SEARCA leads talk on youth, gender inclusion in forestry

Including the youth, women and indigenous communities to manage forest and natural resources result in benefits that include improvements in livelihood and food security.

This was discussed at the session on youth and gender inclusion in forestry that was organized by Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) at the Asia Pacific Forestry Week 2019 (APFW 2019) in Incheon, South Korea, from June 17 to 21.

The APFW 2019 was jointly organized and hosted by the Korea Forest Service and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

APFW 2019's overall theme, "Forests for peace and well-being," evoked the need to integrate forestry into the context of environment, society and sustainable development, wherein the economic and sociocultural dimensions are taken into consideration.

SEARCA's session on youth and gender inclusion in forestry brought together voices of youth and women champions who have led the way to meaningful participation toward sustainable forest management (SFM).

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said the session aimed to identify gaps and interventions toward streamlining youth and women's participation in forestry decision-making and their implications for SFM.

In his overview of the session, Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA program head for Research and Development, emphasized that the experiences from countries in the Asia-Pacific region show the transformative impacts of empowering men, women, youth and indigenous communities to manage forest and natural resources, resulting in substantial benefits, such as capital formation and improvements in livelihood and food security.

SEARCA drew in Bangkok-based Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) to discuss "Forests, power and exclusion: What it takes to include women and youth in forest landscapes," as well as Thailand's International Forestry Students' Association (IFSA) to talk about "Youth Inclusion in Decision Making for Sustainable Forest Management."

Dr. Kalpana Giri of RECOFTC highlighted that representation, resources and rights are the key entry-points for inclusion.

On the other hand, Oindrila Basu, IFSA representative, underscored that youth inclusion in decision-making not only recognizes and encourages their voice and action, but also instills in them a sense of responsibility to the cause of the planet and accountability toward the decisions taken.

Country experiences of Nepal and Myanmar on the role of men and women in forest decision-making were also presented by representatives of the Federation of Community Forestry Users in Nepal and the assistant director of the Forest Research Institute (FRI) of Myanmar.

Dr. Ei Ei Swe Hlaing of FRI shared findings of the assessment of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in mountainous regions of Myanmar toward community forest development, a project funded by the SEARCA-managed ASEAN Working Group Strategic Response Fund.

She highlighted that women, young and old, are empowered by the income they get from NTFPs which helps pay for household expenses, minimal as it is.