense of the indigenous population of the forests. They are often forced to make way for large-scale logging. "This is a missed opportunity, because it is precisely the local communities that possess practical skills in combining economic growth with sustainable forest management." The market for organic forest products such as honey, mushrooms, natural medicine and rattan, is growing spectacularly, particularly in Asia. Therefore it’s very important for indigenous groups to be able to respond to this growth so they can increase their income and welfare without losing their traditional relationship with the forest."
Both ENDS has been working with NTFP-EP for years. Meetings like the Forests Asia Summit are necessary to push the interests of indigenous groups higher on the political agenda. We are pleased that NTFP-EP is able to raise the public and political awareness of its important work.
* ASEAN is the political and economic partnership between ten Southeast Asian countries.
Photo by CIFOR on Flickr
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