Early in June 2021, the Non-Timber Forest Products – Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) in cooperation with the FAO Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), RECOFTC, the Asian Farmers Association (AFA), the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA), and the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA), recognizing the untapped potential of thousands of Community-Based NTFP Enterprises (CBNEs) across the region and their vast contribution to community well-being and forest conservation, organized a forum to channel attention and action in support of CBNEs.
The online forum fostered information exchange, capacity enhancement, market engagement, and political support for CBNEs. It was a venue for sharing, exchanging, partnering, and bringing the issues of the understory to light. It was an opportunity for CBNEs to grow, connect and navigate in the new normal as attention and action were solicited from more sectors, more segments and more generations.
So as to maintain the momemtum generated by the first CBNE Forum Event in June 2021, NTFP-EP organized a smaller, more focused two-day event on October 13-14, 2021.
The objectives of the event were to:
1) Deepen the capacity building themes from the first event so as to further enhance skill and knowledge of CBNEs
2) Facilitate creative thinking and strategic partnerships to facilitate CBNE pivot and resilience through ongoing challenges
3) Deepen the knowledge and networking of CBNEs on market mechanisms, particularly on alternative labeling process to improve exposure and collective promotion of CBNE products
4) Expand the coverage of other NTFPs within the ASEAN recognized range of sustainable harvest and management protocols
From the evaluations of the CBNEs and their partners from the June CBNE event, it appears the capacity building needs are focused on branding and digital marketing. During the October event, therefore, the capacity building inputs focused on:
1. Understanding the digital landscape and understanding how needs and behavior of consumers are changing. With this better understanding, CBNEs can further identify new community products, derivatives, etc
2. Understanding the process of re-strategizing, pivoting in the digital age will help CBNEs to determine better identify cost-effective steps, processes, resources for CBNEs.
3. Facilitating how CBNEs can determine which e-commerce sites / market places/ platforms are the most strategic for their brands and how best to engage.
Trainers were invited from different countries to ensure that discussions were grounded in actual country contexts and trends. In addition to brief inputs from speakers, separate breakout sessions were created for each country where exercises based on live cases were discussed and new strategies proposed. Local languages were used in the breakout sessions. CBNEs then returned to the plenary to discuss their next steps
Partnerships are currently being brokered between universities and other institutions to continue the mentoring process within each country even after the October event.
During the June event, four groups composed of 15 people joined the first ever CBNE Hackathon, a problem-solving competition being used as a useful method for various top corporations around the world but never yet for CBNEs. These 15 persons coming from the CBNE, business, science, civil society and student sectors and are from six different Asian countries. Yet they were able to work together through five days of the hackathon process to emerge with interesting, innovative “big ideas”. Three of those groups have decided to advance to the next stage of the problem-solving competition. These “pioneer” groups were then accompanied by other CBNEs of the 2nd track of the hackathon processes, “explorers”, with the following qualifications a) they have been endorsed by co-organizers, b) they have observed passion and interest to find solutions to their CBNE problems, c) they are willing to work with others and be mentored towards developing innovative solution to their specific problems, d) they commit to join 2 months of mentoring. These two tracks received mentoring and were guided across two months and at the end of which were presented to judges to get the opportunity to receive small grants and view for crowd funding.
In 2014, NTFP-EP surveyed standards and certification systems and realized that many were either too complex and expensive for community forestry groups to apply for and maintain. The existing standards and certification schemes did not capture well the characteristics of community managed NTFP systems. They failed to look into socio cultural factors and the traditional ecological knowledge that keeps such systems in order and running. Having a collective mark owned by an association of forest and farmer groups supported by civil society organizations and like-minded groups could provide NTFP specific processes and stronger local ownership and participation in the process of validation. Standards and protocols could be customized and highlight the distinct values of the groups' products / represents the whole package of values that forests and farm producers could provide. CBNEs could pool or combine efforts for marketing for stronger impact, better recall at less cost.
Standards were piloted and launched for forest honey in cooperation with the Madhu Duniya network with the first forest honey group certified in the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia in 2019.
Since then, NTFP-EP and colleagues have realized that various community forest groups have already been implementing participatory guarantee systems for NTFP products which use the same principles and methods as with FHCM. Such processes include the Good Hinabi Practice (GHP) and Good Tenun Practice (GTP) developed for eco-textiles from the Philippines and Indonesia which guard sustainable harvest, fair trade and chemical free dye aspects of a product, among other aspects. The Rotan Lestari is a sustainable rattan system developed with rattan farmers, civil society, and national and local government representatives in Indonesia. It has been used by local and international buyers to reflect traceability in trade systems. On-going Rotan Lestari processes are currently being undertaken for rattan originating from the island of Kalimantan and intended for Europe and the US. Recently as well, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) is also interested to align their Biodiversity-based products (BBP) with the Forest Harvest Collective Mark to benefit from collective promotions and be aligned with a network of those with similar values.
Presentations on ongoing regional pilots on honey, rattan and eco-textile were presented at the forum in October.
NTFP-EP and partners have a vision to complete the establishment of the Forest Harvest Association to include forest and farmer groups who wish to develop the community led/ oriented and participatory mark with NTFP-EP as well as with other support organizations.
The ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) have adopted the ASEAN Guidelines for Sustainable Harvest and Resource Management Protocols for Selected Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) during its 42nd annual meeting on October 21, 2020. The guidelines serve as a primary reference for NTFP management protocols in the ASEAN region and help guarantee the sustainable management of NTFP resources for markets and relevant stakeholders. The guidelines incorporate scientific and experiential knowledge, which indigenous peoples and forest managers have expressed in simple thumb rules. They are also based on a socio-ecological framework, looking at aspects that affect the sustainability of NTFPs. Provided in the guidelines are examples of sustainable resource management protocols for five important NTFPs: rattan, bamboo, resin, forest honey, and fruits. Aside from assisting ASEAN Member States (AMS) in developing NTFP protocols, these guidelines may also be used by national and sub-national program managers, research and academic institutions, community enterprises, traders, and civil society groups working on projects involving the management of NTFP resources, as well as for advocacy purposes. NTFP-EP and the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry facilitated this process
It has always been the interest of NTFP-EP and AMS to expand this list as well to other important NTFPs such as medicinal plants, eco-textiles, natural dyes, essential oils, and others.
There is potential in expanding ASEAN’s current NTFP protocols guideline processes to cover a new round of NTFP categories which are relevant for CBNEs across ASEAN. The ACB is also interested in supporting this expansion with BBP partners in the honey (Apis cerana) and medicinal plant sectors especially and with focus countries being in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In all three countries, medicinal plants are important NTFPs with thriving local and cross border trade, this happens, however, against the backdrop of vulnerable ecosystems. In Cambodia, the BBP medicinal value chains that are being promoted in the buffer zones of ASEAN Heritage Parks is Black Ginger in Phnom Kulen in Cambodia and in Vietnam, the medicinal herbs Giao Co Lam of Sa Pa. NTFP-EP Vietnam is also supporting medicinal and herbal plant producers in Lam Dong, Binh Thuan, Binh Phuoc, Dak Nong, Binh Dinh, Dong Nai, Kien Giang, and Ninh Thuan provinces, all around national parks and nature reserves. Thus, an expert consultation on medicinal plants occured during the October event.
Climate proofing in CBNE business – managing risks in an era of increasing uncertainty
Drawing on decades of experience from global climate resilience partnerships, plus a series of Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) commissioned case studies on climate resilience actions by forest and farm producer organizations, practitioners, community members and support provider organizations discussed a framework and 30 practical options for climate resilience with cases from international partners.
Various approaches were explored covering the four areas of social organization (e.g. providing insurance services), ecology (e.g. more pest or weather resilient species and planting arrangements), economics (e.g. business diversification) and physical or technological infrastructure (e.g. virtual marketing).
ASEAN was also invited to provide the institution’s perspective on the emerging responses to the forest and farm sector affected by climate change.
The session was organized by FAO Forest Farm Facility (FFF), particularly the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Asian Farmers Association (AFA) and the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB)
The session was held in panel presentation format and entrepreneurs were invited to provide their own responses about their own innovations or initiatives to become more climate resilient.