Small and medium forest industries for vibrant local economies

Partners: IUCN Cameroon Country Programme Office, Research Center for Climate Change, Universitas Indonesia

Forests deliver multiple benefits to people at scales from local to global. In many countries, forest governance is in transition. Civil society is increasingly increasing its control over large forest industries and the ways in which they exploit forests for commodity products. Efforts are intensifying to manage forests for their public goods values – notably for carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. We are particularly interested in the trend for multiple initiatives to devolve control of forests to local communities and to respond to demands from Indigenous peoples to assert control over their traditional forest lands. Community forest management and Small and Medium Forest Enterprises (SMFEs) are being advocated to deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits. We are concerned that many well-intentioned attempts to devolve forest management to local and indigenous people are not delivering on their potential to improve local livelihoods and conserve forest resources.

We will conduct comparative studies of landscapes in Cameroon, Indonesia and British Columbia to learn how local people, policy-makers, and private enterprises interact to create conditions for “vibrant forest landscapes”. Our research aims to identify and understand pathways of change where internally or externally driven forest-based initiatives have resulted in improved agency, inclusiveness, and prosperity for the population living in the landscape, while maintaining or improving the potential of forest resources to deliver multiple benefits to society. We will explore local perceptions of success and the capacity for local forest enterprises to emerge and grow. We aim to influence policies and programs to “create space” for SMFEs to prosper in ways that meet a broad range of development and conservation objectives.

Funding: Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant 2019-2023