The Model Forest Program is best known for bringing people together to work towards sustainable forest management (SFM) at a landscape or operational level. Today, the Dominican Republic is bringing in people from as far away as Chile to find creative solutions to its forest management challenges.
América Solidaria joined ranks with the staff at the Fundación Sur Futuro in the Dominican Republic to assist with development of the country’s first model forest.
“We spend so much time looking towards the North for assistance, we sometimes forget to look around us,” said Dr. Abel Hernandez, the national representative for the Domincan Republic’s model forest program, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Regional Model Forest Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean (RMFC-LAC). “Most of our solutions can be found within our own region.”
There are signifcant benefits to collaborating with other countries in the region. In addition to sharing a similar language throughout much of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a similar culture, these countries also share many of the same challenges in land and natural resource management, including conflicts in land tenancy arrangements, and lack of basic equipment, infrastructure and communications. Collaboration among southern countries can be cost-effective and can provide the opportunity for people to meet, share their experiences and work together to develop effective solutions to shared problems.
The networking principle is fundamental to the model forest approach to SFM, and a raison d’être of the IMFN. Our experience consistently demonstrates that when expertise is pooled, impacts exceed what could be accomplished by individual efforts. In other words, people learn best about a new activity from those who have faced similar challenges and resolved similar problems.
Macarena Basualto, Eduardo Lobo, and Magdalena Rojas are three of Chile’s new generation of professionals willing to cross borders to share their expertise and experience while learning about other cultures and ideas.
Basualto, an agronomist, has worked mainly in agricultural commodities trading and quality control. Her work with grassroots rural development initiatives in Chile helped increase the business management capacity of local groups. Lobo, a forester, has more than two decades of native forest management experience with the Chilean National Forest Corporation. Finally, with a background in commerce, Rojas has worked in the human resources development field specializing in the expansion of commercial networks.
Basualto, Lobo and Rojas are currently applying their knowledge from other model forest programs, particularly the Chiloé Model Forest in Chile, toward the development of a sustainable forest management plan for the Sabana San Juan National Forest, the launching point for the Model Forest Program in the Dominican Republic. By collecting baseline information on local agriculture, forestry, and social practices important to the management strategy, their work will form the basis of a plan to expand the model forest program throughout the region.
All three volunteers are assigned to the Fundación Sur Futuro for a one-year term. The model forest approach is being implemented in the Upper Sabana Yegua Watershed by Sur Futuro with support from the RMFC, which introduced Sur Futuro and América Solidaria during a regional event in 2001.
“It’s the humanitarian spirit that matters most and it is the will to help others that will transform society,” said Sur Futuro President Doña Melba Segura de Grullón. These interns are the future and will one day put into practice, in their own countries, the lessons learned in the Dominican Republic¾adding yet another dimension to the list of benefits of the [model forest] program.
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Collaborative Science: Integrating Indigenous TEK and Natural Sciences for Sustainable Resource Management and Species at Risk