Interview: Carol Colfer revisits research in Central Africa

Dr Carol Colfer

Dr Carol Colfer

Dr Carol Colfer is a Senior Research Associate with the Center for International Forestry research and one of the pioneers in CIFOR’s research in forest management in Central Africa. She is also one of the lead persons in CIFOR’s vision of Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) in resource exploitation and conservation. She had a brief chat with the COBAM news.

COBAM News: As one of CIFORs pioneers in Central Africa, what are some of the striking moments you remember during your involvement in research in forest management in this region?

CC: My early experiences in Central Africa as a researcher in forests management are diverse. First, I discovered a huge resource of local knowledge in forest management which was not being tapped by existing and dominant forest management decision making bodies: the state and logging companies. Second, I noticed a strong presence and grip of forest management by colonial masters which drifted management towards the traditional top-down management approach. Third, I noticed a high degree of local administrative presence in many local areas….this was interesting and different to what I experienced in other countries in South East Asia. Lastly, it was so interesting to see how local knowledge and capacity was driving community development issues through local civil society organizations.

COBAM News: CIFOR has been involved in Central Africa for the past 20 years, how do you assess CIFOR’s research in terms of policy impact in the region?

CC: From what I think and from what I heard during the just ended conference, CIFORs research in CA has influenced forests policy design and implementation. For the past years the different indicators and criteria that CIFOR has put forward has provided support in areas such as forest certification, management of non-timber forests products, forest governance etc.

COBAM News: With emerging issues like climate change impacts on forest and forest communities and REDD+, do you think or expect a paradigm shift in forest research and management in Central Africa?

CC: Actually, I expect a shift in management ideas, but practically I don’t know the direction in which the shift needs to take. However, flexible and iterative management methods such as the Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) fit such situations. The ACM has a philosophy of learning, change and adaptation.

COBAM News: As one of the pioneers of ACM in CIFOR, do you think the role of ACM has influenced forest management? How can ACM fit into the context of managing forests for climate change adaptation and REDD+?

CC: Yes of course, ACM has been relevant and has contributed to the design and implementation of different forest management practices. For climate change, I think ACM is relevant as well. This is because climate change impacts are different across locations, communities and groups, this implies that tailored adaptation options are required for specific areas and groups of people and only communities themselves are able to tell the story better and provide the information and knowledge on climate change impacts and possible adaptation options. For REDD+, different groups relate with the forests differently and for their interest to be taken into consideration, their participation in the REDD+ process has to be considered. It is exciting to see that the COBAM project is looking at opportunities to borrow the ideas of ACM, especially dealing with an adaptation and REDD+ issue at the same time.

COBAM News: How do you relate the short term financial exigencies of funders and the effective implementation of ACM?

CC: This is really an important issue and a challenge for ACM. ACM requires a long time frame with at least a double project cycle and very limited donors are able to support this type of process. It is a challenge that needs to be handled.

Propos recueillis par Eugene CHIA