Forest traditions make business sense for indigenous people
Thomson Reuters Foundation, 18 November 2013

LONDON, UK: For centuries, indigenous communities in the Philippines have kept the country’s rainforests safe from over-use, thanks to their deep and spiritual respect for nature’s limits. But in the last decade, economic interests seen as good for development – ranging from mining to palm oil cultivation – have overshadowed indigenous people’s way of life, often with devastating effects on the forest. That has led to a gradual recognition at international level of the important role local communities play in forest conservation. Researchers are finding that, where indigenous people have strong land rights, forests are being preserved. “Whatever the forests can give, that’s only what they take,” says Ruth Canlas, facilitator for the Philippines branch of the Philippines-based Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange of South and Southeast Asia, a network of NGOs and community-based groups that helps indigenous communities market forest goods from resources other than wood, including honey, medicinal plants and rattan for crafts. With the help of such organisations, indigenous people are banding together to form community forest enterprises, which combine products from multiple groups to expand production and marketing opportunities. This enables local people to earn more, allowing them to continue managing and making a living from their forests – and reducing the chance they will be forced off their land to seek work in urban areas. Read the article …