In a world suffering the impact of deforestation, pollution and environmental degradation, the Model Forest has become a promising alternative for the successful management of natural resources on a landscape scale and for improving the quality of life in the local communities. This was the assessment made by 19 countries that have adopted the Model Forest concept and will share their experiences at the International Model Forest Network Global Forum.
Costa Rica will host this important event, which will take place on November 7–11 to mark the 10th anniversary of the International Model Forest Network Secretariat (IMFNS), now with 40 sites on five continents around the world.
The Global Forum will be attended by representatives of countries involved in the International Model Forest Network (IMFN), by other countries interested in developing their own Model Forests, and by the directors of regional networks. Exchanges among the attendees will focus on the success of this model, whose main contribution has been to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve social development with economic benefits and, at the same time, preserve the environment.
“A Model Forest is a participatory management process on a landscape scale, aimed at improving the quality of life of the communities living in and around the forest through the integrated management of resources. The Model Forest is based on an ecosystem approach seeking to involve as many actors as possible in interactions that take into account social, environmental, economic, political and institutional issues,” said Olga Corrales, Manager of the Model Forest Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-Net).
The Global Forum will take place in Costa Rica, a member of the IMFN with the Reventazón Model Forest. Costa Rica also has the honour of heading LAC-Net, which is currently located at the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) in Turrialba.
The Model Forest concept emerged in Canada in the early 1990s when a conflict involving indigenous communities and logging companies was successfully resolved by peaceful means. The success led Canada to present this initiative at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The proposal was welcomed enthusiastically by the international community. As a result, the IMFN was created in 1995, along with its Secretariat located at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa, Canada.
Much has changed since the last meeting in Halifax, Canada, in 1999. At that time the network had 18 sites, there was no Latin American Centre and no activities were conducted in Europe. Today the Network has Model Forests in Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic, Cameroon, France, Indonesia, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, China, India, Bolivia, Honduras, and Japan.
“With an aggregate land base of more than 30 million hectares and nearly 1 000 partner organizations, the Model Forest approach can be considered the largest sustainable forest management initiative in the world and a powerful tool that will help make concrete progress in sustainability. The Global Forum will provide an opportunity for reflecting on the opportunities now offered by the IMFN and for planning strategic directions for its future,” said the IMFNS Executive Director, Peter Besseau.
A Model Forest has six key attributes:
Partnership. The Model Forest is a voluntary partnership whose members represent a diversity of values working toward a common goal of sustainable forest management. These partnerships operate on the basis of transparency, consensus, and collaboration.
Sustainability. The Model Forest approach involves a commitment to sustainability. It promotes the integration of resource conservation on a landscape scale, local economic development, and the involvement of different sectors in the decision-making process, as they are the direct and indirect beneficiaries. The participation of all interested parties promotes equity and increases the possibility of continued benefits.
Landscape. A Model Forest covers a land base large enough to represent all the uses and values in a given ecosystem at the operational level, including productive and protected woodlands, agricultural areas, protected areas, bodies of water, and communities. A Model Forest may cover whole watersheds and its scope may even cross the political and geographic boundaries of countries.
Scope. All activities undertaken must reflect the needs and values of the Model Forest partners. Also, managers must take into account the impacts of their actions on other ecosystems.
Governance. Each Model Forest has a transparent and accountable governance structure representing the different partners: grass-roots community organizations (including indigenous communities), non-governmental organizations, industry, chambers of commerce, government, academia, and research communities, among others, Although the role of the central government is crucial, the key for success is the broad base of local participants.
Networking. Horizontal collaboration is recognized as an essential tool for creating capacity and sharing knowledge. National and regional networks (Canada, and Latin America and the Caribbean) and the International Network (International Secretariat) facilitate this intra-network and inter-network collaboration.