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Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is the first and foremost of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The target is to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by half by the year 2015. Poverty reduction strategies have thus become key framework for development planning and implementation, and are now guiding the operations of many donors and international development agencies.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has pointed out that 1.2 billion people in developing countries depend on farm trees to generate food and cash, 350 million people live in or next to dense forests and rely on them for subsistence or income, and 60 million indigenous people live in and depend entirely for their survival on the tropical rain forests of South America, Asia and Africa. This clearly emphasizes how strongly human beings, especially those poorer ones, dependent on trees and forests for survival. Forests therefore can be an effective resource base in our efforts to alleviate poverty among rural communities.

Among the various forestry practices, community forestry provides the greatest source of support for rural people. The traditional view of community forestry is one of a subsistence role. But to take it beyond that, changes are needed in several broad fronts. New and innovative means have to be formulated so community forestry can indeed become a major source of income particularly to the marginalized communities. Sustainable management, marketing, processing and value addition to forest products are some areas for further exploration.

Looking ahead, the opportunities that community forestry can offer are great indeed. Poverty emanates mainly from lack of resources and opportunities. Community forestry provides an ideal mechanism for the state to share resources with the poor, and at the same time conserve the environment and alleviate poverty. Whether we call it participatory forestry, joint forest management, social forestry, agroforestry or farm forestry, the state would not only transfer resources to the poor, but management responsibilities as well.

These are generally new issues, and few governments are ready for such changes. It is obvious that changes in the technical and social levels have accelerated, but the policy and legislation are ill-prepared to support such changes.

These are some of the issues that were discussed at the workshop held at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China, on 1-2 September 2003. This proceedings is a compilation of the experiences of many countries in the Asian region in implementing community forestry. It would provide valuable information for professionals to avoid reinventing the wheel or unnecessarily going through the learning phase. We would like to congratulate the organizers of the workshop and the participants for this excellent volume.

He Changchui

Zhang Shougong

Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative

Executive Vice-President

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Chinese Academy of Forestry

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