MARK POFFENBERGER is an anthropologist specializing in community resource management systems in the Asia region. He holds a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has spent much of the past twenty-five years working in South and Southeast Asia. From 1981 to 1991 he was the Ford Foundation program officer for Rural Poverty and Resources in Jakarta and New Delhi. For the past five years he has been Director of the Asia Forest Network, based at the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include: Patterns of Change in the Nepal Himalaya, Keepers of the Forest, and Village Voices, Forest Choices. He currently acts as coordinator of the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Working Group on Community Involvement in Forest Management in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests.
Indigenous and traditional knowledge is a current topic of discussion at the ongoing meetings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forest (IPF) and at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity. The IPF was formed to seek ways to implement the Forest Principles outlined in Agenda 21 of the Rio de Janero Earth Summit in 1992. Discussions of indigenous and forest related knowledge during the last three meeting of the IPF have largely focused on issues dealing with the commercial value of botanical information possessed by forest-dependent communities. This perspective, now common in current international discussions, unnecessarily limits the appreciation of the significant roles that community forest management knowledge and institutions play in sustaining the world's forests. This paper explores trends and strategies that may lead to a greater recognition of the validity of indigenous and local forest management systems in their own right, as integral components of rural communities, as well as of their importance for national forest management policies and programs now in transition in many nations.
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