Hinton, Alberta, Canada
June 16-20, 2008
More than 150 delegates from 31 countries attended the International Model Forest Network (IMFN) Global Forum in Hinton, Canada, from June 16-20. The event was co-hosted by the Foothills Research Institute, the Canadian Model Forest Network (CMFN) and the IMFN Secretariat. Additional support was gratefully received from the Alberta Forest Research Institute and Natural Resources Canada—Canadian Forest Service.
The Global Forum takes place approximately every three years and is an opportunity for IMFN members to identify ways to support and enhance the concrete contributions Model Forests are making to the sustainable management of natural resources and forested landscapes from local to international levels. And as participants saw, Model Forests have been registering significant impacts in areas ranging from forest certification to fire management to poverty alleviation, policy influence and education.
A mix of plenary sessions, workshops, group discussions and a field tour of the Foothills Research Institute (formerly Foothills Model Forest) allowed for maximum learning, exchange, and identification of future collaborative links across the Network.
The Knowledge Fair mid-way through the week demonstrated significant progress in documenting and understanding of the contributions and impacts Model Forests are registering globally, while the workshops provided practical information that Model Forests could bring back to their local stakeholders and apply on the ground. In addition, participating organizations including CUSO, IUCN, FAO, the CBD and IDRC reiterated their continued support for the Model Forest approach to sustainability.
Strategic Directions for the IMFN
The IMFN belongs to its membership, and the Secretariat is in place in part to respond to and support the needs and demands of that membership. To increase or bolster that sense of ownership, participants were asked over the course of a half-day facilitated session to provide input on the strategic directions, vision and goals of the IMFN so that the end product would be highly relevant to their work and meet stakeholder needs.
After lengthy and lively debate, four key programming priorities for the IMFN were identified: community sustainability, adaptation to climate change, knowledge sharing and environmental services:
- Community sustainability emerged as the number one programming priority because, quite simply, people are at the centre of each Model Forest. Communities are fundamental to the Model Forest vision and participants in this session felt that the niche Model Forests could fill with respect to this critical issue included strengthening participatory sustainable development, acting as a facilitator for communities in conflict and promoting alternative economic opportunities.
- Climate change was viewed as a topic of global importance that could potentially attract both new funding and partners in addition to creating new and important knowledge. The Network’s comparative advantage would be to position Model Forests as a series of landscape-scale platforms from which climate change studies and community adaptation strategies could be carried out, implemented and monitored over the long term. Participants also felt that climate change adaptation work as it relates to issues of shared importance— such as effects on biodiversity, water and food security—would be of value to them.
- Knowledge sharing is the raison d’être for the Network. As such, participants felt that the production, handling, synthesis and sharing of knowledge was a priority. In addition, establishing a model for knowledge sharing that can be applied to all levels (local to international) would be of great value. One of the most referenced ways of facilitating knowledge sharing was through the creation or improvement of databases and other online tools.
- Ecological services is a topic that has local applicability but global reach. It can be applied to issues of shared importance to the IMFN, including water management, climate change and rural development. Further, participants indicated that its application provides a tangible, measurable product and some expertise already exists within the IMFN. The network structure could help expedite the testing and implementation of potential models. Participants suggested the creation of an inventory of potential environmental services be undertaken.
The IMFN Secretariat pledged to participants to carefully review all of the information and issues raised during the strategic planning session and further develop the identified program priorities as potential Network Strategic Initiatives that could be championed and take shape through the IMFN Networking Committee.
The following are examples of connections made between Model Forests during the IMFN Global Forum 2008:
- Chiquitano Model Forest (Bolivia) will share its experience with the Lachuá Model Forest (Guatemala) regarding strategic planning vis-à-vis oil companies operating in their territory
- Sabanas de Manacas Model Forest (Cuba) will develop projects with Urbión Model Forest (Spain) in relation to pine forest management
- The Regional Model Forest Network—Asia will continue discussions and information exchange on valuation of environmental services
- Foothills Research Institute and Eastern Ontario Model Forest (both of Canada) agreed to exchange information and experiences on GIS technologies, biodiversity conservation and environmental education experiences with Jujuy Model Forest (Argentina)
- Neuquén Model Forest (Argentina) reached a preliminary collaborative agreement with the Foothills Research Institute (Canada) on topics such as fire management, conservation of biodiversity, watershed management and a twinning agreement between the provinces of Neuquén and Alberta
- Campo-Ma’an Model Forest (Cameroon) and Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest (Canada) signed a collaboration agreement to look at ways to identify resources with commercial potential and use them to improve local incomes
- Chilean Model Forests agreed to work on forming a national network
- Chilean forest service (CONAF) representatives held discussions with FAO and IDRC regarding potential project proposals related to indigenous knowledge
- Collaborative agreement between Prince Albert Model Forest (Canada) and Alto Malleco Model Forest (Chile) in an I-CURA project proposal, traditional indigenous medicine and non-timber forest products
- The Ibero-American Model Forest Network is to remain in contact with the African Model Forest Initiative to work on common themes and challenges such as financial sustainability of regional networks