People first in tropical forests?

The focus of this Seminar, - the sixth - is on sustainable forestry development approaches that are rooted in real life situations, perspectives and potentials of people and their forests in situ. Despite more than 25 years of experiences with participatory and community forestry ‘classical’ forestry’ characterized by top-down approaches and looking “from outside – in”- are still dominant.

Organisator Wageningen University & Research

wo 25 september 2013 12:30 tot 17:00

Locatie De Reehorst, Ede

The objective of this seminar is to demonstrate that acknowledging and starting from local realities, needs and arrangements in developing sustainable forestry models – and finding the right balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches -is an opportunity and a need, and that it is feasible and doable. Not taking seriously local people’s realities, needs and interests and the complexities of rural life is a risk of failure. The seminar aims to increase our understanding on the common pitfalls and best practices when developing policies, or when private companies, NGO and other external parties directly engage with local actors. In other words what are viable approaches to make use of the best of two worlds.

For people living in forested areas the forest is crucial for their livelihood. Their security of existence goes far beyond the monetary side of the economy. The forest delivers building materials, fuel and many other non-timber forest products. Especially food is important, with the emphasis on quality rather than quantity: the forest is a supermarket avant la lettre. The local setting is often not specifically formulated, let alone institutionalized. Land tenure, for example, is not clear in many cases. Local people often have no (formal) say over what is happening to the forest.

Recent developments such as land grabbing have drawn attention to situations where local interests are often not recognized and overrun by more powerful actors. Globalization is a virtue for many, but the increasing number of new actors, most of them coming from outside, make it sometimes feel like business in colonial times. In like. REDD+ the details of the people may be described in the most minute way, however such programmes will only work if starting from the local situation.

Tentative programme

The seminar will present concrete cases showing how in different settings a smart balance between bottom-up and top-down approach may work, including the limitations and opportunities and how to deal with them.

The programme starts with a typical real life example with all its complexities from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All sort of players deal with the forests but nothing is formalized; formal institutions are present but with low effectiveness. But institutional void also creates opportunities (for local entrepreneurs). The situation can be seen as either complicated - all sorts of people and institutions, or - simply- as one interacting network.

In addition three bottom-up cases will be presented:
  • Management of forest reserves in a Shell concession in the Niger Delta, Nigeria,
  • The Malindang reforestation project in the Philippines
  • Chainsaw logging in Cameroon and Gabon.

In a final presentation a synthesis of key promises and common pitfalls of current day’s interventions by NGO’s ODA, private sector, and policy issues such as REDD+ is presented as a starter for a panel and plenary discussion.

Tentative Programme
Time Subject Speaker
12.30-13.15 Registration and coffee
13.15-13.30 Welcome & Introduction Chair (TBC)
13.30-14.45 Understanding Local Practices
Negotiating timber in DR Congo Charlotte Benneker
Three cases:
1. Chainsaw logging in Gabon & Cameroon Jaap van der Waarde, WWF
2. Shell’s Management of forest reserves, Nigeria Chris Geerling, VTB
3. Reforestation in Malindang, Philippines Anton Stortelder, Wageningen University
14.45-15.15 People First in Tropical Forests?
Meaningful engagement beyond rhetoric -Promises and Pitfalls Wolfram Dressler, Wageningen University
15.45-17.00 Plenary discussion with panel
Discussion based on statements Panel members: to be decided
17.00-18.00 Drinks