Participatory Forest Management Cooperatives (PFMCs)
PFMCs were learned to be one of MELCA’s good attributes in its environmental governance programme. Fundamentally, these are tools that empower and entrust local communities to play most active role in the management of local ecosystems, under the banner of conservation, protection and utilization principles adopted by the World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WNBR). MELCA practices PFM approach in the Majang Forest Biosphere Reserves Majang project area. Majang Project funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Participatory forest management cooperatives (PFMCs) in Majang Project areas regarded.
In Majang zone there are 31 kebelles and out of the total 31 kebelles 13 PFMCs have been established in 13 kebelles, with the support of the project. The great majority, some 12, of the PFMCs are located in Mengesh District, while only one is in Godere District. Eleven of the 13 PFMCs are licensed or registered as legal entities, while the other two are still under process. The office had also helped three PFMCs established in Agnuwa Zone for the same purpose. Two particular PFMCs case stories of Gubeti PFMCs and Maki PFMCs presents as follow.
Gubeti PFMCs: Three members, out of seven, of the executive committee of the Association were met for discussion. They were: Mr Ahmed Endris, chairman; Mr Ibrahim Hussein, treasury; and Mr Alemayehu Kassa, control. The PFMCs is currently housed in the premise of Gubeti Kebelle Administration. According to the persons met, the Association was legalized in June 2020) and has 158 members with 150 men and 8 widowed women.
The Cooperatives is governed by a bylaw issued in line with the existing forest management proclamation of the country. It had secured the map and certificate of holding of the site, covering 380.24 hectares. From the discussants met, the Cooperatives was learned to be vigilantly preventing the forest from any harmful practices coming from individual residents and, mainly, from investment/development projects. For instance, at the time of the fieldwork, the Association was at loggerheads especially with a coffee development company extensively operating in the area and also with a road construction project both of which, the members met believe, were threatening the wellbeing of the forest.
According to them, they were taking their cases as far as they could and to any stage accessible to them, even including the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. Obviously, this, by itself, irrespective of what the outcome of their contest may be, is indicative of the level of determination the Cooperatives has in protecting the biosphere they have been in charge of. However, the members of the Cooperatives have so far not been getting any concrete benefit in return for their struggle in protecting the forest. Basically, PFMCs are supposed to benefit from non-timber forest products (NTFPs) which they are allowed to collect from or produce in the buffer or transitional parts of the forest like spices and other crops naturally available or producing honey in the forest. But, while the members of the Association are involved in traditional honey production activity, other NFTPs like spices and other crops are not commonly practiced in the Majang Forest. In the near future, though, they are expecting to plant and produce suitable spices and also to produce honey using improved beehives in the forest as promised and planned by MELCA.
Maki PFMCs: Three members were met from Maki PFMC including Mr Markos Gnogniro (chairman), Mr Ibrawiyan Gnogniro (control), and Mr Yonas Gnogniro (member), all of whom are brothers from the indigenous Majang community. The Cooperatives had been formally established around 2019. It is legalized and issued with the map and holding certificate of the site, which covers 375 hectares. Currently, it has 51 members, increasing from the previous 21.
As their normal practice, the members of the Cooperatives produce honey using traditional beehives hang inside the forest. They said that they are keeping the forest because it is their life. They do not think life without the forest. It is everything to their community, from food to shelter and cloth to medicine, etc. In the future, they would like to get external support to provide them modern beehive for more honey production and income generation.
The Cooperatives was sharing office space with Maki Kebelle Administration. According to the members met, they have the intention to construct the Cooperatives office and warehouse for which they have already prepared land in the kebelle. In light of the importance of strengthening such a community institution, MELCA may consider supporting their effort in light of availing some locally unavailable construction materials.