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Forests and communities for peace and wellbeing: The need to remain grounded

15 July 2019

 

Forests for peace and wellbeing, by Mr Kundan Chaudary from Nepal, Best Poster winner, APFW 2019: “In my art, I tried to portray a small part of a village surrounded by forests. In rural Nepal, people depend on forests to fulfill basic needs like rearing animals, firewood, and timber. Women carrying fodder for animals depicts one positive impact of forests on people’s livelihood through animal husbandry. Availability of gently flowing water in the river for animals to drink is a result of good forest management. Forests allow birds to peacefully enjoy the environment and the beauty of nature.”

Forests for peace and wellbeing, by Mr Kundan Chaudary from Nepal, Best Poster winner, APFW 2019: “In my art, I tried to portray a small part of a village surrounded by forests. In rural Nepal, people depend on forests to fulfill basic needs like rearing animals, firewood, and timber. Women carrying fodder for animals depicts one positive impact of forests on people’s livelihood through animal husbandry. Availability of gently flowing water in the river for animals to drink is a result of good forest management. Forests allow birds to peacefully enjoy the environment and the beauty of nature.”

Pedro Walpole SJ

The theme of Forests for Peace and Wellbeing for the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) 2019 in Incheon, Korea is a beautiful concept that we are challenged to live and make real. It comes from deep within the Korean culture and experience of today, and for this we are very grateful as Korea can share many good practices and traditions with us in Asia Pacific.

This is an integral statement of intent made by the Korea Forest Service and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), yet seems to run counter to the world trends we live in. It will take more than a generation to see this necessary turnaround in care for the forests and to turn around our lives as connected with the forests in Asia Pacific – so the request is to stay committed.

It is good that we still talk of forests as community – the integral community of all life, and not simply tree cover. Rural communities must be included in keeping the balance while the fast-paced society and global economy must not simply exploit the “opportunity” of resources.

Our economy must learn to fit within the planetary boundaries while sustaining, and not simply paying for, natural services. Consumption is not the ultimate goal of life and not the way of improving the lives of all.  It is good to see how many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are addressed in this event and how much more integral and just the global response needs to become.

In today’s world, we struggle with global thought processes and strategies where global policy is much weakened and where renewed civil voice and action are called for with great urgency. We cannot simply skip over mistruths found in social media but need to engage with reality on the ground. The youth today can be deeply aware and responsible in formulating a more holistic and authentic care for the land and for forests, for livelihoods, and for food.

We need to understand where the world is going and how we can interact with the needed change. We must seek to align with movements of change that are tricky, as they can stumble and stall.

Community forest management, not to mention indigenous rights, have had a varying start-stop pattern in many countries in the region and are calling for increased social commitment for the social and environmental concerns are one.

We always need compassion in the daily experiences of humanity. And as forest-based communities and small farmers are in the broad geographic and economic margins of our societies, we need to be conscious of their suffering and act with them.

Unfair market pricing in many countries means we have to check our consumption and our payment for ecological services. This is part of what the Canopy Room calls for: the covering and connecting of all things integral in the forest, water, diversity and peoples.

We know much of local reality and of what is happening through community and we need to remain grounded in community. We also need to be able to project this globally and to contribute to a broader pattern of action and call for change. We can accompany communities to present their story during particular events. We are seeking to globally collaborate in smaller ways through the climate change talks (UNFCCC-COP) and SDGs.

As partner organizations and as government officials and participants in the broader processes of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, we are sustaining the reflection and communication needed. We are unique agents of change coming from where we are. This particular experience of collaboration would not be possible here at this time for us if it were not for the uniqueness of the local contexts we share that allow us to gather with hope.

We have an experience of reality that in reflection turns us around. It is a collective conversion that turns us around so we are willing to seek transformation in the world.

This article is taken from the remarks of Pedro Walpole SJ, Research Director of the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), at the opening of the Canopy Room during the APFW 2019 in Incheon, Korea from 17 to 21 June 2019. ESSC is a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines, and together with the Asia Forest Network (AFN), collaborated anew with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to organize creative events and youth-led activities for the 2019 event.  Since 2008, ESSC and AFN have been closely involved since the very first APFW to highlight the importance of forests to the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and share insights and lessons on promoting their rights and roles in the sustainable management of forests and other natural resources.

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