The United Nations recently recognized the forest policies in two African nations as winners of the 2011 Future Policy Award.
Rwanda’s National Forest Policy was proclaimed the winner of the 2011 Future Policy Award and Gambia’s Community Forest Policy took home the silver award.
The winning African policies are so successful because they acknowledge that environment, economy and empowerment are strongly interconnected. Experts say that transferring land and resource ownership to local communities has positive spillover effects which can empower local African populations to take charge of their lives.
Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries with a rapidly growing population, Gambia has managed to achieve, over the last two decades, a net increase of 8.5 per cent in forest cover. Both illegal logging and forest fires have been reduced in community-managed areas and new markets for forest products have developed. This generates income, especially for women, and develops organisational capacity as well as market skills and understanding.
The Future Policy Award is given annually by the World Future Council, a foundation that brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making. The jury which decided on the winning policies was composed of experts on sustainability and forests from all five continents.
Alexandra Wandel, director of the World Future Council, said that community forest management can prove advantageous for social justice and equality. Public engagement in planning and implementation leads to local and decentralised decision-making and promotes self-governance. The rights of local communities are strengthened. The community gains of poverty reduction and women’s empowerment and public decision-making can spill over into other spheres of society and contribute to development.
Throughout 2011, organizations across Canada have been hosting events to celebrate our country’s forests, to teach citizens about our local forests and to share views on how our forests meet our communities’ needs.
One upcoming local event is the dialogue Healthy Forest – Healthy Communities to be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 at Wells Gray Inn.