Investment guide to ‘triple win’ from locally controlled forestry

News, 24 September 2012
Discussions between investors and forest rights-holders have resulted in new guidance for investments that can create a ‘triple win’ of returns for investors, livelihood security for local communities and protection for forests.

A man waters seedlings at a nursery at the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya managed by Wildlife Works Carbon.

The advice on investment in locally-controlled forestry appears in a forthcoming guide by the Growing Forest Partnership (GFP) initiative, and will be presented today (24 September) at COFO21, the conference of the Committee on Forestry at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

"We believe almost any individual or group with imagination, enthusiasm and access to expertise can build and manage a successful forest enterprise that yields sustainable returns," says Gary Dunning of The Forests Dialogue (TFD). "The guide shows how investors and forest-dependent communities can form mutually-beneficial partnerships that deliver social, environmental and economic gains."

The guide emerged from eleven meetings TFD organized on behalf of Growing Forest Partnerships initiative, itself catalysed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank.

These meetings gathered indigenous people, family foresters, researchers, government representatives, investment bankers, donors and philanthropists to share views on the role of investment in the forest sector.

The new guide presents their insights along with 17 case studies from across the world, from new to long established businesses, in both developed and developing countries. It shows how investing in locally-controlled forestry offers investors secure access, a 'social licence to operate', reduced risks and better long term management opportunities, as well as evidence of social and environmental sustainability.

"Investment in locally controlled forestry not only leads to improved economic outcomes, it also improves the political economy in a manner that can help governments in developing countries shift onto a more sustainable, low-carbon development path," says the guide’s lead author, Dominic Elson. "Local controlled enterprises mean better asset protection and a higher sustainable income from forest resources in future."

The guide looks in detail at how to encourage a happy marriage between 'enabling investments' that prepare the ground for commercial success and ‘asset investments’ that seek a return, usually as profit or products.

"Strong businesses generate profits worthy of asset investment," says Chris Buss of IUCN, who led the team that produced the guide. "But growing those businesses may need enabling investments from NGOs, philanthropists or governments for infrastructure, capacity building or to secure and formalise commercial forest rights. Recognising these two investment roles offers a credible way to support enterprises that are too big for microfinance but too small to attract conventional investment or financial services."

Duncan Macqueen of IIED, who also contributed to the guide, adds: "About a quarter of the world’s forests are locally controlled, by members of three major alliances of indigenous peoples, forest communities and private family smallholders. These forests provide livelihoods for a billion people, and goods and services worth US$75—US$100 billion per year. What’s missing is the investment that can boost these benefits in a sustainable way and put local people in the driving seat."

The guide also includes a roadmap to successful investment in locally controlled forestry. This covers the business stages of: proposition, establishment, validation, preparation, negotiation and performance; with specific advice on challenges for both investors and enterprises.

To request a copy of A Guide to Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry, please email

The COFO21 side event “Investing in Locally Controlled Forests (private investment, small forest enterprise)” is on 24 September at 13.00-14.30 in the Iran Room (B-016).


Dominic Elson [+44 7541 862432 (from 24 September – 9 October 2012]

Duncan Macqueen [+44 (0)2034637399]

Chris Buss

Gary Dunning

Notes to editors

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.

TFD's ‘Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry’ dialogue initiative was financed by the Growing Forest Partnerships (GFP) initiative, in which activities have been catalysed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Bank.

Growing Forest Partnerships (GFP) aims to reinforce the sustainable and equitable management of forests. It does this by initiating and responding to multi-stakeholder, bottom-up processes that develop and reinforce partnerships that strengthen the voices of forest dependent peoples and enable forest rights holders to improve their livelihoods, support the maintenance of ecosystem services and respond to newly emerging financing opportunities. The GFP initiative also aims at being a platform that links the international dialogue on forests with local needs and concerns.


  • Improves connections within the forest sector and with other sectors
  • Provides a means to link local demands and priorities with the global forest policy agenda
  • Increases responsibility for, and local benefits from, forest global public goods
  • Improves the quantity and quality of investment and international support for forests controlled at a local level

The GFP funders are the World Bank and the Swedish International Development Agency

COFO21 takes place the week of 24-28 September:

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