Danish ecolabelling campaign forges ahead
Se creó la primera área de conservación privada
Gorilla-based tourism: a realistic source of community income in Cameroon?
Kumrose Community Forest, Nepal
Nature reserve in Viet Nam: Na Hang dam threatens forests, people and wildlife
Forests and conflict

Danish ecolabelling campaign forges ahead

The Danish Government's information campaign on ecolabelling, launched in 2001, has now entered its second phase, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced. The first stage saw public recognition of the European Union "Flower" symbol and of the Nordic "Swan" label increase substantially and also resulted in rises of up to 50 percent in sales of ecolabelled products, the agency said in a statement. The campaign will now focus on increasing the range and turnover of ecolabelled goods. (Source: Environment Daily, 1091, 29 October 2001.)

Se creó la primera área de conservación privada

El bosque seco lambayecano de Chaparrí es, desde el pasado 27 de diciembre, la primera área natural protegida de conservación privada del Perú. Su gestión es obra exclusiva de los integrantes de la comunidad campesina de Santa Catalina de Chongoyape que aspiran a convertir a Chaparrí en un ejemplo de conservación para las comunidades del país y en un factor importante de su propio desarrollo social.

La nueva área protegida privada ha sido creada mediante la Resolución Ministerial N° 1.324-AG-2001, con la opinión favorable de la Dirección General de Áreas Naturales Protegidas del Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA) y que será administrada por esta comunidad campesina luego cumplir con los requisitos exigidos por el INRENA, en consonancia con la legislación vigente sobre áreas protegidas.

Según el expediente técnico presentado por la comunidad de Santa Catalina, Chaparrí protegerá los bosques y las especies de fauna existentes y desarrollará planes de manejo para la rehabilitación y reintroducción de especies de flora silvestre amenazadas y en peligro de extinción.

El área de conservación privada Chaparrí tiene una extensión de 34 413 hectáreas, ubicadas en el distrito de Chongoyape, provincia de Chiclayo, departamento de Lambayeque, y en los distritos de Llama y Miracosta, provincia de Chota, departamento de Cajamarca.

Las especies de flora más representativas suman más de 50 entre las que se incluyen el sapote, hualtaco, overo, algarrobo, faique, angolo, chamico, caña brava, lipe, tres especies silvestres de tomates, una variedad de frutales nativos, así como un grupo de 7 especies que aún no han sido identificadas científicamente. (Fuente: Econews, 10 de enero de 2002.)

Gorilla-based tourism: a realistic source of community income in Cameroon?

In the southern forest belt of Cameroon a trial is under way to develop a "community-based gorilla research and tourism site". This is taking place within the context of government policy to involve local populations in the management of wildlife, and is an attempt to address the desire of a local community to develop some sort of tourism in and around their community forest. A recent case study of the villages of Koungoulou and Karagoua in Cameroon by Elias Djoh and Mark van der Wal discusses some fundamental questions related to the feasibility of the trial, such as the difficulty of working within existing legislation, the need to habituate the gorillas to the presence of humans, and the problem of helping the community to organize such an activity effectively.

There is an ongoing debate in Cameroon concerning the sustainable management of wildlife, the involvement of local populations in natural resource management, and activities that can generate sustainable income for those populations.

In the Lomié region and throughout the humid forest belt of southern and eastern Cameroon, agriculture (especially cocoa and coffee) used to be the favoured source of income for farmers. However, with the end of State subsidies and a drastic fall in the market price of these products, local people have turned to hunting (all of which, according to current legislation, is illegal "poaching") in order to meet their needs. Although industrial logging within the "agroforestry" zone undoubtedly provides an income for the State and populations living adjacent to concessions, the impact of this income at village level is very minor.

Given this situation, the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and projects have put emphasis on working with the local populations to find other activities which could generate more sustainable income to compete with hunting and logging. In this respect, local people can potentially benefit from Cameroon's forestry policy, which gives them the right to apply for and manage community forests and community hunting zones according to established norms and procedures. Although the areas concerned are not large, this is nevertheless an achievement for the populations, allowing them to take their own decisions about the use of the forest.

Two villages, Karagoua and Koungoulou, have included the development of tourism in their forest management objectives, and specifically tourism to observe gorillas in their natural habitat. This initiative is supported by a local NGO, Centre international d'appui au développement (CIAD), which, together with local populations, has initiated a gorilla habituation trial in the village forest area. In the long term, the aim is to develop a site for tourism and scientific research where the gorillas will be protected and habituated to the presence of humans in their environment.

The authors explore the potential benefits, problems and constraints of this proposal and present their first results and impressions. They conclude that, in the case of Lomié, it is clearly possible to habituate one or several groups of gorillas, although the habituation process takes time. Locally, it is often compared to the establishment of an oil palm plantation: four years of time and energy must be invested before the first palm nuts can be harvested. Thus, it will require patience and perseverance before the gorillas are habituated and the investment begins to show returns. Given the need to diversify local sources of income, the authors still firmly believe that it is worth attempting despite the problems encountered. The biggest question is whether the populations concerned are capable of organizing themselves to manage this community activity. Once they are well organized, it will represent a more sustainable source of income, in contrast to the sporadic income from the sales of standing volume. There are, however, several other questions which remain unanswered: how will this money (the income from a community activity conducted by several villages) be managed? Will the activity have a positive impact on the conservation of gorillas as a species in Cameroon? Or will the gorillas still be hunted in the part of the forest that is not involved in this habituation trial? (Source: Rural Development Forestry Network paper 25e, July 2001.)

For more information, please contact the authors:

Elias Djoh, Director,
Centre international d'appui au développement,
PO Box 24, Lomié,
E-mail: vso@camnet.cm;
Mark van der Wal, SNV Cameroon, PO Box 1239, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
E-mail: snvcmpose@gcnet.cm

Kumrose Community Forest, Nepal

Fifteen years ago, Nepal's Kumrose Community Forest was 25 ha of barren land. Once part of the vast Chitwan jungle, the forests had been cleared by loggers and a government resettlement campaign. Then, in the late 1980s, the community got together to plant trees and recreate the once-lush jungles of the area. Today the Kumrose Community Forest is a 1 050 ha patch of jungle that generates NRs 1.5 million annually from tourists visiting the area for elephant rides and nature walks.

Kumrose does not rival the nearby Royal Chitwan National Park, but it has shown that human intervention can bring back the nature that human intervention destroyed - and it can work for the benefit of nearby villages and raise their standard of living. Park and people need not be in conflict.

Hira Bahadur Gurung, who chairs the forest conservation group, said that in the past the floods from the Rapti river used to wreak havoc in Kumrose and seven other villages. Tree plantations were started on the barren banks of the river to prevent floods; now there are no floods, the trees hold the soil together and the farms are more fertile.

Today, nearly 1 200 households in the vicinity benefit directly from the Kumrose forest, which helps meet their fuelwood, timber, fodder and thatch needs. With the restoration of the forests, wildlife from the Royal Chitwan National Park has also started sneaking into the Kumrose forest. The Asiatic one-horned rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger both roam the forest, and this brings in tourists keen to ride on elephant back to catch a glimpse of the rare beasts, or go on jungle walks or even camp out.

The Kumrose Community Forest is a remarkable success story of how community forestry and conservation can go together. The village collects fees from the rides and ploughs the money directly into further conservation work. Biogas plants have been installed in many households as an alternative source of energy and villagers are encouraged to use less fuelwood from the forest.

Curious visitors to the community forest have also encouraged local micro-entrepreneurship, and the success of preservation efforts has encouraged people to start community enterprises. The users' group of the Kumrose Community Forest, together with the Village Development Committee, recently constructed a machan (viewing tower) that can accommodate eight visitors at a time. The machan offers visitors a chance to experience jungle life at night and, in the daytime, the opportunity to observe animals and birds in a peaceful setting.

With the growth of the forest and resident wildlife in Kumrose, there has been a surge in the community's awareness of conservation. Villagers have realized they are the immediate beneficiaries of the revenue generated by visiting tourists. There is some nervousness about the wild animals their forest now attracts, especially since crops are damaged by rhinos and wild elephants and livestock killed by leopards. Initially, when faced with the reforestation plans, not everyone was so sanguine and local people were afraid that wild animals from the nearby Royal Chitwan National Park would make this patch of forest their home and cause more trouble to local farmers.

Now there is none of the hostility in Kumrose towards wildlife often seen in other conservation areas of Nepal. Losses from wild animals are tolerated because of the benefits they bring.

The Kumrose Community Forest started 15 years ago as a Panchayat-protected forest, but in 1995 it was registered as a community forest and has been functioning according to the government's forestry regulations, which hand over decision-making on protection and management to the forest user groups set up by the village development committees.

The Kumrose Community Forest is shortly completing its terms under the jurisdiction of the district forest authority, and is in the process of being registered as a buffer zone of the Royal Chitwan National Park. Once it is declared a buffer, it will benefit from the park's conservation efforts, and in turn contribute grassroots support for the park.

This is a vital part of the modern approach to conservation, and will be the strategy behind the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), a new conservation approach being designed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to join conservation efforts in the Nepal Terai and India. TAL aims to connect community forests, protected forests, 11 protected areas and national parks in Nepal and India to facilitate migration of large mammals such as tigers, rhinos and Asian elephants. This would ensure their natural roaming patterns along jungle corridors and ensure their long-term survival. (Source: Nepali Times, 66, 2-8 November 2001; www.nepalnews.com.np/ntimes/issue66/villagevoice.htm)

Nature reserve in Viet Nam: Na Hang dam threatens forests, people and wildlife

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is endemic to northern Viet Nam and is one of the world's most endangered mammal species. Before a group was spotted in Na Hang district in 1992, it was considered extinct. Today, 260 of the monkeys are known to be living in northern Viet Nam. Half of the population lives in the Na Hang Nature Reserve, which was created in 1994 specifically to protect the snub-nosed monkey.

The Na Hang Nature Reserve is in an area of dramatic mountainous limestone scenery. The forest within the nature reserve is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity. As well as providing a habitat for the snub-nosed monkey, it is home to the François' leaf monkey, lesser slow loris, stump-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque, dhole, Owston's palm civet, clouded leopard, Asiatic black bear, serow, a series of endangered birds and butterflies, an endangered tortoise and 13 species of threatened plants. Four endangered fish species live in the Gam river, which forms the western boundary of the nature reserve.

Scott Wilson Asia Pacific, a consulting company, is leading a consortium carrying out a Protected Area Resource Conservation (PARC) project in Na Hang with funding from the Global Environment Facility. In addition, Allwetter Zoo and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (both of Germany) are running the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Conservation Project.

Unfortunately, the same Vietnamese Government that set up the Na Hang Nature Reserve now seems determined to go ahead with plans for a US$420 million, 300 MW hydropower dam on the Gam river. The dam would flood part of the Na Hang Nature Reserve and have devastating, long-term impacts on the forests, people and wildlife in and adjacent to the reserve.

In 1997, Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN), the state electricity utility, produced a pre-feasibility study for a dam on the Gam River. Two years later, EVN produced terms of reference for a feasibility study of the dam which was due to be completed at the end of 2001. Scott Wilson Asia Pacific wrote, in the inception report for its conservation project in Na Hang, that it proposed to "assist the Government of Viet Nam by carrying out a preliminary environmental assessment of the River gam dam". Scott Wilson's consultants completed their preliminary environmental assessment in 2000. According to Viet Nam's Electricity Master Plan Number Five, released in 2001, the Na Hang dam is planned to be commissioned in 2006. So far, the Vietnamese Government has not secured international funding for the dam.

If built, the Na Hang dam would create a reservoir stretching 30 km up the Gam river and flooding 57 km2, including 220 ha of the Na Hang Nature Reserve. Forty-five villages would be flooded, and more than 11 000 people would be evicted to make way for the reservoir. Ethnic groups living in the area include Dao, Tay, Hoa and H'mong, as well as Kinh, the Vietnamese majority group. One woman, who would be evicted by the dam, told Scott Wilson's consultants, "We may be poor, but this is our home."

Before the dam is built, the reservoir area would be logged. At present there is no road access to the area. Building the dam would involve building a new road, a major construction site, traffic, construction noise, dust, pollution, explosions, and up to 10 000 workers. Construction workers will increase local demand for wildlife and other forest products. The bones, hands and feet of Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys are made into traditional medicines. With a stream of construction trucks driving in and out of the area, it would be almost impossible to stop illegal trading.

In May 1999, a group of environmental organizations, including the World Conservation Union, Allwetter Zoo and Primate Conservation Inc., wrote to Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and other Vietnamese officials. Their letters requested that a thorough environmental impact assessment of the proposed dam should be carried out, in accordance with Viet Nam's Law on Environment Protection and the Convention on Biodiversity (to which Viet Nam is a signatory). To date, no such study has been done. The Vietnamese Government did not reply to the letters. (Source: RECOFTC e-letter 2002.5, 28 February 2002.)

Forests and conflict

The writer is director-general of the Center for International Forestry Research, based in Bogor, Indonesia. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

With much of the world's attention riveted on Afghanistan, it is easy to forget that armed conflicts are bringing death and misery to millions of people in scores of countries around the world. Since 1989 the number of civil wars has tripled.

Some are minor affairs, but others have paralysed whole nations and have the potential to spark off wider violence. If the world wants to avoid endless turmoil, it needs to understand what causes such conflicts. It is often claimed that the wars of the future will result from rapidly rising populations fighting over increasingly scarce resources, such as water and land. At present, though, what we see is that the desire to control natural resources such as timber, diamonds and petroleum lies behind many conflicts.

Take Nicaragua, which I recently visited to do research on forests. After reaching a remote region on the Atlantic coast, I suddenly found myself surrounded by several dozen Miskito Indian guerrillas, each carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. When it became clear to them that I was there to protect the forests, not plunder them, I was allowed to go. The Miskito had taken up arms because outsiders were seeking to exploit their timber and mineral resources.

The Miskito are not alone. Many violent conflicts occur in areas of dense tropical forest, where regular and irregular armies, timber and mining companies, indigenous people and drug cartels vie for control over natural resources.

In Cambodia, both the government and the Khmer Rouge financed military campaigns by procuring and selling timber.

In eastern Congo, abundant supplies of timber and minerals have attracted a ragbag of invading forces eager to profit from the spoils of war.

Rebel forces in Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone have prospered by exploiting diamonds and timber in regions that lie far beyond government control.

There are similar cases in Indonesia's Aceh Province, on Mindanao in the southern Philippines, in Nagaland in northeastern India, in parts of Myanmar and in other parts of the world.

There is, it seems, a standard recipe for conflict. Take a remote and inaccessible forested area inhabited by ethnic minorities with little government presence. With its natural resources, such an area is well suited to illicit activities. Outsiders surge in to exploit the potential wealth. Add automatic weapons that can easily be bought on the black market, and the profits of plunder, and you soon end up with jungle warfare between indigenous people and those they regard as invaders.

In this twenty-first century Wild West, both people and forests suffer. Take the recent horrors of Colombia.

While right-wing paramilitary forces have murdered tribal leaders who have sought to resist their territorial ambitions, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have forced Indians to join their ranks. Tens of thousands of people have been killed. Both sides have appropriated the Indians' ancestral lands. Both have exploited natural resources and made vast profits from the cultivation and sale of cocaine.

Even now, while attention is focused on Afghanistan, we need to plan for a safer future by nipping future resource wars in the bud. Can this be done? Yes, but it will require foresight and courage from some of the poorest governments, and considerable assistance from the rich world.

Neglecting remote, forested regions and those who live there invites future conflict. It is vitally important that governments invest in these areas to provide them with social services, such as clinics, schools and running water, and build their credibility among the local people.

Just as important is that governments promote law and order and guarantee forest dwellers secure property rights. Many of today's conflicts could have been averted if it had been clear a long time ago who owned what, and who had the rights to exploit timber and other resources.

In the meantime, greater efforts should be made to defuse current conflicts. Since the scramble for natural resources has sparked off many of these conflicts, it is clear that determining control of these resources must be central to any negotiations.

In addition, past experience in countries such as Guatemala and Liberia suggests that there is often an orgy of resource grabbing once a conflict ceases. Negotiations must plan not just for peace but for the prudent use of natural resources once conflict is over.

Of course, peace comes with a price. The governments in most countries scarred by conflict lack the financial resources to invest in remote, sparsely inhabited regions.

This is where the rich world can help. Better, surely, to spend modest sums on avoiding conflict today than billions on resolving conflicts in the future. The forests and the people who live there will thank us for it. (Source: David Kaimowitz, The International Herald Tribune, 30 November 2001.)