Quest: David Cassells, Senior adviser on forestry and climate change with The Nature Conservancy
Reporter: Su Jinling
Interview Date: June 2011
Interview Venue: Shanghai, China
Brief interview contents
Su Jinling: From your bio, we know that you are an Australian forester. So you were born in Australia?
David Cassells: I was brought up in northeast tropical part of Australia. I grew up in the tropical rain forest region. I always work with tropical forest, so many of the issues are similar to those in developing countries who also have tropical forests.
Su Jinling: How do you choose forestry or timber industry as your career?
David Cassells: I knew a few people were foresters. When I went to school, some of my best friends' fathers were forester. They moved around to many interesting area. My mother was also very keen naturalist. She took me, as a young boy, to many national parks. Those days in Australia just like China now. (More detailed conversation in the video)
Su Jinling: About regional community forest, do we call it community forest or social forest?
David Cassells: Community forestry is really the development of social forestry. In the 1970s, there was a famous British forester by the name of Jack Westoby. He was a forester director of FAO. He influenced the development of international forestry very broadly. (More detailed conversation in the video)
Su Jinling: You mentioned about the training center, Is there any program of the training center in China?
David Cassells: RECOFTC was formed 25 years ago. A number of the countries signed RECOFTC charter to bring it into existence. China was one of those countries. Most of the other countries were from Mekong, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. (More detailed conversation in the video)
Su Jinling: What is the challenge related to the community forestry in the developing countries?
David Cassells: I think the real challenge is livelihood. The only result they have is the forest. For their substances livelihood the forest has been a very good provider. Jack Westoby had a famous saying. He called the forestry is poor man’s overcoat. The poor often don’t own land. They relied on forest for hunting. They get additional products, non-timber products, like mushrooms, things like that. Forestry has been the key results for their simple survival. Can the forestry also be the key result in the social economic developing for the improvement of their livelihood? I spent the last two weeks traveling around China……
Su Jinling: In the Asian pacific countries, the community forestry has been developed. Any good models?
David Cassells: The country that comes most to mind is Nepal. Their community forestry took very early, because the government of the day very early recognized that basically you need the forestry to sustain community. People who were farmers depended on forest for firewood for cooking, to maintain their animals. Without their animals they have nothing to plough the fields. Also it was the dung from the animals to provide the fertilizer for the fields. So the forests were really what sustained the agriculture. So very pragmatically they took a decision, I guess 40 years ago, that they had to devolve the right to manage forest responsibility back to the local communities. That has been very successful. Nepal, in 1970s, seems the worst case of tropical deforestation……
Su Jinling: What is the most precious value the local people laid upon?
David Cassells: The most important value is subsistence support. At next stage, the development, the ability of forest to develop cash crops becomes important. I worked with communities in Papua New Guinea. The communities, working with the Nature Conservancy, have developed land use plans that set aside some areas because of their particular conservation value. And very interesting that people in the community said to me: can you tell us or demonstrate to us how this can help us in the modern world? We have all the traditional values……
Introduction of David Cassells
David Cassells is the Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Asia Pacific Region Forest Program and Chief of Party for the Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) Program. He is an Australian forester with more than 30 years management and research experience in tropical forest management and planning. He started his career with more than a decade of forest management and research experience in the wet tropical rain forest region of north-eastern Australia. David has subsequently had wide international experience and has held leadership positions with the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO); the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development; and the World Bank. He was the Chairperson of the IUCN Forest Conservation Programme Advisory Group from October 1996 – July 2005. From 2001-2005, he was a Co-Chair of the World Bank-WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use. He currently serves on the Boards of Forest Trends, the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development, the Tropical Forest Foundation and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Thailand-based Regional Community Forest Training Centre (RECOFTC). In January 2000, he was featured by the UK based People and the Planet Magazine as one of five “Millennium Trailblazers” in global environmental management in its special Millennium Issue on “The Ecology of Hope”.
Wording: Su Jinling
Editor: Wang Peiwen