Forests are generally the main source for meeting the basic needs of approximately 400 million people in Asia who are poor and directly dependent on forest resources. Forests are used to obtain food, fuel wood, fodder, building materials and non-timber forest products. A crucial challenge in many Asian countries is resolving issues of forest tenure, including ownership, user-rights and common access issues.
Promoting sustainable livelihoods is a priority is nearly every Model Forest around the world, including those in Asia. Providing alternative sustainable income opportunities can reduce forest degradation, while creating a diverse economic landscape allows for a variety of income sources thereby decreasing people’s vulnerability in the face of natural or economic disaster.
To help ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of forest resources, development initiatives should involve all stakeholders in the agreement processes. Model Forests provide opportunities for partners to assess alternatives and find appropriate balances between the economic and non-economic values of their resources as well as the balance between conservation and development. It also allows for experimentation with new benefits sharing arrangements. While participation in a Model Forest does not affect land tenure, stakeholders benefit by gaining access to landowners and policy-makers who may be influenced by discussions around the Model Forest table.
In this sense, a Model Forest is a forum to mobilize and optimize the allocation and use of forest-based resources to reinforce actions towards sustainable food security – whether through harvesting/small scale farming or increasing incomes through the sale of timber or non-timber forest products. The Model Forest has a vital role in involving key stakeholders including farmers, fisherfolk, foresters, Indigenous Peoples, civil society, academia, NGOs, and all other people, both men and women, involved in the food sector to provide research and training, technology, enabling policies and financial support to attain food security.