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Shambhavi Basnet, Niroj Timalsina & Nizin Phoo (FRI, Myanmar)
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The regional REDD+ Himalaya Initiative of ICIMOD has been looking for opportunities to introduce sustainable forest management in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. Forest-dependent communities already manage much of the forest here, so the introduction of sustainable forest management is a feasible option.
As a results-based payment mechanism, REDD+ focuses on avoiding deforestation and forest degradation, and the conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks. REDD+ also promotes watershed conservation, agroforestry, and eco-tourism development as these activities contribute to emissions reductions and the enhancement of carbon sinks.
Myanmar has the largest remaining forest area in Southeast Asia, with 44% of its land classified as forest, but it also has the world’s third highest deforestation rate. Between 2010 and 2015, Myanmar ranked behind Brazil and Indonesia, losing 8.5% of its total forested area.
Nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas and depends on forest resources, most notably on fuelwood for meeting their energy requirements. Locally, this is one of the major drivers of deforestation. Some households use up to six tonnes of firewood each year, and the state of forests surrounding such homes is dire. Conservation is certainly not a priority for these households.
However, there have been a few cases where local communities have been involved in forest conservation, where local residents have shown concern about the status of their forests. These communities are looking to implement sustainable forest management in their forests and ensure that forest resources are sustained for future generations. Phekung village is one such community. With an annual firewood collection rate of 1.5 tonnes, households in this village are highly dependent on forests for meeting their household energy requirements.
A team from REDD+ visited Phekung recently to explore the potential for sustainable forest management in its surrounding area. The following interventions could be future activities for REDD+:
1. Promotion of eco-tourism
The forest neighbouring Phekung village has a large waterfall, which has the potential to eventually become a major tourist destination and thus create income-generating opportunities for the villagers. Promoting eco-tourism can ultimately lead to the preservation of the local water and forest resources. This can be done by making the locals see an increase in the value of their standing timber.
2. Establishment of private forestry
Villagers expressed the need for technical help in order to engage in private forestry to meet their daily needs. Such a system will eventually help to reduce pressure on the natural forest while meeting a large portion of the villagers’ energy requirements. This option is viable because locals involved in agriculture maintain nearly six acres of land, some of which can be turned into a private forest.
3. Development of suitable agroforestry system
Introducing a profitable system of agroforestry in this village could count as a mitigation and adaptation strategy for REDD+. Kyaw Win, a local forest officer said, “A public-private-people partnership mechanism can be developed to promote forest friendly agricultural systems. This can be done through initiatives such as the intensification of shade-grown coffee in communities with degraded forests to avoid slash-and-burn practices in the primary forest”.
Agroforestry will provide income-generating opportunities to the local people, while also obtaining various environmental benefits. Employment opportunities may be necessary to compensate for loss of income from not clearing forests for agricultural proposes.
4. Improving value chains for timber and non-timber forest products
Developing value chains and interventions for processing timber, non-timber forest products (NTFP), small scale furniture, and local crafts are potential interventions. REDD+ needs to take cognizance of how to continue timber business in a sustainable, equitable, and efficient manner. Value chain analysis is one tool that could address these objectives simultaneously for REDD+ and timber businesses.
Indian gooseberries grow plentifully in the forest surrounding Phekung. Products made from this fruit could become valued NTFPs. For this to happen, a proper market for Indian gooseberry products need to be established. Townships such as Yak Sawk and Taunggyi could be potential markets.
Additionally, a push towards an international market through proper value chain development is what this local community can work towards in the future. Countries like India and Nepal, where there is already demand for Indian gooseberries, could be big potential markets.
The interventions described above could become forest management activities that are also major interventions for the REDD+ programme in Myanmar. It is very important to understand the relationship local communities have with their adjacent forest. This understanding becomes a prerequisite for any REDD+ intervention. Eco-tourism, agroforestry, and value chain development may be potential intervention strategies to garner support from local communities for REDD+.
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