People-oriented conservation has become a popular approach to resolve conflicts in protected area management. However, the success of this approach is still limited due to several reasons. Particularly, PA managers face challenges in determining the degree of local participation in PA planning and management. The unpredictable nature of the social-ecological system also limits the success of people-oriented conservations. The participatory scenario planning is a useful tool to minimize both challenges. Identifying future scenarios based on local knowledge and experiences can help PA managers to minimize uncertainty in making decisions for the future. Nevertheless, the application of this approach is still limited in the tropics. In order to promote the application of scenario planning approach in PA management, a pilot workshop was conducted in Natma Taung National Park (NTNP) in Myanmar from 25-26 September 2018.
NTNP is one of the ASEAN Heritage Parks in Myanmar hosting several endemic species and unique cultural landscape. In 2014, the park was included in the tentative list to nominate as a Natural World Heritage Site. However, the nomination process was delayed due to the several socio-economic issues including land and resource use conflicts with indigenous ethnic people. Therefore, it has become the government’s top priority to reduce existing conflicts and to promote community engagement in park management.
The workshop was part of the PhD research by one of our PhD candidates, Mr. Pyi Soe Aung. The workshop is jointly organized by Myanmar Forest Department in collaboration with Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA), and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The main objectives were to discuss future scenarios of the social-ecological system in NTNP by using participatory scenario planning approaches and to identify optimal management model for NTNP by using multi-criteria decision analysis. A total of 25 participants attended the workshop. This includes 11 community representatives, 11 government officials, and three participants from non-governmental organizations.
The workshop was separated into two main sessions. The first session included four keynote presentations by resource persons. After the keynote presentations, the participatory scenario planning approach was conducted by separating into three working groups depending on their professional background and individual interests. During the group discussions, the participants focused on three thematic topics: i) traditional land tenure system, ii) livelihood strategies and iii) customary resource-use practices. Each group discussed one of the three thematic areas identified by the resource persons. After the discussion, each group selected one representative and presented to the other groups in the plenary session.
The workshop produced five recommendations that should be addressed urgently by the park authorities in order to achieve conservation and sustainable development of the NTNP. These include:
- Establish a formal communication platform between the villagers and park authorities in order to share information and negotiate between legal regulations and local requirements. The platform should be mutually accessible and neutral so that the villagers can express their needs and build mutual trusts among others;
- Provide formal recognition of locally protected forests, such as watershed forests near village water sources or sacred forests, against powerful outsiders and government development projects;
- Negotiate with traditional landowners to allow the landless farmers within the communities to establish permanent farms instead of shifting cultivation;
- Provide technical and financial support to promote permanent crops such as Yam, Avocado, Coffee, Potato and so on;
- Introduce value-added technologies for permanent crops and non-timber forest products in order to increase profits with minimum resource costs.
The workshop proceedings can be downloaded here.
By Pyi Soe Aung