Small and medium forest enterprises and associations

The forestry sector in developing countries is dominated by small and medium sized forest enterprises. IIED worked to highlight the contribution they make to sustainability and poverty reduction despite the diverse range of these enterprises.

Duncan Macqueen

Director of forests, Natural Resources research group

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, and
  • 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.

What IIED did

This project aimed to:

  • Develop ways in which SMFEs can better contribute to sustainable poverty reduction
  • Lobby policymakers and practitioners to help establish and support sustainable SMFE associations, and
  • Encourage and enforce greater sustainability in private sector forestry.

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

This project 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 evidence that national forest programmes began to take SMFEs seriously in policies and regulations covering the use of forest land. There started to be considerable momentum behind the idea of channelling consumer purchasing power towards small community forest enterprises through fair trade.

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


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