Small and medium forest enterprises and associations


The forestry sector in developing countries is dominated by small and medium sized forest enterprises. But the diverse range of these enterprises makes it difficult to understand the contribution they make to sustainability and poverty reduction.

As a result, good information about small and medium sized forest enterprises (SMFEs) is scarce and often inconsistent between sources. But rough estimates from existing information suggest the following:

  • in many countries about 80-90% of forestry enterprises are SMFEs
  • in many countries over 50% of all forest sector employment is in SMFEs
  • worldwide, over 20 million people are employed by SMFEs
  • worldwide, over US$130 billion/year of gross value added is produced by SMFEs.

Association lies at the heart of attempts by SMFEs to foster pro-poor growth – fighting scale disadvantages and political marginalisation to capture the benefits of globalisation. If SMFEs are strengthened and the external policy environment improved, there is a great potential for SMFEs to attract more investment and make a bigger contribution to poverty reduction.

Through this project we are aiming to:

  • develop ways in which SMFEs can better contribute to sustainable poverty reduction
  • lobby policy makers and practitioners to help establish and support sustainable SMFE associations
  • encourage and enforce greater sustainability in private sector forestry.

One of the major impacts of our work has been an increased recognition of the role of SMFEs by donor and civil society development organisations. This has led to a willingness to pursue SMFE support programmes and further explore the opportunities and challenges they face.

This project has enabled IIED to place SMFE issues at the forefront of the international agenda (for example through events at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Forest Forum and International Timber Trade Organisation meetings and through the convening of a Tropical Forest Forum meeting by IIED in London).

There is some evidence that national forest programmes are beginning to take SMFEs seriously in policies and regulations covering the use of forest land. There is now considerable momentum behind the idea of channelling consumer purchasing power towards small community forest enterprises through fair trade.

We have published over 20 reports, including country case studies and international studies, on the role of forestry in poverty reduction in IIED's Small and medium forest enterprise series.


Small and medium forest enterprise – South Africa: a discussion paper, Fonda Lewis, Juana Horn, Mike Howard, Steven Ngubane (2005), Report

Small and medium forest enterprise – India: a discussion paper, Sushil Saigal, Sharmistha Bose (2005), Report

Small and medium forest enterprise: China – a discussion paper, Changjin Sun, Xiaoqian Chen (2005), Report

Small and medium forest enterprise – Brazil: a discussion paper, Peter H. May, Valéria Gonçalves da Vinha, Duncan Macqueen (2005), Report

Small and medium forest enterprise – Uganda, a discussion paper, Rosina Auren, Krystyna Krassowska (2005), Report

Small and medium forest enterprise – Guyana, a discussion paper, Raquel Thomas, Duncan Macqueen, Yolanda Hawker (2005), Report

Small-scale enterprise and sustainable development: key issues and policy opportunities to improve impact, Duncan Macqueen (2005), Report

Additional resources

Report of the international meeting on enhancing local returns from trade in forest products, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, 27 September 2006


Department for International Development

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate General for Development Cooperation.


Brazil: Instituto de Pesquiza Ambiental da Amazônia and Grupo de Economia do Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável

China: World Agroforestry Centre and Research Center of Ecological and Environmental Economics

Guyana: Guyana National Initiative for Forest Certification and Guyana Forestry Commission

India: Winrock International India

South Africa: Upstart Business Strategies and Institute of Natural Resources

Uganda: Sustainable Development Centre and Uganda Forest Sector Co-ordination Secretariat

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