As policymakers and donors begin to recognise the value of locally-controlled forest enterprises they will need to decide which of the many possible types of enterprise to support with their scarce resources.
A meeting of the Forest Connect alliance reaffirms that it is local forest people that are best placed to reduce deforestation all over the world — provided they are given the right incentives. That means clear commercial rights to the forest and support to develop profitable and sustainable forest businesses.
Forests continue to be trashed in many places. One recent estimate, admittedly ‘on the back-of-an- envelope’, indicates a global natural capital loss of US$2.5 trillion a year, of which forests represent a substantial part. We have all recently become used to hearing about trillions of dollars being wiped off the world’s ‘virtual economy’, but this natural capital is real, and its loss is permanent.
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 disappear annually. 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.