Just forest governance

Article, 07 September 2013

The way forests are governed is crucial for affecting how local people benefit from forests. IIED helps secure local communities’ commercial rights to forests by using a ‘learning group approach’, which emphasises sharing tools and tactics that have worked. At the same time, we also look at measures to reduce demand for agricultural and forest products that result in deforestation or degradation.

Launch event of the China-Africa Forest Governance Platform in March 2013. Photo: Simon Lim

A just and fair governance system is critical to ensure that the rights of local forest-dependent people around the world are protected in land use negotiations. Without those rights — which include both land tenure and commercial rights to the products in a forest — local people lack the security to live on and profit from their forests. This can then result in forests being damaged or destroyed, either because there is no incentive or right to manage them, or because they have been obtained by companies wanting to profit from them. Local control is not only fairer, but it can also help ensure that forests are managed in a sustainable way.

Sharing lessons learned

We have found that a collaborative approach, in which tools and tactics are shared, can help local people secure commercial rights. For the past ten years, this ‘learning approach’ has been adopted by the Forest Governance Learning Group. The group aims to connect those marginalised from forest governance to those controlling it, and to help both groups do things better.

The lessons we have learned from this work are proving useful in the work of The Forests Dialogue and in developing a forest governance learning platform of opinion-formers focused on China and Africa.

Independent reviews of this approach have shown that effective partnerships within these initiatives can bring about change on the ground.

Managing demand for forest products

Our work also looks at how to better manage the demand for forest and agricultural commodities produced on former forest land. Consumption of forest-related products is increasing across the world, largely due to ongoing population growth, coupled with rising incomes and a burgeoning global middle class.

This calls for a more sustainable intensification of current land use, where the maximum benefit is gained from the land in a sustainable manner. This also means looking at the way land is distributed and controlled, and the products and services derived from it. We recognise that there are competing demands for land, but these can be met by using a more integrated approach to meeting human needs for food, fuel, fibre and forests.

But a closer examination of the patterns of consumption and how these can be addressed to reduce deforestation is also needed. This is why IIED is also looking at reducing the demand for agricultural and timber commodities linked to deforestation. Find out more. Download Demand-side interventions to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

Watch a series of short films which show how small teams can have a big impact on tackling forest governance.

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