16 tools to help small businesses sustain forests, limit climate change and cut poverty

News, 1 May 2012
IIED has today published a toolkit for those wishing to help small enterprises in the forestry sector fulfil their potential to reduce poverty and manage natural resources in a sustainable way.

The guidance is for international donors, nongovernmental organisations and national government agencies and extension workers who work to support small and medium forest enterprises.

These groups will be able to use the toolkit to diagnose and solve challenges in the sector – such as:
• How to connect small enterprises to markets, to each other and to policy processes
• How to create and secure funding for alliances of supportive institutions.
• How to support enterprises to develop products, improve the efficiency of value chains, prepare credible business and financial investment plans and ensure sustainability.

A tree leans over a small stream in a forest in Mozambique.

“Small forest businesses are critical to the future of forest and forest peoples. They provide more than half of all jobs in the forestry sector worldwide and account for 80-90 per cent of companies in the sector,” says lead author Duncan Macqueen, who heads IIED’s forestry team. “Support that enables these small enterprises to manage forests sustainably is critical to efforts to reduce poverty, limit climate change and tackle illegal logging.”

The toolkit includes 16 modules of step-by-step guidance, followed by practical tips based on the personal experiences of the authors. It includes 60 case studies that describe of attempt to use the tools during a two-year testing period in 12 countries.

• In China, it was used to apply an Ethiopian ‘health check’ methodology to strengthen newly formed forest sector cooperatives.
• In Burkina Faso, it was used to improve market information flows throughout the value chain for forest products such as shea butter, honey, nuts and fruit.
• In Nepal, it was used for product development. Community forest users groups were linked to community owned enterprises producing charcoal briquettes. Companies were approached to design stoves that fitted the briquettes and the link was then made with the Himalayan Naturals retailer with 50+ outlets in Kathmandu to sell them. The business is a huge success.

“We have developed this toolkit in response to the priorities of members of Forest Connect – an informal alliance of individuals and institutions in more than 50 countries who are committed to ending the isolation of small forest enterprises,” says Macqueen.

“Small forest enterprises need support because they have a crucial role to play in sustainable development at the local level,” says Macqueen. “They generate profits that accrue locally, create jobs and empower entrepreneurship. And they strengthen local social networks to help secure resource rights in ways that can reduce poverty, encourage environmental accountability and help to tackle climate change.”

Download the toolkit


Mike Shanahan
Press officer

International Institute for Environment and Development
80-86 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8NH, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: +44 (0)20 3514 9055

Email: mike.shanahan@iied.org

Notes to editors

This toolkit was produced with support from the World Bank-hosted Programme on Forests (PROFOR) – with additional support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the FAO-hosted National Forest Programme Facility (NFP-Facility), the United Kingdom Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA). The views within this toolkit are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PROFOR, FAO, the NFP-Facility, DFID, SDC or DANIDA.

Forest Connect is an international alliance dedicated to tackling the isolation of small forest enterprises. It was established in late 2007 following discussions between IIED and FAO at an international workshop ‘Small and Medium Enterprise Development for Poverty Reduction: Opportunities and Challenges in Globalizing Markets’ held at CATIE in Costa Rica from 23 to 25 May 2006. Its aims are to avoid deforestation and reduce poverty by better linking sustainable small forest enterprises to each other, to markets, to service providers and to policy processes such as National Forest Programmes. Forest Connect is co-managed by the Natural Resources Group within the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Community-Based Forest Enterprise Development programme (CBED) of the FAO. It has involved partner institutions with funded facilitation plans in 12 countries: Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Laos, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Nepal plus a broader network of more than 800 supporters in 50 countries linked by an international social networking site (http://forestconnect.ning.com.

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: www.iied.org).

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