3 min read
In June, a forest community in northern Thailand was awarded the prestigious Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). With some support from RECOFTC and our partners, the Wetland Forest Conservation Group of the village Boon Rueang convinced the government to conserve the largest wetland forest in the Ing River basin rather than develop a special economic zone. Since that momentous achievement, made through advocacy and dialogue, the Group has pioneered a community forestry model that is successfully protecting biodiversity, storing carbon, providing food and livelihoods, and enabling the community to preserve its identity and culture. This model even helped the community successfully weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pioneering models for sustainable development
I look forward to celebrating this amazing achievement with the community and to helping the people of Boon Rueang share their knowledge and experiences with the broader region and the world.
The lesson I want most to share is this: Forest communities are resilient, versatile, adaptable, knowledgeable and terrific organizers. They can be our steadfast partners in resolving the most complex and intractable social, economic and environmental problems we face today—even the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change.
Indeed, Boon Rueang points to a way forward. The people of Boon Rueang have demonstrated the power of nature-based solutions for tackling climate change, environmental issues and poverty.
As partners for impact investors, forest communities have the knowledge and motivation to bring about lasting changes that will benefit all of society. The forest is their home. They want to protect it.
But where and how do we invest?
At RECOFTC we are working with thousands of communities in the Asia Pacific region. Here, more than 450 million people depend on forests to survive. They are Indigenous Peoples, ethnic groups, women, youth, migrants and others. By empowering them, we build the planet’s and humanity’s resilience to crises. To give you some idea of scale, in 2018 and 2019 RECOFTC’s investments benefited more than seven million households and 20 million hectares of forest. Those forests, the places where these communities live, are our buffer against climate change, our reservoirs of biodiversity and the sources of water for millions downstream.
Building back better
If you want to combat climate change and achieve the SDGs through impact investments, and build back better in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these communities can be your steadfast partners too.
There are many resilience-building entry points for investment. Here are 10 opportunities:
1. De-risking investment
2. Securing supply chains
3. Developing inclusive forest-based businesses for women and other marginalized groups
4. Diversifying products, food systems and markets
5. Formalizing tenure rights
6. Restoring forest landscapes
7. Building legitimate partnerships, transforming conflict into collaboration
8. Strengthening forest governance
9. Combating illegal activity
10. Bridging the digital divide
I recommend that we not just invest in a commodity, but invest in a whole landscape of goods and services that can come from community forests and lands. Ultimately, this will help build long-term resilience within the community, the forest and the world.
I see resilience, safety and security in diversification from the forest to consumer. But we need to provide the right incentives for a broader basket of goods and services coming from our forests. And the price must reflect the true value of the forest to the world, especially as we aim to prevent the transfer of zoonotic diseases.
AVPN members, like those of us who work at RECOFTC, are investing in and working toward a future where people live equitably and sustainably in and beside healthy, resilient forests. I invite you to join us in engaging with and investing in forest communities in the Asia Pacific. As the trusted broker of communities, governments and civil society organizations in this region, we can connect you and provide expert support.