As the world has industrialized, forests have paid the price. In want of quick economic growth and room for their growing populations, countries have turned over their forests to mega-projects for resource extraction and failed to regulate harmful farming practices such as slash-and-burn.
Forests have been decimated world over, causing communities living at their edges and beyond to suffer from a loss in ecosystem services. People around the world have suffered from climate change as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise while trees that would otherwise absorb them disappear. This has led many to observe that forest conservation is nearly impossible without people gaining economic benefits from forests.
The World Bank has reported that 90 percent of the world’s poorest people rely on forests for their livelihoods. It is also estimated that 1.3 billion people live in and have rights to forest resources globally and depend directly or indirectly on benefits derived from the forests. Findings from a global study led by the Center for International Forestry Research show that in 24 developing countries, income generated from natural areas accounted for 28 percent of the household income, nearly matching the income from the sale of traditional agricultural crops.
Community forest enterprises (CFEs) can add the financial benefits that are needed to conserve forests, while also reducing poverty and helping mitigate and adapt to climate change. If given the right technological, financial, and policy support, CFEs can be successful and scalable. They can grow national economies sustainably, reduce poverty, and help nations meet the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. CFEs can also be a tool for adaptation and mitigation helping communities access REDD+ and other climate funds while promoting land restoration and preservation that supports both economic development and improved ecosystem services.
However, for CFEs to be successful, the right policy environment, market access, finance mechanisms, and public demand for CFE products must all be in place.
At this panel hosted by RECOFTC, we will discuss successful case studies of CFEs that have helped communities adapt to climate change, new businesses and business models that can source from CFEs and support their growth, and new ways of tracing and certifying the products derived from CFEs for consumers to be confident that their money is well spent.