Bolivia has officially requested membership in the IMFN. The Chiquitano Model Forest, the country’s first, will be located in one of the last dry tropical forest regions not only in Bolivia, but all of South America. Located in the south-east of the country, the Chiquitano is not only valued for its unique ecology, but also for its historical and cultural importance. Clearing of land for agriculture, increasing population pressures, oil and gas exploration and production, and construction are but a few of the ways the environment is under threat. The Model Forest’s primary goals will be sustainable development and conservation of the dry tropical forest landscape.
Honduras has expressed interest in developing a Model Forest in the northern part of the country. Officials from the State Forestry Administration – Forest Development Corporation of Honduras (AFE-COHDEFOR) and local community organizations will be working on the development of a proposal for future submission to the Regional Model Forest Network for Latin America and the Caribbean by which they will officially request membership in the IMFN. Honduran forestry officials have visited Model Forests in both Canada and Chile in order to exchange experiences and lessons learned, and to conceptualize how a Model Forest could be implemented locally.
While still in the preliminary stage, the area of the Honduran Model Forest has been identified. The Atlántida region, which includes the municipalities of Arizona, Esparta, La Masica, San Francisco, el Porvenir, and parts of La Ceiba and Tela is a biologically and culturally rich area. With cloud forests, mangroves, farms, protected areas, and urban centers, Atlántida is a dynamic zone which also forms part of the Mesoamarican Biological Corridor. In addition to local organizations, the Honduran Model Forest initiative is being supported by CIDA, AECI, IDRC, GTZ, USAID, CUSO, CARE and other bilateral agencies and nongovernmental organizations currently working in the region.
India will join the IMFN in 2005. The new Kodagu Model Forest (KMF), based in the state of Karnataka, will be the first Model Forest site in India and the seventh in Asia. Under development for 2 years, inauguration of the KMF as a member of the IMFN will take place in October of this year. The ceremony will be followed by an Asia regional Model Forest meeting.
Within the Western Ghats region, Kodagu, with a total area of 4 108 sq Km, is a rich district in terms of forest wealth and biodiversity. With a significant portion of forest land under protected status, it is intended to be a model for conservation, protection and sustainable forest management. The Model Forest aims to protect the environment while maintaining the socio-economic and cultural equilibrium of the region. In addition, Model Forest partners hope that their interventions can be applied to other areas of the Western Ghats, as well as at national and international levels.
Model Forest stakeholders in Cameroon have selected two sites for Model Forest development — the Campo Ma’an and Dja et Mpomo Model Forests. Led by CIFOR, a collaborative partner of the IMFNS, both sites are currently collecting information, building awareness about the Model Forest concept among key stakeholders, and working toward a common vision of sustainability for their area.
Interest in the Model Forest initiatives, spearheaded by Dr. Chimère Diaw of CIFOR, has drawn attention from the highest government levels, including the prime minister. With preliminary governance structures now in place, partnership groups in both sites are now working on producing a detailed work plan and charter.
In Sweden, the Vilhelmina Model Forest (VMF), the first Model Forest site in Europe and the prototype for a northern European Model Forest network, has secured funding to engage six students to work on forest history, water and best practice (GIS) projects. Their principal focus area will be on the relationship between current reindeer husbandry and forest management operations. Their research is expected to be complete this fall. Further, the public and all stakeholders in the VMF are invited to attend a discussion on issues surrounding watershed management on September 21, 2005. Small waterways and fish habitat will be the principle focus of the meeting.
IMFNS executive director Peter Besseau will be travelling to France in September for a day of consultation between the Secretariat and the Parc naturel régional du Morvan. The meeting follows two months of work comparing and contrasting the approaches both groups take to sustainable resource management. Discussion will focus on the prospect of the Parc becoming a member of the IMFN.