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During the 14th World Forestry Congress, Tropenbos International and partners organized a special side event to share experiences from forest and farm producers. It brought together more than 50 people, who reconfirmed the wealth of knowledge held by producer organizations, and that is being shared and built upon to create change.
In the side-event various speakers shared their views and knowledge regarding forest and farm organisations. Also, the latest edition of the ETFRN news ‘Effective forest and farm producer organizations’, was officially launched. Joe Cobbinah, Tropenbos International board member, presented copies to Rob Busink of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, Jeff Campbell, Manager of the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), Noemi Pérez, CEO of FAST International and FFF Board Chair, and Peter deMarsh, Chair of the International Family Forest Alliance (IFFA).
The side-event was built around setting that producer organizations, together, make up the world’s largest private sector. They are already making major impacts on many issues, but could do so much more by strengthening themselves and with more appropriate support as presented by Herman Savenije from Tropenbos International in his welcome speech.
The key findings of the ETFRN news gave the background to the event. These were introduced by guest editor Nick Pasiecznik, condensing the 218 page book into 35 words:
These were also compared to those resulting from the Building momentum pre-Congress event. These were then discussed in light of their own realities by five invited guests (see below), representing the farm and forest organizations from around the world.
Bharati Pathak of the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), spoke of the challenges in marketing, poor transportation and infrastructure in rural areas, and government bureaucracy, and how they are advancing through cross-sectoral dialogues at local and national levels.
Victor Lopez of the Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria de Guatemala Ut'z Che and of the regional federation Asociación Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB) spoke with passion about the absolute need to understand local realities, how NGOs and others can create problems if they do not, and “a business-only focus is a too limited focus”, requiring a balance also with social and environmental concerns.
Norman Dlamini of Forestry South Africa, an association of plantation forest farmers and enterprises of all sizes, spoke clearly of the essential need for clear land ownership, a willingness to learn, social balance, appropriate markets and good partnerships. He also spoke of ubuntu, human kindness, as the essential basis for building trust and lasting relationships.
Krirk Meemungkit of Khao Chakan Agroforest Enterprise and a branch manager of TreeBank, Thailand (with Thai-English translation by Martin Greijmans of RECOFTC) told a remarkable story of how from 50 people and a few hectares, they have grown in only seven years to 300,000 members with trees planted on half a million hectares.
And in addition to these stories, Jog Raj Giri of the Association of Family Forest Owner’s Nepal (AFFON), asked to speak, and told the gathering about this new association, its structure, aims and how it is beginning to help its members.
We heard from Africa, Asia and the Americas about common concerns such as tenure rights faced by producer organizations – but also that great advances are being made, and change is happening. This evening reconfirmed the wealth of knowledge within producer organizations and that is being shared and built upon. This side event was another push in the Building Momentum initiative, which is growing, and the World Forestry Congress was a milestone on this road. The next step must be to reach out to the wider world, to other sectors such as finance, and larger enterprises who are showing an interest in building partnerships with producer organizations. We needed to talk, to share. Now we must go forward with confidence and make these new links.