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Fostering understanding and recognition of traditional livelihoods systems towards a people-centered ASEAN



ASEAN Social Forestry Network Civil Society Forum, with a representation of 47 civil society organizations, find the article in the Daily Express (May 25th) entitled, “Native habits posing threats to forest reserves” as inaccurate and disempowering particularly within the context of the 5th ASFN Conference held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The ASFN Conference provides an avenue for discourse and consensus shaping on issues i.e. livelihood, community based enterprise development, tenurial rights, conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation and food security with emphasis on protection, inclusion, and empowerment of indigenous and forest dependent communities, women and other vulnerable groups. 


Shifting cultivation or rotational agriculture cannot be seen as one of the drivers of deforestation.  Chupinit Kesmanee, Advisory Board member, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) in the conference responded that, “If the land is left fallow for 7 or more years, rotating agriculture is a viable and sustainable method of agriculture.” In addition, it can provide a high diversity of plant life to further strengthen food security and biodiversity conservation. Indigenous Karen in the Hua Hin Lad of northern Thailand grow more than 100 varieties of domesticated plants and 90 of them come from shifting cultivation fields. Other than the indigenous Karen in Northern Thailand, a large number of indigenous peoples in Asia practice their traditional and sustainable livelihood system through swidden cultivation or rotational farming. Scientists around the world have studied and confirmed that shifting cultivation is an integral part of tropical forest landscapes and critical to biodiversity conservation in all the remaining large tropical forests of the world: Amazonia, Borneo and Central Africa ((Ickowitz 2006, Padoch et al. 2007, Mertz et al. 2009, Schmidt-Vogt et al. 2009).


Furthermore, traditional agricultural systems and community forestry systems contribute to biodiversity conservation, carbon capture, and food security. These systems are inherent parts of traditional cultures and do not form a transitory state towards a more modern state. It is hoped that stakeholders of social forestry can appreciate this and work towards supporting and enhancing such systems in the future.  


A review of the strategies and mechanisms adopted by the ASFN and endorsed by the ASOF (ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry), highlights fervent support, among others, for the recognition and enforcement of indigenous people’s territories and customary forest, considering communities as part of the solution.  Recognizing traditional knowledge systems and practices such as rotational agriculture would be integral to this strategy. 


It is important to use the opportunities being provided by the ASFN to conduct evidence-based dialogue on livelihood and conservation issues as avenues to clarify misconceptions about shifting cultivation and to see these traditional agricultural systems in light of larger landscapes including community forestry and agroforestry systems. During the recent 5th ASFN Conference, proposals to facilitate dialogue and exchange on social forestry through national social forestry working groups; initiate research on social forestry as examples to further appreciate and enhance existing systems and inclusive mechanisms to jointly plan activities in support of social forestry systems across ASEAN have been put forward. Maximizing these opportunities would do well to foster better understanding, appreciation and collaboration in the promotion of social forestry in the region.


The 3rd Annual ASFN Civil Society Forum, Paving Future Actions to Engage ASEAN on Social Forestry & Climate Change was held  on May 22-23, 2014 at the Star City Events and Conference Centre, Kota  Kinabalu, Malaysia, back-to-back with the 5th ASFN Conference held on  May 24-26, 2014 at the University of Malaysia Sabah. 



For further information please contact:   Ms. Joanna de Rozario  HP: +6017-3661200