Four Fs can connect communities and corporations for sustainable outcomes

News, 7 November 2012
Connecting plans for producing food, fuel, fibre and forests can help smallholder farmers and large companies work together towards sustainable development -- but this is rarely done, say researchers who hope to address this.

A worker at a small sawmill in northern Costa Rica.

Under the auspices of The Forests Dialogue, they have organised a meeting in Brazil on 11-14 November that will gather stakeholders in agriculture, forestry, biofuels and food security to discuss ways to bridge gaps between sectors and between small-scale and large-scale players.

TFD member James Mayers — who heads the natural resources group at the International Institute for Environment and Development — points out the tension that can exist between these two scales.

"Corporations are good at producing food, fuel and fibre but often at the expense of forests and the local people who depend on them," says Mayers. "Smallholders need livelihoods and are good at producing things too, but they are sometimes in conflict with corporations."

Representatives of private companies, community and producer organisations, government, donor agencies and research institutes will attend the meeting in Brazil to explore ways to enable communities and corporations to connect in ways that make integrated and sustainable land use a real prospect.

"We want to gain better insights into the challenges that patterns land and water use, trade and consumption, and intensification of forestry and farming pose," says TFD's executive director Gary Dunning. "Our aim is to explore and identify practical ways to reconcile these patterns with local or national aspirations in Brazil and internationally."

The meeting has been organised to promote leadership and debate around ways to conserve forests and their values to humanity, whilst also meeting growing global demand for food, fuel and fibre.

"The four Fs -- food, fuel, fibre and forests – are not well integrated right now," says Mayers. "This creates conflict and limits the potential for sustainable development. Getting large-scale food, fuel and fibre producers to come together in forest frontiers where smallholders also prevail is an ideal way to explore how to resolve these challenges."

The meeting takes place in Capão Bonito, and has been funded by BNDES, The Ministry of Environment - Brazil, GIZ, CCAFS, IIED, Fibria, and Bracelpa and co-organized by The Forests Dialogue, Ethos, Bracelpa and Fibria.


James Mayers
Gary Dunning

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

The Forests Dialogue (TFD) is a group of individuals from diverse interests and regions who are committed to conserving and using forests sustainably. Through a shared understanding of forest issues, members of The Forests Dialogue work together in a spirit of teamwork, trust, and commitment. They believe that their actions and relationships can help catalyse a broader consensus on forest issues and encourage constructive, collaborative action by individual leaders that will improve the condition and value of forests.

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