The state of the world's forests 2022


5.3 Strengthening local producer groups is a means for engaging small-scale actors in local recovery and development

Policy and legal reforms are important for providing local actors with tenure security. Strengthening existing local producer and other social groups and empowering them is crucial for the change needed for recovery and the development of resilient local economies.

More than 8.5 million social cooperation organizations exist worldwide, representing important social capital. They provide platforms for cooperation and innovation

Social cooperation organizations are created to address, for example, land management, water, pastures, integrated pest management, supporting services and innovation platforms. Their number has increased worldwide from 500 000 in 2003 to 8.5 million in 2018 (in 55 countries).488

Three main types of social cooperation organization exist that are involved in forest management. One comprises groups such as community forest management committees, community forest user groups formed to protect user rights, and producer associations and cooperatives built to provide business and financial services to members. Boosted by forest policy reforms in the early 1990s, such groups have become important in many countries. About 30 000 forest user groups have been formed in Mexico.489 In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 109 community forest management committees have become functional since the signing of a community forestry decree in 2014 and now manage 2.05 million ha of forest. In the United Republic of Tanzania, 45.7 percent of forestland is owned by communities, 20 percent under community management arrangements; about 9.8 percent of the rural population is participating in community-based forest management and 8.4 percent is involved in joint forest management. In Indonesia, policy reforms are underway to expand social forestry to support community rights in forests from less than 1 percent (1.1 million ha) to over 10 percent (12.7 million ha) of the country’s forest resource.490 Forestry-based social organizations are also common in many industrialized countries: for example, nearly half of Sweden’s 240 000 forest owners are members of a forest owner association, managing a total of 6.21 million ha.

A second type of cooperation organization is associated with social movements. In Colombia, Nicaragua and Peru, for example, such organizations have already helped advance legal reforms to strengthen rights and remove regulatory barriers.491 Increasingly, federations of community forestry and forest and farm producer organizations, such as those in the Gambia, Guatemala and Nepal, are advocating for reforms in favour of local actors.492,493 In the case of Nepal, the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, which was founded in 1995 and now has about 8.5 million forest users, has become a powerful political force committed to promoting and protecting community and forest user rights in natural-resource governance.494 Recently, federations of forest and farm producer organizations have used their capacity for collective action to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on forest communities and their producer organizations. Case studies conducted in mid-2021 show the crucial role played by forest and farm producer organizations in Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Ecuador, Ghana (Box 31), Madagascar and Nepal.495

Box 31 Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers

The Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP) was launched in 2020 with support from the Forest and Farm Facility and already represents more than 1 million smallholder producers. GhaFFaP has developed four strategic initiatives: (1) a national dialogue series (focusing on access to finance and market); (2) the sustainable financial transformation of forest and farm producer organizations using a village savings and loans scheme; (3) the Green Ghana initiative to promote environmental campaigns and integrated landscapes; and (4) the Charcoal Producers in Forest Landscape Restoration initiative to promote sustainable charcoal production. GhaFFaP is also involved in global multistakeholder platforms and national partnerships with the purpose of raising the voice of local producers at the national and international levels.


The emergence of “jurisdictional approaches” has led to the development of a third type of social cooperation organization aimed at addressing deforestation and forest degradation inclusively. Jurisdictional approaches combine public and private actions at the local level to address landscape-level and value-chain challenges. Originating in efforts and funding associated with REDD+, such approaches seek to align governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, local communities and other stakeholders around shared goals of conservation and sustainable value-chain development at the local political level (where most land-use decisions are made). A study by Stickler et al. (2018) identified 39 jurisdictions (in 12 countries) representing 28 percent of the world’s tropical forests that have made commitments on implementing a low-emissions development agenda in a jurisdictional approach format.496 Of the initiatives analysed, 19 jurisdictions had reduced their deforestation rates compared with projected subnational forest reference levels.497 Various initiatives and projects aimed at implementing REDD+ and promoting integrated development and sustainable landscapes now claim to have adopted jurisdictional approaches. The green growth strategy of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, for example, involves collaboration among government, businesses and civil society to achieve zero deforestation and eliminate forest degradation. This three-faceted “produce, protect, include” strategy aims to increase the production of agricultural commodities, conserve natural resources (including eliminating about 6 Gt of GHGs by 2030) and include smallholders and Indigenous Peoples in economic development.498 Similar initiatives focusing on collective action exist in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Coalition for Sustainable Livelihoods, for example, was launched in September 2018 in North Sumatra and Aceh, Indonesia; it includes some of world’s largest food companies.499

Local producer organizations and other social cooperation groups are crucial for the three forest pathways but require support. Investments in the social capital they represent tend to increase the level of local ownership by members, lead to the sustainability of the process when external support ends, and have positive outcomes in terms of forest condition and livelihoods. Some governments have established financial programmes and policies targeting smallholders, local communities and Indigenous Peoples, providing insights into how this might be done elsewhere. In Guatemala, the government has invested more than USD 215 million over ten years to support smallholders in the establishment of small-scale forest plantations, agroforestry systems and sustainable forest management (Box 32). In Ecuador, the government’s Socio Bosque programme grants cash payments to forest communities for sustainable forest management and ecosystem services, leading to positive social and environmental outcomes including deforestation abatement, ecosystem restoration and increased local incomes. China’s Grain for Green Programme (Box 33), for example, which works across a mosaic of landscapes and combines mutually supportive poverty alleviation, social protection and forestry goals for both local and public-sector actors, has demonstrated how building on social capital can bring multiple benefits. The International Model Forest Network is an international initiative to promote forest-based development through investment in local social capital (Box 34).

Box 32 Investing in smallholder forestry in Guatemala – a pathway for rural green economy and green recovery

In 2010, the Guatemalan Congress created the Forest Incentives Programme for Smallholders (PINPEP) with the aim of enabling smallholders to participate in sustainable forest management through cash payments, reduce deforestation, increase forest cover and restore degraded areas while promoting inclusion and improving the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. PINPEP also seeks to recognize the claims of traditionally marginalized groups to tenure and property rights, particularly smallholders and communal and indigenous groups. PINPEP has become a powerful tool for public–private partnerships, boosting the rural economy and generating synergies; it is now one of the country’s most important financial tools for advancing REDD+ and landscape restoration commitments. Investments have helped establish and maintain more than 139 000 ha of natural forests, forest plantations and agroforestry systems; benefited 300 000 households; and created an average of 5 900 jobs per year. Approximately 46 percent of the beneficiaries have been indigenous households, of which 43.4 percent of members were women.


Box 33 China’s Grain for Green Programme

Launched in 1999, the Grain for Green Programme (GGP) is China’s largest ecological restoration programme; it aims to convert marginal lands and steep slopes into forest and grassland to prevent soil erosion and desertification. The GGP has contributed to the successful restoration of 34.3 million ha of degraded land and farmland, achieved significant environmental improvements, increased farmer incomes and alleviated poverty. Nationwide, 41 million households have participated in the programme, and 158 million farmers have benefited directly.500 The GGP has fostered local social capital and endogenous growth and empowered participating households through specific social protection elements, such as grain and cash subsidies and technical assistance.501,502 Over 90 percent of participating households are covered by basic medical insurance and pensions.503 The programme has established a registration system that confirms the ownership and use rights of converted lands and established forests, allowing households to receive income from timber and payments for ecosystem services.538 Together with other ecological restoration programmes, the GGP has also established 21 000 cooperatives for poverty alleviation and afforestation, benefiting 1.2 million poor people.504

Box 34 The International Model Forest Network and local forest-based development

A comparatively long-standing international initiative promoting forest-based development through local leadership and landscape governance is the International Model Forest Network, a voluntary community of practice comprising 60 model forests in 35 countries worldwide covering more than 73 million ha. Efforts range from supporting local food culture linked to forests in the Chocó Andino Model Forest in Ecuador to local sustainable wood labels in Italy.

SOURCE: International Model Forest Network. Undated. Landscapes, partnerships, sustainability [online]. [Cited 11 November 2021].

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