In the far southern 9th Region of Chile, the Araucarias del Alto Malleco Model Forest seems to be well on its way to becoming a model for sustainable forest management practices and, particularly, a model of participative management.
On July 29, 2004, the burgeoning model forest (launched in 2001) was recognized by the University of Chile’s Foundation for the Alleviation of Poverty, by being awarded the University’s Citizenship and Local Management Program’s 2004 National Prize for Citizenship Innovation (civil society category).
The award was presented in Santiago by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar. In addition to public recognition for the excellent work done by recipient organizations, the award is also accompanied by a purse of about US$5 000.
Alto Malleco typifies the diversity of interests common to model forests and is committed to overcoming conflicts among its stakeholders — particularly those related to ancestral land claims by the region’s indigenous Mapuche-Pehuenche people.
According to Washington Alvarado, Alto Malleco’s Manager, the model forest’s commitment to participative management is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Board of Directors’ eight democratically elected Mapuche-Pehuenche and three colonos (small landowners whose ancestors were colonial immigrants) —out of a total of 22 Directors — are able to reach consensus on issues despite longstanding historical feuds.
Mario Curical, one of the Directors representing two Mapuche-Pehuenche communities, is convinced, “We have the right to voice our opinions and to vote, (and) we have no problems reaching agreements. We coexist very well in the Board of Directors.”
This was the fourth year that Chile has presented these awards, begun in 1999 under the sponsorship of the US-based Ford Foundation (Institute for Government Innovation), which has launched similar awards programs in Mexico, Brazil, Peru, China, the Philippines, the United States (Governance of American Indian Nations) and South Africa.