Indigenous peoples, local communities and private smallholders own or manage a growing proportion of the world's forests and can play a significant role in tackling deforestation and reducing poverty - especially if they band together in producer organizations.
In many rural economies, the forest enterprises of families and communities are major contributors to local livelihoods. Unfortunately, the vital role that they play is often overlooked in government policies.
A crucial constraint is their isolation from each other, from markets, information, business services, policymakers, financing and investment opportunities. Despite their importance and potential, however, Forest producer organizations (FPOs) face significant bureaucratic and other hurdles that, in many countries, are inhibiting their development.
A better policy environment, coupled with targeted support to help small-scale forest and farm producers organize themselves into forest producer organizations could turn this situation around.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), Tropenbos International and the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA) are working to strengthen FPOs, including by supporting governments in improving policies, incentives, governance and legal and regulatory frameworks.
This joint paper - launched at the FAO Committee on Forests (COFO, 23-27 June, 2014, Rome) - explores the factors that help build constructive relationships with government counterparts, and the policy and institutional conditions that encourage or hinder FPO development. At least four fundamental conditions must be in place to enable sustainable forest management by communities, families and indigenous peoples: 1) secure tenure; 2) fair access to markets; 3) access to support services, especially extension; and 4) FPOs.
Governments can facilitate the development and strengthening of FPOs in many ways. For example they can: create a suitable legal and regulatory framework; develop policies that provide a framework for, and actively encourage, ongoing engagement and cooperation with FPOs; create laws and policies that seek to establish a balance between large industrial corporations and locally controlled forest organizations in the marketplace and in access to public incentive programmes and other resources; provide opportunities for FPOs to participate in policy development; develop and stimulate the provision of capacity-building services; reduce business barriers; encourage gender equality, the active involvement of youth in FPOs, and good governance; and recognize and raise public awareness of the important contributions of community and family forestry.
In parallel, a ‘Roadmap for Strengthening Forest and Farm Producer Organizations,' (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3886e.pdf) was published that discusses how to improve the well-being of smallholder forest and farm producers while ensuring sustainability. Recommendations include:
- Encouraging knowledge sharing and increasing the visibility of forest and farm producer organizations in policymaking;
- Developing incentives to strengthen locally controlled forestry and facilitating networking among forest and farm organizations;
- Creating supporting legal frameworks, protecting forest tenure rights of indigenous people, local communities, removing regulatory barriers, securing access to support services, especially extension services;
- Providing forest and farm organizations and their members with greater access to financial services, such as affordable credit and insurance;
- Connecting forest smallholders to markets and services, including negotiation of fair market prices and provision of real-time market information;
- Building a worldwide coalition of forest and farm producer organizations to influence policymaking and generate momentum for greater support.
For more background see also the FAO website: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/237440/icode/