Introduction to supporting locally-controlled forestry

Worldwide, 1.3 billion people rely on forests for their food, energy and livelihoods. Forest-dependent communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of global forest losses. How can we support forest communities and ensure equitable and sustainable forest management?

Boys polish chairs for sale in the furniture market, Nampula, Mozambique. Photo: Mike Goldwater

We believe that the best way to achieve fair and sustainable forestry practices is to invest in locally-controlled forestry (PDF). This locally-controlled forestry gives people who live in forest communities the right to make a profit from those forests and ensures that they have the business capacity to do so through, for example, enterprises that can access markets, attract investment and influence policymakers.

IIED supports those communities and businesses, and helps foster their ability to shape key policies and institutions and to adapt to change.

Forest land is coming under intensifying pressure as an increasing global population consumes more food, fibre and energy products. The problem is compounded by consumers – and the markets and political systems that serve them – who live a long way from the affected forests and communities. This means they are not aware of the problem, fail to understand it, or simply don't care.

More and more forested land is coming under the control of local communities, indigenous people and family foresters. But there are many forest farmers who remain marginalised from formal decision-making, with their rights disregarded.

If these local forest-dependent people had stronger control over their land, more could be done to reduce their poverty and protect forests, particularly if there were strong business incentives to keep the forests standing. This is where IIED's forest team comes into play.

National partnerships

The forest team works with 'practitioner teams' in many countries. We help them to:

  • Develop, review and wield evidence on our areas of research
  • Strengthen institutional partnerships
  • Build the capacity of those involved
  • Develop appropriate advocacy strategies; and
  • Create and take opportunities to change policies and practice on the ground.

Regular independent reviews of our work show that this approach benefits forests, as well as the poorest and most vulnerable communities relying on or living near them.

International interactions

The forest team also engages in international dialogues and processes focussed on forest-related priorities. This includes interactions with donor agencies and the private sector, as well as with multi-sectoral initiatives designed to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

This work allows us to raise awareness about the advantages of investing in locally-controlled forestry at an international level, while our work with local partners enables us to develop and share practices relevant to specific countries.

The main focus of the forest team's work is on:


Duncan Macqueen (, principal researcher, Natural Resources