FAO reports on 40 years of community-based forestry

fuelwood Mozambique_FAO

Women in Mozambique are carrying fuelwood that will be sold by the roadside to create additional income for the rural forest community. Photo: FAO.

Community-based forestry may be showing great promise in driving sustainable development but it is still not reaching its full potential, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Released during the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week being held in Clark, The Philippines from 22-26 February 2016, the report shows how community-based forestry is helping to promote sustainable forest management, reduce poverty and generate jobs and income for rural communities.

Through community-based forestry, “local communities partner with governments to play a lead role in making land-use decisions and managing the forestry resources they depend on for their livelihoods,” says a media release from the FAO.

While almost one-third of the world’s forest are is now estimated to be under some form of community-based management, the approach is still not reaching its full potential. To achieve this, requires greater support by governments through policy reforms and other measures.

The report highlights areas where the right conditions may not yet be in place for communities to fully exercise their rights. It recommends providing communities with secure forest tenure, improving regulatory frameworks, and transferring appropriate and viable skills and technology.

“Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale”, said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen. Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future”.

Another area that requires support is for smallholders and communities to have improved access to markets and knowledge of market mechanisms. This, says the FAO, is essential if they are to commercialize their forest products, which can significantly contribute to poverty reduction.

The FAO report highlights examples of successful community-based forestry from around the world. In Nepal, forest area has increased by around 30 per cent and forest condition has significantly improved as a result of community forestry. In Mexico, forest communities have benefitted from a combination of tenurial rights, including strong commercial rights to harvest and market timber products.

Download the full report: Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness



Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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