Citizens key to green management and protection

community forestry
Copyright: Lucy McHugh/CIFOR [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]. This image has been cropped.

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  • Rainforest summit focused on citizen engagement in environmental protection
  • Livelihoods and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive
  • Farmers understand environmental concerns but prioritise fending for their families

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[JAKARTA] Citizen engagement emerged as an important issue at the third Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit held 23—25 April at Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Attended by over 1,200 participants from across the Asia-Pacific region, this year's summit tackled critical issues impacting climate change such as the management of peatlands, mangroves, and ecotourism.
Key speakers brought forward the idea of engaging communities to make initiatives work. Specifically, they stressed the importance of helping citizens understand that environmental protection and livelihoods are not mutually exclusive, but intertwined.  

“You don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment”

Josh Frydenberg, Australian minister for environment and energy

"Public and private sector, community groups, and others are embracing forests, but that goes against existing economic models. The question is, 'How do we make forests part of economic strategies?'” asked Jack Hurd, conservation director of The Nature Conservancy
William McGoldrick, also of The Nature Conservancy, suggested making initiatives economically relevant to citizenry. "How is it going to impact people and how are we going to convince them?" he asked.
McGoldrick said that environmental management stakeholders should look at the competing demand for land when discussing their concerns with the landowners, instead of focusing purely on academic or research-based reasons to convince them to use their property in ways beneficial to the environment.
"Taking on the integrated approach is not just smart from the academic point-of-view, but also on the business point-of-view," he said.
Many individuals, particularly those who live in and work using environmental assets such as lands and trees, often find themselves struggling between livelihood opportunities, conservation, and mitigation initiatives. For instance, farmers may be aware of environmental concerns but they may place priority on supporting their families.
Hety Herawati, scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a co-organiser of the summit in partnership with the governments of Australia and Indonesia, echoed McGoldrick's suggestion on veering away from technical terms when talking with communities. "We have to learn what's in the community. Don't use new concepts. They may not understand technical terms, but they may be planting trees every day,” she says in an interview with SciDev.net.

The summit highlighted the growing shift to a more active citizenry in environmental mitigation and conservation as well as community-managed forestry. 
Remarked Josh Frydenberg, Australia's minister for environment and energy: "You don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment."
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.