With an estimated 1.6 billion people globally depending on forests for their livelihoods, including some 60 million indigenous people, the loss of forests would threaten the way of life and the very livelihoods of communities that live and work directly in forests and forest landscapes.
Equally important is the potential loss of their traditional forest-related knowledge and practices that have supported the livelihoods and cultures of local and indigenous communities for centuries, while sustaining and enhancing biological diversity in forests and associated agro-ecosystems.
To access and better understand this traditional knowlegde and to identify opportunities for forest certification to contribute to indigenous peoples communities, PEFC selected a project by Kadioan for support by the 2011 PEFC Collaboration Fund. Kadioan is a Philippines-based indigenous people’s organization tasked with promoting indigenous resource systems. The Malaysian Timber Certification Council provided additional support to the project.
The project recognized that indigenous communities have limited knowledge of forest certification yet that indigenous peoples are potentially interested in forest certification given the benefits that it provides them with, specifically in terms of rights recognition. This includes criteria concerning free, prior and informed consent, recognition of customary and traditional rights such as outlined in ILO 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the protection of sites with recognized historical, cultural or spiritual significance.
The project, which included indigenous communities in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, also raised awareness of group certification as a mechanism best suited for their particular needs. “There is now certainly a better understanding of the linkages between forest certification and the sustainability of indigenous forest management systems, “ said Minnie Degawan from the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal People of the Tropical Forests (IAITPFT) and member of the PEFC International Board of Directors. “Equally important, it has strengthened collaboration, which is an important enabler for group certification, among indigenous communities, though more work is certainly needed.”
Going forward, KADIOAN intends to continue its activities – notably forums and training workshops – with indigenous communities to promote the value of certification to their livelihoods. KADIOAN will also work to link its activities to the Smallholder Group Certification project which may offer a mechanism for small indigenous forest dwellers to become certified.