by Rolando A. Inciong
Forests, forest species and ecosystem services play a very important role in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people all over the world, particularly those of indigenous and local communities with linkages to forests.
The United Nations (UN) revealed that between 200 and 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas around the world. They rely on the various ecosystem services provided by forests and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their basic needs such as food, shelter, medicines and energy.
The UN emphasized that indigenous peoples and local communities, including those in the Philippines, are frontliners in the symbiotic relationship between humans and forest, forest-dwelling wildlife species, and the ecosystem services that forests provide. Some 28 percent of the world’s land surface is currently managed by indigenous peoples. These areas are central to their economic and personal well-being, and their cultural identities.
Today, forests, forests species, and the livelihoods that depend on them are highly threatened by environmental and manmade crises such as climate change, pollution, illegal wildlife trade, irresponsible mining, land conversion, overexploitation, biodiversity loss, and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As such, we should promote forest and forest wildlife management models and practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests, forest-dwelling species of wild fauna and flora, and the ecosystems they sustain. We should also promote the values of traditional practices and knowledge that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems.