Our Work on Livelihoods
We work to increase the amount of benefits community forestry generates and to ensure that these benefits reach those who need them the most.
To increase the commercial benefits of forests, users must increase the productivity of the forests, as well as the value of forest products and services. They also need to overcome barriers to successful business development, including gaining access to already degraded forests, restrictions on product use, and lack of infrastructure.
To help users increase their benefits, RECOFTC's Enhancing Livelihoods and Markets program focuses on:
Building technical and business skills. RECOFTC trainings help small-scale forest enterprises build skills and knowledge about harvesting and primary processing, such as sorting and grading non-timber products like honey. To improve marketing skills, understanding, and access to up-to-date information, we have also developed tools that local people can use to analyze their product demands and costs, and then to price and place their products. As enterprises develop, we plan to focus more attention on developing further business skills, especially those related to organizational and financial management.
Reducing restrictions. Community forest rights often come with restrictive regulations, limiting benefits for local people, especially on timber. In Cambodia, for example, forest users are not allowed to sell timber until five years after they have gained official community forestry status, which leads to difficulties offsetting management costs. We advocate at the national and international levels for less-restrictive rights for local people. We also analyze the costs of restrictions and demonstrate alternatives.
Finding and linking to investment opportunities. Forest users generally need start-up capital to buy equipment and materials to launch small-scale enterprises. RECOFTC will introduce them to micro-finance institutions, small-grant providers, local government funds, and private sector schemes. We are also exploring ways smallholders and eventually communities can use trees as collateral for long-term credit, which would give them access to capital from standing trees.
Increasing market access. Profits are greater if a cut-and-squared log is sold rather than a standing tree, or graded and packaged honey instead of the raw product. In other words, the further sellers go along the value chain, the more money they make. However, most local people only enter into the very beginning of the marketing process, which means that they earn a fraction of the final market value of their products. One common cause of this is lack of access to information as well as lack of relationships. To help forest users overcome access barriers, RECOFTC works to link them, where appropriate and feasible, with private industries, retailers, processors, and wholesalers — from sawmills to city stores.
Developing community business partnerships. Frequently, individual community forests are too small to produce the quantities of products needed to supply market demands or to invest in necessary technology, such as processing equipment. However, groups of community forests or larger forest models can pool resources and share equipment so they can access more business opportunities. RECOFTC partners with other organizations to explore models of large-scale forest enterprises and networks of forest groups.
Rewarding socially and environmentally responsible forest management. REDD+ and other Payments for Environmental Services (PES) schemes present local forest managers with potential opportunities to receive payments or other rewards for managing forests sustainably. But these schemes can also pose risks. As they develop, we help decision-makers and other stakeholders ensure that PES plans include strong social safeguards and generate fair benefits for local people. We also help communities to understand the risks and benefits of PES, better positioning themselves to make informed decisions.
In addition, certification programs, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Fair Trade and other schemes, can potentially increase the value of forest products and services and allow access to exclusive markets. We conduct research and testing in pilot sites to assess which forms and combinations of certification for products will provide the most benefits to forest users. We also remain engaged in making certification more affordable and easily accessible for local people.