In March, sixteen representatives from BCP and GRZ participated in an eight-day long intensive training in Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) techniques, as part of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP). The PLA training combined both practical and theoretical components, including a five-day long intensive training workshop and a two-day long practical training through a “mock”community engagement meeting in a local village in Luembe Chiefdom.
The PLA training was a critical investment into building the capacity of field-teams who will be involved in community stakeholder consultation, sensitization and engagement in decision-making about REDD+, in line with adhering to the international principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
In 2015, the CFP is focusing on identifying new areas for REDD+ implementation within Eastern Province. This process involves rigorous stakeholder engagement, consultation and involvement in participatory mapping activities, to demarcate protected forest areas and develop local land-use planning for sustainable development. Members of the CFP Engagement Team will work closely with GRZ representatives to undertake these activities, using the PLA techniques they have learned through this training.
“We will be implementing CFP in communal lands. As a result, we need to apply the correct methods of engaging communities in a deeper way than just having conversations,” explained Esau Shawa, a Community Engagement Manager (CEM) for the CFP. “There is need to consult communities on various issues as the project takes shape. We need to know whether they are comfortable with what we intend to do, because they own the forests and they have a strong say in terms of what works for them and what doesn’t.”
Hebron Yowela, a Community Officer, highlighted the value of undertaking practical work in local communities: “We got to understand the kind of livelihood challenges communities are currently facing and the possible activities they would want to see take shape in the communities.” Such information is critical to the development of participatory REDD+ management plans.
In 2014, a pilot Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for FPIC was developed through a collaborative process involving key stakeholders from GRZ, civil society, academia and REDD+ implementers such as BCP. In 2015, the Engagement Teams leading participatory engagement, mapping and consultation activities under the CFP will adhere to this FPIC SOP. After piloting it at the first site, they will advise on any edits to be made to ensure that the FPIC SOP outlines “best bractices” for participatory engagement, based on lessons learned through practical experience.