Welsh Community Woodland Welcomes International Foresters

Posted on June 27, 2013 by

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A collective of foresters from all around the world came to the heart of rural west Wales last weekend. They were here to visit a Community Woodland as part of their Improving Forest Governance study programme. A warm welcome was given by the Long Wood Community Woodland group, members of the local community, and representatives of local organisations who came to the event.

The delegates, senior representatives of their forestry and civil society sectors from as far away as Vietnam, Myanmar, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are in the UK for a six-week course on improving forest governance. All the 28 delegates had come to Long Wood near Lampeter to exchange experience on community woodlands. In all  13 countries were represented, and their experience ranged from fighting for greater rights for indigenous people living in the tropical forests of central Africa, to supporting local hill communities manage the community forests of Nepal.

Dr Akhil Karna brought expertise from FECOFUN [Federation of Community Forestry Users] in Nepal that supports 18,000 community forestry user groups, representing 8.5 million forest users (many of whom are subsistence farming families).

“It was really exciting for me to feel that community woodlands here in Wales are part of a wider movement across the world giving more power to local people” said Zena Wilmot, who organised the field visit by the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) to Longwood Community Woodland. “Although there are huge differences between the countries there were also challenges faced by all and shared goals – this was a great opportunity to learn from each other.”

This is a particularly interesting time for this event to take place as Longwood community group have just successfully purchased Long Wood, which was previously managed by Forestry Commission Wales. They are now employing new staff, planning a new visitor’s centre, and purchasing harvesting and timber production equipment. The participants were very keen to learn how this ‘asset transfer’ from government to community had taken place.

The Directors of Long Wood are all local volunteers, who are custodians of this beautiful natural resource, and together oversee its management and future sustainable development. Their aim is to increase use of the woodland by the public, schools and other organisations; to provide opportunities for employment of local people and to enhance Long Wood as a natural resource for all of the community to enjoy.

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