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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Social Protection to Enhance the Resilience of Forest-Dependent Peoples

I am happy to see that this very timely subject is up for discussion, for it is an attempt to preserve a rapidly vanishing element of human cultural diversity, and more importantly, an effort towards letting people live in the way they wish.

There is no doubt that a holistic mechanism of social protection is essential to enable the forest-dependent peoples to lead their lives in the most satisfactory way according to their own norms. This is because their  ability to do so is undermined by two  disruptive forces. First, owing to a variety of reasons, outside human influences are continuing to adversely affect their ability to satisfy their essential needs, and secondly, the general environmental degradation brought about by those imfluences are affecting the forests on which they depend.

Therefore, it would be reasonable to suggest that the social protection we envisage here, ought to counter the adverse effects of those two influences, and to ameliorate their consequences, which are already felt by the forest-dependent peoples.  Now, I shall try to outline a possible way forward.

I shall first discuss the possible ways of countering the direct adverse influences. The crucial  step here is to set up a sound legal and practicable mechanism to prevent any further reductions in the forest areas on which our target populations depend. Next,  it is important to legally entitle the forest-dependent people the sole right of  sustainable exploitation of the forest resources to which they ought to be entitled. This right is not to be exercised by an individual, but rather by a representative group chosen by a given population. At the same time, what constitutes sustainable forest harvesting in a given area should be ascertained by a group with reference to scientific and traditional knowledge.

For the sake of completeness, it is necessary to  establish a sound and enforceable legal mechanism to control the exploitation of any surrounding forests, which may not be used by a given population of forest-dependent people. At the same time, exploitation of the water ways through forests, locating factories or other installations whose emissions are injurious to the well-being of such forests ought to be prevented.

And finally, two moot points; first, the sensitive issue of exploiting the mineral resources which may  be found in forests, and secondly the nature of services like education, health care, etc., offered to forest-dependent peoples. I think it would be wise to place an embargo on mineral exploitation in such areas until we have evolved techniques of exploitation that are only minimally traumatic to sylvan environment. As for the services, I think the current brand of education which irrationally regards technology as an entity having an intrinsic value would be more destructive of the social fabric of forest-dependent peoples than anything else. However, if education offered everywhere is free of this 'purpose of education is to enable one to get the best paid job so that one could live a la mode d'holywood' bias, we would have no cause for concern.

Our next task is to see how to ameliorate the consequences of the adverse influences mentioned earlier. Their impact may affect nutrition, health, security (in its widest sense), etc., of those peoples. As which need is affected, and to what degree it has done so may vary widely, I shall only make some  generic suggestions here.

1. Financial and appropriate technical help to establish and operate co-operative to harvest and market forest products by forest-dependent peoples without the mediation of brokers.

2. Restrictions on what is sold to those peoples by outsiders, particularly the sale of exorbitantly priced cheap flashy goods, unhealthy food and beverages.

3. Help to engage in re-forestation of their habitat whenever indicated.

4. Graded long-term food aid compatible with their traditional diet (as much as possible) until they can achieve self-sufficiency.

5. When necessary, housing and clothing help.

6. Establishment of appropriate medical units having the relevant competence.

7. Establishment of legal, administrative, technical and financial infrastructure required to carry out the proposals made here.

I hope this may be of some use.


Lal Manavado.