Forests play a critical role in the livelihoods of the poor. Over 90 percent of the world's poorest people depend on forests for their livelihoods with more than a billion people living within the 19 forest biodiversity "hotspots." Policy shifts to recognize traditional and indigenous rights have resulted in a doubling of community-owned and administered forest lands – to 22% of all developing country forests: three times the amount owned by individuals and firms. Current trends indicate that community tenure will double again by 2020 to more than 700 million hectares. The dependency of local communities to secure their livelihoods and cultural traditions spans beyond forests to most ecosystems, including coastal and marine. As a result, successful conservation efforts must involve their participation.
The Communities Initiative seeks to reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and conserve natural resources by promoting community participation in market-based conservation mechanisms. The program links communities to environmental markets by promoting the awareness and capacity for communities to participate in and benefit from payments and compensation schemes that value their stewardship role of ecosystem services. Working in synergy with Forest Trends programs and strategic collaboration with partner organizations, the program provides key information, capacity building and technical assistance for communities around the world.
Leveraging on its first years of analyzing and reporting on community participation in timber and non-timber forest products markets, the program seeks to understand and bring to light the importance of communities' stewardship role of ecosystem services. Our operating principle is that market mechanisms for conservation can only succeed with the prior-informed consent and fair participation of local communities. We distinguish and support the importance of communities' land tenure rights as a pre-condition for their successful participation in environmental markets.
Under the umbrella of the Communities Initiative, Forest Trends also leads the Forest-Based Livelihoods Consortium (FBL), a partnership of nine environmental and indigenous organizations that has initiated a five-year program with the support of USAID to empower forest-dependent communities to more fully contribute to and directly benefit from climate change mitigation efforts.
This program, called Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME), will operate in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. AIME will build capacity of indigenous peoples and other forest-based communities to improve the governance of their territories and forests, while supporting the design of natural-resource utilization activities that are REDD+ compatible and aligned with the "Planes de Vida" (Life Plans) of indigenous people. AIME will help key jurisdictions across Latin America expand processes and help institutional/policy frameworks to be more inclusive of the rights and views of such communities. It will also help private-sector actors better understand and value partnerships with indigenous and traditional communities.
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