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Journal

Community forestry documentary



Something we have been really keen to shout about the past few months is our pending documentary debut. An opportunity to flex our creative talents in storytelling. Last year, we set ourselves a daunting but definitely exhilarating task. Could we capture the connection and variety nestled within the broad bracket of ‘community forestry’?


We wondered… is it possible for the multifaceted nature of community forestry and all that it entails in different countries, towns, and locales to provide both ecological diversity and an economic contribution? An opportunity to delve deep into filmmaking with ourselves as the clients this time.


Is this something we want to do, to offer to others?


Curiosity


Born of a curiosity steeped in human connection to wooded landscapes. We teamed up with visionary filmmaker (and now honoured to call a friend) Alice Carfrae. We threw our vague ideas and what we thought the essence of the piece would be at Alice. Her intrigue and imagination sparked, and we set about gathering stories. What does ‘community forestry’ mean to different communities? What is it that connects people to the land? Can the fragility of balancing competing needs within these spaces be met? Along the way we have uncovered and learnt so much more than we could have ever hoped. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the many fascinating and passionate people that we have met.


Where to start?


From Germany to Scotland, Plymouth to Nepal. We have been connecting with those deeply embedded and connected to the woods and treescapes that surround them.


In Nepal we spoke with villagers who have seen forest, deforestation and renewed community forestry. We delved into the connections that exist between trees, people and animals. All life has a place. Even if sometimes, that life presents more as pest perhaps than friend. There exists a continuous balancing act that strives for harmony and respect among all species so all can benefit from the trees and landscape harmoniously. DB, one of the members of the Chitawan Community Forest in Nepal talks of the forest as a perfect example of participatory conservation in Nepal. He explains that the forest


“…is well preserved not only in the National Park area, but also in the other District Forest Area and people are working very, very closely together with different sectors of Government and also the NGOs and other organisations”.

Resources like grass, firewood, and timber are mapped out and distributed to community members in need. The community president tells us that


“Everyone is putting their heart to save this forest”

Alongside the more processual elements of the people-forest relationship are the beliefs held about the forest and the importance of worship. A neighbouring elder tells us the community

there


“believe in forest gods. We worship and tie the praying flags up. We offer roosters and goats as sacrifices to our forest gods which are spirits and ghosts. If we don’t worship them we people and our animals become sick…. If we worship all goes well.”

In Densborn, Germany the people we met also spoke of the mysticism that runs deep in the connection of people to the forest, steeped in generations of myth and legend. Gregor tells us that the forest is also an important economic factor for the region though disease is devastating large areas. The forest there is appreciated as a space that offers relaxation and leisure, while at the same time exists for diversity, naturalness, and nature which also have a richly important meaning for Gregor and the community.

Closer to home


In Plymouth, UK, community forestry has yet another face. The woods at the edge of the city are a vital space for people to escape their urban surrounds but could there be a deeper connection? One centred on connecting people long disconnected with the forest and wooded landscapes that surround them. Through volunteer and woodland-habitat restoration programmes the teams there enable local people, within the city, to connect to trees with purpose beyond the visual.


On the west coast of Scotland large areas of commercial forestry planted in the 1950s onwards often overlooked the needs of communities or local ecologies. Now those communities are taking back ownership of substantial forest holdings. Breathing new life into the landscape. These forests can deliver economic benefits to the community who are then better placed to restructure to more resilient woodland systems and even experiment with new ways of working.


Threads


In each place we visited the people we met were acutely attuned to the fragility of the balance between ecosystem, economy and community. They were part of a movement, unknown to each other but linked by a focus, that seeks to sensitively navigate the human-centred gains from our tree’d landscapes. They saw the necessity of nurturing these spaces in order for them to thrive. Even the ‘pests’. To us too often perceived as nuisance, but like us simply living their daily lives.


Hope and tension


The people we have had the privilege to meet and share time with all hold real hope for the future. For their forests and for their communities. But also tension. Tension around the future of their forests against climate and disease. Tension around how to manage forests in more resilient ways and who the decision makers will be in that process. If we hold any hope, it is that our short documentary can help bring some of those tensions to the surface for more open dialogue in seeking solutions.


‘Community forestry’ as a concept has such diverse meaning and implication. The stories we share in our documentary are of people bound together in united efforts and individual yet shared connection with the forest. We are not offering up our unfurling narrative as a list of prescriptions for how things should be done. But rather, we would like for this piece to perhaps offer more questions than it does answers. To bring examples of different approaches and new perspectives to reflect on and consider. And maybe even to bring into question y/our own connection with the landscape that we are embedded in – be it urban, rural, remote, or other.


Feature release


If you can’t wait until the feature release. You can sneak a peek of Willi-Josef who we met in Bonn, Germany. We met and spoke with so many fascinating people we’re contemplating a series of shorts. But one step at a time. The full feature will be screened at our Autumn Film Festival being held on the Dartington Estate, Devon. We even have a mailing list for you keen beans wanting to stay on top of programming and arrange your weekend accordingly.


Want us to bring your stories to life?


If you are curious about our other media work. Or wondering if there is anything we can do for you to help share your stories. Or bring a project to life with media that really touches people in all the best ways. Check out this short post in our portfolio.





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