Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

Given the right support, the small-scale forest sector could make a significant contribution towards the achievement of countries’ own targets for sustainable development as well as the global SDGs, writes Alison Hoare.

A member of the Flona Tapajos Cooperative prepares to cut a tree inside their 'authorized maneuvre area' 80 km from Santarem, northern Brazil, 27 November 2009. Photo: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images.A member of the Flona Tapajos Cooperative prepares to cut a tree inside their 'authorized maneuvre area' 80 km from Santarem, northern Brazil, 27 November 2009. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • The small-scale forest sector is booming in many countries and playing a crucial role in their rural economies. However, much of the activity in this sector is informal, owing to poorly designed policy frameworks and the lack of political support for small-scale operators.
  • Research in Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia and Laos indicates that despite some success with initiatives aimed at formalizing small-scale enterprises, there has not yet been change on the scale required to establish a predominantly legal and well-governed small-scale forest sector in these countries. The main reasons are the lack of political support for the formalization of the sector and the tendency of these countries’ governments to prioritize large-scale export-oriented forest activities in their development strategies.
  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to change attitudes, both through helping to draw attention to the small-scale forest sector and by increasing the available resources that could be allocated to its development. A system of national-level indicators for the small-scale forest sector could serve both of those purposes. Such indicators would measure progress towards establishing an enabling environment for small and medium-sized forest enterprises and monitor the growth of the sector. Defining such indicators would have to be done through a process of national-level consultation.
  • The development of a framework of indicators could provide an effective way of galvanizing political support and of driving progress towards establishing a legal and sustainable small-scale forest sector.