While the Model Forest approach to sustainable landscape management has always been predicated on inclusive governance, there is room for more purposeful and meaningful participation from women. Such was a key conclusion of a week-long gathering of stakeholders from nine countries in Siem Reap, Cambodia in November 2019, where participants agreed on the need for a regional gender strategy.
“The decision to develop a gender equality strategy for our network will help ensure stakeholders across the region consider gender dimensions in all that we undertake in 2020 and beyond,” said Dr. Preecha Ongprasert, Chair of the Regional Model Forest Network for Asia (RMFN-Asia).
The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia and co-chaired by the Royal Forest Department of Thailand. Participants included representatives from China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Bhutan, Cambodia and Myanmar, as well as partner organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The gender strategy session was facilitated by Dr. Nisha Onta, regional coordinator for Asia at WOCAN. Mr. Richard Verbisky, Head of the International Model Forest Network Secretariat, also attended.
“The enthusiasm of the RMFN-Asia members to include gender in their strategies and programs is a great opportunity to mainstream gender in the forestry sector in the region,” said Dr. Onta.
Dr. Nisha Onta of WOCAN led the gender equality strategy session.
Additional outcomes of the event included an updated regional vision and strategic framework for 2020-2024. Aside from gender equality, other key strategic focal areas include poverty alleviation, livelihoods and food security; forest restoration and biodiversity conservation; water security; landscape governance; and climate change.
Throughout the highly collaborative and engaging week participants shared success stories and current challenges within their Model Forests with respect to climate change and participatory governance, while FAO held a training session on forests and water.
Participants visited a tree nursery and learned about the “One Tourist, One Tree” initiative.
The Model Forest concept was recognized by the host country of Cambodia as a proven approach to ensure local and rural stakeholder engagement in the sustainable harvesting of forest products, as well as non-timber forest products.
“With more than 20 years of experiences in implementing sustainable forest management (SFM) in Asia through the Model Forest approach, the exchange of knowledge was phenomenal,” said Mr. Phalla Thuch, coordinator of the meeting. “We will continue to work with our new friends and partners in the RMFN Asia to realize sustainable landscape management on the ground in Cambodia.”
The Kingdom of Bhutan will host the next meeting of the RMFN Asia in October 2020.