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A recent news article told the story of the Community Forest of “60-mile village” in Yebyu Township, Taninthayi, 60 miles north of Dawei. A CF project was first attempted in 1995 but failed due to limitations on the benefits that the community could obtain. Following the revision to the Community Forestry Instructions (CFI) in 2016, the renewed attempt seems to be working. Officially, the village lies with a Reserve Forest, and so the community is technically illegal. However, with the support of the Forest Department and local officials, an 800-acre forest plantation is now established, supported by a Community Forest Users’ Group (CFUG) consisting of 79 of the 84 households in the village. The villagers expect to be able to harvest a proportion of their fuelwood from the Community Forest, thereby reducing their reliance on natural forests for fuel.
If Myanmar is going to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from its forests, it is going to need many more success stories like “60-mile village”. The 30-year Forestry Master Plan of 2001-02 to 2030-31 established a target of 2.27 mil. acres (0.919 mil ha) of CF by 2030. For communities with little or no formal documentation of tenure, the establishment of a community forest should be an attractive option since it provides some protection against potential land-grabbing. However, currently the rate of establishment of community forests is falling well behind what would be required to reach the target.
At a workshop organized by the UN-REDD Programme in December, stakeholders from government and non-governmental organizations, including representatives of CFUG’s, met to discuss how to overcome barriers that slow down the establishment of Community Forests, both inside and outside Reserve Forests. Some of the key conclusions reached at the workshop were:
- Improvements to the CFI should be incorporated into the current process of developing Rules in support of the Forest Law of 2018.
- The Rules under the new Forest Law should also ensure that principles relating to Free, Prior and Informed Consent should be clearly stated. UN-REDD is currently implementing an FPIC pilot which will generate valuable lessons.
- MONREC, MOALI and GAD should reach agreement on streamlined procedures for Community Forest procedures involving Vacant, Fallow and Virgin land.
- The Community Forest National Working Group should engage with Development Partners to raise capacities to access micro-finance for CFUG’s to develop “Community Forest Enterprises”, which will generate more income for CFUG’s.
- To expand the area of Community Forests, additional incentives must be provided. (e.g. crop insurance, tree insurance), and there needs to be support to link potential Community Forest Enterprise products to markets.