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Entries in community forestry (22)


Hukaung Logs

One of the main reasons for starting the community forestry work in the Hukaung Valley (see Naw Aung and His Sagawa) is that a lot of the important subsistence resources for villagers, e.g. timber and rattan, are being harvested commercially and gradually depleted by outsiders.  For example, the load of sagawa logs shown above being hauled across the Taron River to Tanai (see Crossing the Taron). 


Believe Your Eyes

Laying out the baseline at Shinlonga (see The Last Stake) involved a strange mix of GPS and compass. As shown in the photo above, Jon Kuan is using a compass to lay out the next plot stake, but he has a GPS is his other hand to "check" how the line is going.

The baseline that the crew at Shinlonga laid out was one of the straightest, most bearing-correct lines I've ever run in a tropical forest. In most places, you could easily line up three or four stakes (see image below). The guys, however, took a waypoint on every stake and were continually plotting the line - which zigzagged all over the place. This was due to the 5 to 7 meter positional error necessarily involved in every GPS reading. Although their eyes were telling them that the line was as straight as a string, the GPS was telling them that they were going crooked. And they worried about this. I finally convinced them to believe their eyes and to put their GPS receivers back in their packs. [NOTE: When we eventually plotted the first and last waypoints, our baseline was oriented precisely magnetic North, a result which seemed to reassure everyone about the quality of the work].


The Last Stake

After running two kilometers of line through a tract of forest located several hours walk from the village of Shinlonga in the Hukaung Tiger Reserve (see Naw Aung and His Sagawa), setting the last stake was an auspicious occasion. [NOTE: It took three days to clear the line and set all 20 stakes. These stakes form the baseline of a 100 hectare intensive management area for the community, and are the starting points of inventory transects. It's an amazing thing that we are doing here]. 


Naw Sein

Naw Sein is a Kachin villager that worked with us to set up the management area in Shinlonga. He mainly helped with tree identifications and managed the transect rope when we were measuring between plots. And he did this with such poise and insouciance. Note the cheroot in his left hand, the blue plaid longyi, and the yellow transect rope (see Shopping for Rope in Tanai) in his right hand configured in the shape of an endless or eternal knot. [NOTE: This beautiful portrait of Naw Sein was taken by Rob Tizard, Technical Advisor to the WCS Myanmar Program (thx, Rob)].


Naw Aung and His Sagawa

I spent the last two weeks in northern Myanmar working with Kachin villagers from Shinlonga (see Shinlonga and Morning Mist) on a community forestry project.  Much of the time I was living in a tent in the forest two hours walk from the village laying out a 100 hectare management area.  Naw Aung (shown above) was along to help us identify trees; he had also worked with me when I was in Shinlonga last May (see Field Crew; he's to my right in a woven hat.)

On the way to the management area, Naw Aung came across a large sagawa tree (Michelia champaca L.) that had fallen across the trail. Sagawa is one of the preferred construction timbers in Shinlonga and the species is hard to find. Although this tree had been dead for a while, the heartwood was still solid and several posts could be cut from it. To claim the wood, Naw Aung put a little sign in front of the log (shown in photo above) and then he carved his name on the log. This, apparently, is sufficient to let people know that the tree belongs to him.  



Field Assistant

This nice fellow, a Dayak from the Sanggau district of West Kalimantan, helped me with some forest inventories in the early 1990's.  He was great in the field. He knew his trees, picked up the inventory methodology very fast, and always had a big smile on his face.  He worked with us for about 10 days.  Never said a word. [NOTE: The tree in the background with the hacked-up trunk is Dipterocarpus (see Damar)].


Field Crew

Here's the crew that did the inventory work at Shinlonga last month (see Shinlonga). A fantastic team and a delightful group of people.  Was great fun working with them. [NOTE: Image was taken after the first day's transect when we were still fresh.]  



I spent the last five days in Shinlonga, a small Kachin village of 40 households inside the Hukaung Tiger Reserve in northern Myanmar. We ran 2.5 kilometers of inventory transects through local forests and did extended resource needs assessment interviews in the evenings with selected villagers. In spite of the leeches, the rattan spines, and the rain, it was a very productive and memorable stay. There is much potential and a great need for community forestry here, and I hope my visit has somehow helped to push things in this direction. Warm thanks to the WCS Yangon office, Saw Htun, Rob Tizard, and all the lovely folks in Shinlonga for making this happen. [NOTE: That's the Ledo Road shown in the foreground. The tall pole with the plaited bamboo, fly-swatter type thing on top is for slapping out fires on the palm-thatched roof].


Chain of Custody

All the logs that came into the mill at Kikori (see Living on a Log Raft and Palms of Kikori) had to be labeled with a code showing the species, the felling cycle/date, and the site of origin. This was done to insure that the communities weren't cutting more than they should, i.e. that they were only harvesting the annual growth of merchantable timber in their forests. This type of log labeling represents one step in the chain of custody process required for forest certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.


Selva Maya II

Load of logs near the town of Tres Garantias.

Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) boards outside the mill at NohBec.

Local communities have been managing the forests of the Selva Maya since pre-Columbian times.  In recent years, community forestry in the region has focused on timber, in particular the production of export-quality Mahogany timber.   The forestry operations of several ejidos in the Selva Maya have been certified to be sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  These were some of the first sustainably managed tropical forests to be recognized anywhere in the world. [NOTE: For more information about pre-Columbian forestry go here].