Community forest management (CFM) is a cultural and spiritual practice. It is a way of life developed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, based on their cultural and spiritual vision of what nature is. They manage their territories in a way that ensures the conservation and sustainable use of nature alongside the social, environmental, cultural and even economic benefits. They therefore defend, foster and invigorate both community forest management and ways of life that show how living in harmony with nature is possible.

Community forest management is particularly relevant in these times of climate and biodiversity crises. As a concept, CFM entails the political control of communities over their territories and resources through horizontal decision-making mechanisms, including transparency and accountability to the rest of the community. CFM is not limited to forests, it can be practiced in a variety of ecosystems. It is holistic because it involves the appropriate and well planned use of water, sacred sites and biodiversity. Nor is it only a matter of political administration, because it requires appropriate technologies, ancestral and traditional knowledge and community-based planning and practices for the orderly use of resources. The management component in CFM means local communities’ and Indigenous Peoples’ governance of their territories.

Management also refers to an orderly administration – a political process of self-governance and the generation of holistic policies that ensure sustainability, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits, and respect for the territory and its resources. All of this goes well beyond a mere management technique, as is in fact the case of sustainable forest management.

In practising community forest management local communities and Indigenous Peoples carry an ancestral bond with a specific territory they manage. This ancestral bond itself embodies many elements that facilitate self-governance. It is a very deep bond that comprises ways of life, energy, health, identity and culture and is intimately associated with ancestors and intergenerational connections. So it serves as a basis for identifying values, internalising them and developing rules. It is also linked to spirituality.

Why community forest management?

Community forest management matters. It strengthens the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, it prevents deforestation and forest degradation, contributes to climate stability, fosters community organisation, and protects the commons, contributing to social, economic and gender justice. CFM is an integral part of agroecological proposals for food sovereignty, and promotes sustainable economies. In this way CFM is inextricably linked to other peoples-based solutions which share a number of principles, such as a collective and emancipatory nature aimed at building new more equitable and just societies.

Community forest management is practiced by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in their territories and it is therefore vulnerable to the various threats facing these peoples and their territories. Mining, dam building and the conversion of forests to tree monocultures and agrocommodity plantations are only a few of the many threats that are often all too real. Transnational corporations and government complicity are to blame, as well as the lack of recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities over their lands.

The Financialisation of nature imposes mechanisms that privatise the functions and goods of nature, often in peoples’ territories, thereby posing a real threat to CFM.

Defending community forest management entails fighting against projects and policies that threaten peoples’ collective rights. In this way we defend the ways of life of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, promoting and strengthening their practices that have protected nature for thousands of years.

We support our member groups around the world working on community forest governance alongside Indigenous Peoples and local communities.