Taking community participation beyond borders
Collection of information started with participants identifying the traditional commune boundaries - a long process involving intense discussion among commune members and village leaders.
In the identification of their traditional boundaries, community participants reflected their inherent stake in the protected forest. The fact that the boundaries of several communes extended all the way up to the proposed ‘core zone’ is an indication of the strong traditional claims in this area.
This ‘stake’ in the region, was further highlighted by participants’ remarkable familiarity with the terrain inside the protected forest, as they identified the names of every pond, stream, spring, mountain, and even hill in the area. Even the location and estimated numbers of resin trees in a given area were clearly depicted on their maps.
After completing the strenuous process of delineating commune boundaries (where possible), identifying land use, and putting all other necessary information such as number of houses, location of schools, health centers, commune centers, and spirit forests on the maps, the participants identified the different management zones - community, sustainable-use, conservation, and core zones - within their respective traditional areas.
The next step will be to overlay all this newly collected information with the Forestry Administration's proposed zones for the MPF. Only then can negotiations start and can delineation issues be reconciled through a series of consultations involving more stakeholders. Through this process, the project hopes to strengthen communities’ ownership over these zones, which will lead to a stronger sense of responsibility over its management.
Issues of overlapping commune boundaries notwithstanding, these communities share the same objectives of the government when it comes to identifying the areas that need to be conserved, as these are important habitats and watersheds to the rivers and streams that they depend upon for their livelihoods.
In terms of strategies, education, and information dissemination, participants said this approach was the key to encouraging people to participate in sustainable management of natural resources. Recognizing the Herculean task of reaching all the people around the protected forest, they signified their commitment to helping the project in its education campaign.
“We would like to learn from WWF the proper way of using our natural resources and the relevant laws, and share these with our co-villagers,” they said.
For more information, please contact: Amy Maling