Forest Connect: sustainable enterprise at the forest frontier
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At many of the world’s remaining forest frontiers, pitched battles for profit from farming and forestry are playing out. Forests generally lose: some 130,000 square kilometres still disappear yearly. Meanwhile, an estimated 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people depend on those frontiers. Solutions that both avoid deforestation and reduce poverty are urgently needed.
Of the few that have emerged, sustainable forest enterprise is one of the most promising. Generally small-scale, local and informal, these have massive potential, as market demand for forest products grows and the need for local income remains pressing. But with governments often rigging forest rights in favour of big corporations and rarely providing support for small-scale forest businesses, small enterprises face big hurdles.
To secure local rights, profitability and responsible practice for these enterprises, IIED co-manages the international alliance Forest Connect with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and a multi-institutional steering committee. It is funded by PRO FOR with support from the FAO-Hosted NFP Facility.
Forest Connect links sustainable small forest enterprises to each other, and to markets, service providers and policy processes such as National Forest Programmes. The alliance partners institutions with funded facilitation plans in Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Laos, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Nepal, and has a network of supporters in 58 countries linked by an online social networking site. Two years on from its launch, demand for involvement in Forest Connect is huge and growing.
Forest Connect funds practical action to build business know-how, with substantial progress in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It runs national diagnostics that foster understanding of the scale and makeup of related subsectors and potential service providers.
In some cases, national facilitators have catalysed collective action within producer associations and identified, benchmarked and organised service provision. For example, Guyanese Amerindian forest enterprises are bringing in Brazilian craft designers to help them tap into the Brazilian market. Forest Connect also boosts market information through media from newsletters to mobile phone updates and trade fairs.
Sustainability in forest production is a key concern for national partner institutions: Nepal, for instance, is looking at paper certification. Forest Connect also promotes justice in allocating forest rights and law enforcement. Guatemala, for instance, is making real progress in forest governance, while national steering committees with new systems monitoring such aims are emerging in Ghana and Malawi.
Forest connect networking site: forestconnect.ning.com
Contact: Duncan Macqueen
See also: World Forestry Congress
This is just one of the project reports you can read about in our forthcoming annual report