Members Only
lock close icon

Empowering Forests: A Blueprint for Sustainable Restoration & Climate Resilience

Three important variables significantly predict forest outcomes: formal inclusion, involvement and tree plantations.

5 min read
Hindi Female

Restoration of forest landscapes is becoming more widely acknowledged as an essential method of storing carbon in the atmosphere, protecting biodiversity, and fostering co-benefits for indigenous people regarding livelihood.

A recent research appeared in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change entitled Community Forest Governance and Synergies among Carbon, Biodiversity and Livelihoods, examined 314 forest commons in 15 tropical African, Asian, and Latin American countries and provided insight into the complex interactions that exist between carbon sequestration, species diversity of trees, and forest livelihoods.

The results indicate that formal community management associations and their local engagement in rule-making and empowered local forest governance, are reliable predictors of favourable outcomes in various contexts.

The findings of this research have special relevance for India, a nation with a wide variety of ecosystems and a sizeable rural populace that depends on forests for subsistence. A global focus on nature-based solutions has resulted from the urgency of addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.

Rural tropical landscapes are frequently the focus of these solutions because of their rich biodiversity and potential for sequestering carbon. But these landscapes also support a significant human presence; some 1.8 billion people live in places important for achieving global biodiversity goals.


Harmonising Forest Goals: A Holistic Perspective

The research emphasises how important it is to comprehend the interconnected systems of rural livelihoods, biodiversity protection, and carbon sequestration. It asks for a comprehensive strategy that considers the advantages and disadvantages of each of these goals to guide successful interventions for multifunctional tropical forests. Examining the connections between contributions to regional livelihoods, biomass as a stand-in for carbon storage, and species richness of trees highlights the significance of this viewpoint.

Three important variables significantly predict forest outcomes: formal inclusion, involvement, and tree plantations.

Formal inclusion and local engagement in regulation are essential components of forest governance to ensure the effectiveness of restoration efforts. On the other hand, the research raises concerns about the prevalent focus on planting trees as the main strategy for restoring forests, pointing out the possible negative effects of this method on society and the environment.


Sustainable Forest Governance: A Path for India's Future

In India, where a significant proportion of the populace depends on forest resources for fundamental livelihood advantages, the results emphasise the necessity of transcending oversimplified notions of mutually beneficial outcomes. According to the research, having effective governance is essential to getting many benefits from forests. Establishing formal community forest management organisations and local participation in rule-making as indicators of empowered local governance is emerging as a critical success factor for attaining positive effects for carbon, biodiversity, and rural livelihoods concurrently.

The research's conclusions are consistent with the international demand that indigenous peoples and local communities be given equal rights and be included in efforts to mitigate climate change and restore the environment. It highlights how crucial it is to have formalised local forest institutions, with local management authority legally recognised and significant local influence over decision-making. The research questions accepted ideas about stakeholder participation and promoted stronger, more capable local institutions with the long-term capacity to catalyse socio-ecological advantages.

As India struggles with climate change and biodiversity loss, a key element of forest policy interventions should be promoting empowered local governance. In human-dominated settings, where it is impossible to ignore the requirements of rural inhabitants, it is critical to acknowledge the multifunctional nature of forests. Forest commons, when well managed by rural and indigenous people, can substantially contribute to various environmental and human objectives.

As a result, the research offers insightful information about the structure of Indian forest policy, highlighting the significance of governance conditions for attaining sustainable results. India can concurrently address climate change, biodiversity protection, and the welfare of rural communities while maximising the benefits of its forest restoration operations by prioritising the official acknowledgement of local management authority and fostering meaningful local engagement.


Local Governance for Sustainable Forest Restoration and Climate Resilience

The research highlights four main policy proposals that can be deciphered for India's forest management as outlined below:

1. Formalized Local Governance for Holistic Forest Management: The research emphasises how important formal community forest management groups are in predicting successful outcomes in forest restoration and how important local participation in rulemaking is. The official state recognition of local management authority should be India's top priority to implement this strategy. Implementing well-defined legal frameworks that enable indigenous groups to oversee and decide on managing forest resources will guarantee a more efficient and long-lasting restoration strategy. This entails establishing open channels for national technical assistance, guaranteeing local autonomy, and putting clear guidelines for choosing and dismissing local officials in place. By formalising local governance, India may promote socio-ecological benefits such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and rural livelihoods.

2. Rethinking the Emphasis on Tree Planting: The research questions the widespread belief that planting trees is the primary strategy for restoring forests worldwide. This necessitates a careful strategy for India, considering the environmental and social hazards connected to extensive tree plantations. Planting trees may help reduce carbon emissions, but the policy should prioritise local forest users' needs and response behaviours. This entails concentrating on the social and environmental effects rather than just meeting quantifiable goals for the number of trees planted. India should carefully consider the context-specific effects of tree plantations to ensure they complement the area's biological circumstances and support sustainable and subsistence forests instead of having a detrimental effect on carbon sequestration and conservation forests.

3. Building Durable and Empowered Local Institutions: The research emphasises the necessity for strong and independent local institutions and pushes for going beyond project-based participatory forums and organised stakeholder meetings. India ought to allocate resources towards institutional reforms that facilitate efficient management of local resources, considering the distinct socio-ecological dynamics of various areas. This entails identifying and formalising different local forest organisations to guarantee that communities have a meaningful say in managing forests. India should prioritise the creation of favourable conditions through empowered local institutions to achieve just climate action and other forest restoration goals. In the long run, this will advance several benefits for humans and the environment.

4. Climate-Resilient Policies: A Pillar of Sustainable Transformation: The research emphasises how important it is to implement climate-resilient methods and recognise the critical role of forests in reducing climate change. Through smoothly incorporating climate considerations into restoration programs, India can fortify its landscapes against the harmful consequences of climate change. This proactive strategy fosters resilience in nearby communities while guaranteeing ecosystems' sustainability. Adopting climate-resilient policies is a crucial first step to sustainable transformation in India. It provides a comprehensive and well-thought-out solution to the interrelated problems of declining biodiversity, rural livelihoods, and the growing dangers of climate change.

By implementing these policy changes, India can steer towards sustainable forest restoration that tackles the pressing issues of climate change and biodiversity loss while improving the welfare of its rural populations.

(Anjal Prakash is a Clinical Associate Professor (Research) at Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business (ISB). He teaches sustainability at ISB and contributes to IPCC reports. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from opinion

Topics:  Climate Change   Forests 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More