For decades, local communities in Myanmar have been excluded from making decisions concerning the protection and governance of their surrounding natural resources including forests, land, water resources, minerals, gems, etc. Conflicts over natural resources and environmental degradation were often linked to the government’s lack of transparency and exclusion of local participation in managing local natural resources. Following Myanmar’s political transition and the recent relaxation of media censorship reports about conflicts over land, mining projects, hydropower mega-projects and others dominate the local media. Due to this poor record the Revenue Watch Institute recently gave Myanmar the lowest resource governance ranking in the world.
As more investment in the resource sector is to be expected following Myanmar’s political change and economic liberalization it could put further pressure on already vulnerable communities in particular in the resource rich ethnic states. Hence, local communities’ participation in resource management becomes a crucial issue to prevent further escalation of conflicts and create favorable conditions for peace building. In order to empower local communities in managing their natural resources in a sustainable way it is crucial to build up a critical mass of local development practitioners and NGO workers who are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to deal with these challenges.
To this end the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia together with its local partner EcoDev/Alarm and several other local partner organizations joined hands to create a specialized Training of Trainers (ToT) Program on Participatory Indigenous Natural Resource Management. The objectives of this training program are to:
- Provide trainers with a suite of technical and facilitation skills,
- Highlight the importance of Indigenous Knowledge with regards to Natural Resource Management
- Empower Indigenous People and grassroots for sustainable development by making people aware of their natural resource rights, of both legal and customary frameworks
Through this capacity building program, the Heinrich Böll Sitftung and its partner organizations want to create a specialist Civil Society trainer pool in the field of Natural Resource Management in Myanmar.
Over the period of one year, more than 20 trainers of several local organizations from all parts of Myanmar acquire a diverse range of skills and knowledge during several workshops at different locations across the country. The training program led by the experienced trainers Dr. Maruja Salas and Dr. Timmi Tillmann includes participatory methods such as Participatory Action Research (PAR) on Indigenous Knowledge, moderation and visualization skills (VIPP), legal frameworks regarding natural resource rights, trainer and training design skill, and more. The training program is split into three workshops of each one week at different locations around Myanmar: in Shan State, Pyin Oo Lwin (Mandalay Division), and Bago. In between the workshops the participants apply the new skills in their own projects and present the results in the following workshop through an ongoing process of Action - Reflection -Action.
During the first two workshops in March and August 2013 participants learned diverse facilitation and training skills, and methods of Participatory Action Research (PAR) which they will be able to apply in their daily work with local communities and pass on within their mother organizations. Moreover, during field visits in local villages during the workshops participants had the chance to practice the methods and apply the knowledge they acquired. The future trainers learn to appreciate and to explore indigenous and local knowledge and its value for sustainable development at the local level. For guidance through the program two manuals on Visualization in Participatory Programs (VIPP) and Participatory Action Research (PAR) are published in Burmese Language and distributed for free as hard copy and e-book for download to local civil society. After completing the program the participants receive certificates issued by the Right Livelihood College (Penang, Malaysia) and follow up with their own training programs within their local organizations.