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15 Nov 2016 | News

Developing an Avenue to Strengthen Community Interactions and Engagement for Conservation and Development

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It has been agreed upon that a Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC) will be established in Wa San Dum, a village in Myanmar’s Putao district. The centre has been envisioned as a government-led, community-managed institution that hosts four facilities: a visitor information centre, a homotel facility, a community mart, and demonstration sites for low-cost rural technology.

The concept came about  as the need to engage and empower communities in the Northern Myanmar Forest Complex to positively support the efforts of the Myanmar Government to nominate the Hkakaborazi Landscape as a natural World Heritage Site was recognized. The CIRC concept was jointly agreed upon by the Putao District Government, local communities, the Forest Department, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Myanmar, during a Landscape Journey Consultative process undertaken as part of the Landscape Initiative for Far-eastern Himalayas (Hi-LIFE).

A one-day inception workshop was organized in Putao on 21 October 2016 by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the Forest Department, Putao District, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The objective was to share concepts and elements of the CIRC, initiate the endorsement process, and discuss the design, partnership strategy and related governance mechanism.

There were 35 participants representing governmental officials from the departments of forestry, rural development, border development, livestock, fisheries, land records, and education, the Hkakaborazi National Park, and women associations. Participants included representatives from seven villages, the private sectors, and WCS and ICIMOD. Htun Wai, Putao District Administrator, was present during the occasion.

A three-day field trip comprising of visits to related villages, was conducted  after the inception workshop to further consolidate the idea among local communities. This interaction was useful in preparing the community for their engagement in running the facility and therefore promoting livelihood opportunities linked with conservation awareness, sustainable land and water management, and conservation. The communities appreciated the idea of the CIRC and showed commitment and enthusiasm to maintaining and running the centre themselves, and discussed various capacity building needs and resources requirements.

The Putao district government has agreed to provide a location in Wa San Dum Village for the establishment the CIRC, and is currently engaged in further discussions with the community to finalize the governance mechanism and design of the CIRC. WCS, as an implementing partner of the Hi-LIFE Initiative, is playing a crucial role in communicating the idea to local communities, and also leveraging resources for the establishment of the CIRC.

The Nature Wildlife Conservation Division and the Forest Department have been providing strategic guidance, and as focal institutions for Hi-LIFE, they are positive about the objective of the CIRC and the engagement of the community in supporting conservation and development efforts in Kachin state. The construction of the CIRC is expected to start early next year.

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