Focusing support for locally controlled forest enterprise

Article, 14 March 2014

Funding to Forest Connect led to diagnosis of effective investments, clarified our strategy and attracted new members.

The Dolakha FSC certified community forest user group speaking at the International Forest Connect workshop, Nepal, February 2013. (Photo: Leianne Rolington/IIED)

An alliance of organisations is working to reduce poverty and deforestation by better linking sustainable, locally-controlled forest enterprises to each other, markets, service providers and policy processes.

Forest Connect supports member organisations in 15 countries to exchange practical tactics, create toolkits and develop strategy. 

Prioritisation is key

The alliance has supported a range of successful forest enterprises from timber and ecotourism in Guatemala to baobab juice in Mali, giving remote forest people the business skills and connections they need. However, it is costly to reach these groups and resource constraints mean impacts can seem insignificant. 

Forest Connect found that by asking members to analyse the benefits of different forest enterprise against set criteria, members evaluated which to prioritise and learned from each other's methods. For example, the Nepalese analysis leaned towards technical issues such as biodiversity, whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) focused more on income and food security. 

Each member report independently concluded that no one type of forest enterprise delivers on every environmental and social benefit. For example, in Tanzania, forest timber plantations can boost income more than native fruit trees, but fruit enterprises are better for biodiversity and climate resilience.

The alliance also found that it is best to support a multiple forest enterprise approach. This goes against traditional large-scale single-type land use for economic efficiency.

The workshop aided (us) to focus on identifying and prioritising the fundamentals of viable pro-poor community forestry business models.
- Martin Greijmans,
Enhanced Livelihoods & Markets

Connecting to policy

Forest Connect is co-managed by IIED, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Center for People and Forests. IIED plans to build on the work of Forest Connect by compiling detailed examples of successful business models across the forest world. 

Forest Connect is continuing to attract new members in forest-rich areas including Mexico, Brazil and Southeast Asia. In addition, through Forest Connect's online platform, more than 1,000 members from 94 countries are sharing their experiences and resources.

The alliance's business models align with REDD+ policy and is supported by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).


Duncan Macqueen, principal researcher – forest feam, Natural Resources Group

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