September 25th to 27th, founding partners of the RedForestal met in the ICAES center in San José, Costa Rica. The main objective of the workshop was to discuss advances that the RedForestal has made since January, obstacles that have emerged, and plan how to advance in spite of these obstacles in the short and medium-term future.

Present were two representatives from the coordinating arm of REDNOSOC in Mexico City, two representatives from ACOFOP in Petén, Guatemala, two representatives from ACICAFOC’s main office in San José, five representatives from ACICAFOC’s Board of Directors from Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the network facilitator from San José, and two representatives from Rights and Resources.

Among the main themes that emerged through the discussions, all present noted the need for communities to take leadership and governance over the RedForestal. The representatives present decided to form a Coordinating Committee (Consejo Coordinador) that will be responsible for making decisions related to the network, promoting the use of the network among their organizations and constituent members, and participating in the processes of expanding to new users and network members.

Representatives also concluded that the role of the independent facilitator will remain important in promoting the use of the RedForestalnetwork and training community members, updating information within the network and news items for the RedForestaland MERCOFOR sites, advising the Consejo Coordinador, and coordinating the technical support to the project.

Representatives discussed the desire to connect the web-based RedForestal with other modes of communication, particularly the radio, which can reach distant rural communities which remain unconnected to the internet. Connectivity still remains a grand obstacle for many communities who have much to gain from exchanging with other communities in different regions and countries, but lack the basic connections, computers, and training to take advantage of these new modes of communication.

Based on the outcome of these three-day workshops, the partner organizations and individual participants are excited and enthusiastic about the progress that the RedForestal network has made so far and the potential it holds. The founding partners and members are now progressing with formalization and meetings of the Consejo Coordinador, new technical updates to the RedForestal sites, selecting dates for next electronic and face-to-face meetings, and expanding the network to include new community members throughout Latin America.