Frequently Asked Questions

About Model Forests

Model Forests are based on an approach that combines the social, cultural and economic needs of local communities with the long-term sustainability of large landscapes in which forests are an important feature. By design they are voluntary, broad-based initiatives linking forestry, research, agriculture, mining, recreation, and other values and interests within a given landscape.

The first Model Forests were created in Canada in 1992. In Latin America, the Chiloé Model Forest was the first one founded in 1996 in southern Chile.

Model Forests seek to learn better ways for sustainably managing their landscapes or ecosystems, often creating local leadership strategies to coordinate activities related to protected areas, biological corridors, forest management, sustainable agriculture, rural tourism, access to microcredit, organic farming, watershed management and forest certification. Projects undertaken by Model Forests contribute to community sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation and forest restoration, therefore working towards global forest policy objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. More than 31 million hectares in 15 countries of Ibero-America form part of the 29 Model Forests in this region.

A Model Forest is a landscape of sustainable human development where people participate voluntarily in the organization and management of their forests and natural resources.

The Model Forest concept was created in the 90s, after the Canadian government sought an alternative to conflict between forest loggers and the communities living in forested areas through the management and use of natural resources. The Model Forest concept was originally developed by the Canadian Forest Service, who took the initiative to promote worldwide by the International Model Forest Network.

The first Model Forest was created in Canada in 1992. The concept was introduced to Latin America in 1994 through the assistance of the Canadian government, which promoted the concept globally during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 1994 the first Model Forests outside Canada were established (Russia and Mexico) and a year later the Secretariat of the International Model Forest Network headquartered in Ottawa, Canada was founded.
Founded in 2002, the original name of the RIABM was “Regional Network for Latin America and the Caribbean” (LAC-net), whose name was changed to the Ibero-American Model Forest Network after the entrance of Spain in the Network. That change was approved during the 2007 Board meeting in Honduras.

The Model Forests around the world are as unique and diverse as the countries and cultures in which they are located. Although Model forests participants define together their own priorities and governance structure, at a global scale they are connected by common attributes. Every Model Forest shares a core of six principles that provide coherence to the IMFN and the basis for networking and knowledge sharing.

Principle 1. Broad-base Partnership
Principle 2. Large Landscape
Principle 3. Commitment to Sustainability
Principle 4. Participatory Governance
Principle 5. A Broad Program of Activities
Principle 6. Commitment to Knowledge Sharing, Capacity Building and Networking

Model Forests seek to learn better ways for sustainably managing their landscapes or ecosystems, often creating local leadership strategies to coordinate activities related to protected areas, biological corridors, forest management, sustainable agriculture, rural tourism, access to microcredit, organic farming, watershed management and forest certification.

Projects undertaken by Model Forests contribute to community sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation and forest restoration, therefore working towards global forest policy objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. More than 31 million hectares in 15 countries of Ibero-America form part of the 29 Model Forests in this region.

A Model Forest is a landscape of sustainable human development where people participate voluntarily in the organization and management of their forests and natural resources.

About the RIABM

The Ibero-American Model Forest Network (RIABM) aims to be a regional benchmark for the sustainable management of forest-based landscapes. It promotes cooperation among Model Forests, institutions and member countries based on knowledge exchange and innovative experiences, and contributes to public policies related to the sustainable management of natural resources.

It is the first voluntary regional organization to be created that brings together 15 countries and 29 Model Forests in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Spain to share knowledge and experiences. The RIABM promotes the sustainable management of forest-based landscapes and connects Model Forests of member countries.

With the collaboration of internationally recognized organizations such as the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Cuso International, the Network partners with countries that support the Model Forest approach to sustainable development.

The RIABM is one of the six regional networks of the International Model Forest Network (IMFN) along with the Mediterranean Model Forest Network, the African Model Forest Network, the Regional Model Forest Network – Asia, the Baltic Landscape Initiative (Sweden, Russia and Northern European countries) and the Canadian Model Forest Network. Since the founding of the RIABM in 2002, it has evolved to become one of the largest and most dynamic regional networks within the IMFN. The IMFN is a global community of practice that links over 60 Model Forests in 30 countries across five continents around the world.

In 2002, the offices of the regional network management team were established at the United Nations development Program (UNDP) in Chile. At that time, the regional network was known as the Regional Model Forest Network – Latin America and the Carribean (RMF-LAC). In 2004, it moved at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica and changed his acronym to LAC-Net. In 2007, Spain became a member of the regional network and consequently the network changed finally his name to the Ibero-American Model Forest Network (RIABM).

Today, the Network has a presence in 15 countries in Ibero-America, connecting 29 Model Forests throughout the region. The Network is comprised of the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Peru and Spain.

Since the founding of the RIABM in 2002, it has evolved to become one of the largest and most dynamic regional networks within the IMFN. The IMFN is a global community of practice that links over 60 Model Forests in 30 countries across five continents around the world.

  • The Strategic Objectives of the RIABM are:
  • Promoting the dissemination and knowledge concerning the Model Forest process
  • Achieving the financial sustainability of the RIABM and its management to provide stable support for its members
  • Supporting the consolidation of Model Forests
  • Ensuring that Model Forests support participatory, sustainable land-management of forest landscapes and influence the formulation and implementation of public policies at different levels.

The RIABM works in Ibero-America on issues regarding the sustainable management of natural resources at the landscape level with broad social participation in pursuit of improving the quality of life of its inhabitants.
RIABM’s Vision is:

To be a benchmark for sustainable land management of forest landscapes that reflect the socio-economic and environmental challenges from the perspective of local needs and regional concerns, through a broad and voluntary social participation, in order to strengthen the decision-making framework of freedom, plurality, inclusion, responsibility and mutual respect.

In 2009, the RIABM board identified the following priorities:

  • Land use planning and sustainable development
  • Social responsability
  • Research program
  • Microcredit, small businesses and competitive funds
  • Local leadership for sustainable development

The RIABM member countries commit to support strategies facilitating an effective participation in governability, funding, the definition of the management program of their Model Forests and networking.

Each member country has to demonstrate an annual investment equivalent to US$10,000 (in cash or in kind) in networking activities and demonstrate interest in developing or supporting regional Model Forest networking activities within the country or between countries. Members report on their networking activities at each board meeting.

The Network is a gateway through which Model Forests gain access to opportunities, such as the exchange of experiences to improve the use of natural resources, develop good governance practices, increase learning at the regional level, and improve the management of development initiatives.

Furthermore, the Network maintains a link with Model Forest initiatives at a global level, connecting regions and enhancing access to international funds to provide continuity to the projects prioritized by each Model Forest.

The RIABM has trained and promoted exchanges among more than 1,000 Model Forest members in recent years, thus broadening knowledge to strengthen its Model Forest partners.

The Network offers support to its members and promotes knowledge sharing and technology transfer through horizontal collaboration initiatives, the dissemination of information on best practices and other related activities. The RIABM also contributes to multiple processes of public policy formulation, such as the implementation and evaluation of legislation related to the sustainable management of forest-based landscapes.

The operational management of RIABM is handled by the Network’s Management Team which is based at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica.