Over the last two decades, the Asia-Pacific region has lost more than 100 million acres of forest. The damages aren’t limited to the dusty, brown scars carved into the earth.
Orangutans were depending on those forests for shelter. Entire ecosystems required them to stay healthy.
Local people need the forests of Asia-Pacific intact if they’re to continue earning a living. And you need them to absorb and store carbon dioxide while continuing to provide floors, doors, and furniture. Our economies need them, too.
You may not hear a tree that falls in the forests of Asia-Pacific, but you feel its loss — we all do. There’s an almost incomprehensibly vast network of people, stretching across our globe, who affect — and are affected by — these forests.
The Nature Conservancy-led Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) program, funded by USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia, has become a central hub in that network. RAFT is helping make every aspect of forest management and trade in Asia-Pacific — the world’s leading timber-producing region — more sustainable and responsible.
Throughout much of Asia, which contains 14 percent of the world’s forests and half of its people, illegal logging and deforestation run rampant. However, recent studies show that forestry reform efforts over the last decade have been successful. Since the program started in 2006, RAFT has been a major player in the sustainable forestry movement.
RAFT is a powerful coalition of organizations that empowers people across the region to keep Asia’s forests healthy. Partners include the IUCN, The Center for People and Forests, TRAFFIC, the Tropical Forest Foundation, The Forest Trust and WWF, as well as local communities and governments and forest products companies.
Currently, RAFT partners are working on the ground in eight Asia-Pacific countries, including China, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. These are the places where the region’s last dense forests are found and where trees are turned into the wood products that stock American stores.
The program has helped 2.5 million acres of forest obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. FSC certification verifies that a forest company’s timber has been responsibly harvested, and RAFT is currently supporting ongoing certification processes for an additional 5 million acres.
In addition to helping forest companies reduce their environmental impact while maintaining and enhancing ecosystems, RAFT is helping local people to exercise their rights and sustainably manage their forests. For example: in the Josephstaal community of Papua New Guinea’s Madang Province, RAFT helped broker an agreement between the communities and the government to keep 200,000 acres of tropical forest out of the hands of the country’s largest logging corporation and under the collaborative management of local people.
RAFT is also working with more than 200 factories in major processing countries to help them track where their timber is coming from. Companies like Indonesian furniture manufacturer Integra are becoming part of the solution rather than the problem. Integra recently bought the rights to two concessions that will soon be FSC-certified.
“In the past our industry has been perceived as very negative,” says Integra owner Halim Rusli. “But we can show to the world that Indonesia is not a country where illegal activities are still protected. We can manage the process right if we want to.”
This is an excerpt of an article that was originally published at nature.org. For the full article and a slideshow, please click here.
Jake Cohen is an Asia conservation writer for The Nature Conservancy.
Photo by: © Bridget Besaw (Forest Planner Suryadi Mentemas tags trees in the Kalimantan region of Borneo, Indonesia, where the logging company he works for has been given permit to proceed with reduced-impact logging.)
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