The representatives of farmer and forest producer organizations from around the world are gathering today at an international conference held in Guilin, China. The meeting represents the first of its kind in giving the world’s many millions of smallholder farmer and community forest producers an opportunity to have their voices heard at a global level. With a large part of the Earth’s surface affected by forest producer activities, the conference will seek to support forest producers in improving sustainable management of forest landscapes.
The International Conference on Forest Producer Organizations will be held on 25-28 November 2013. The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) – a partnership between FAO, IIED and IUCN – is coorganizing the conference along with the FAO, Asia Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFnet) in partnership with Agricord, CEPF, GIZ, IIED, IUCN, RECOFTC and Tropenbos International,. It is hosted by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) of the People’s Republic of China.
It is appropriate that such an event will also celebrate the 300th birthday of the concept of sustainable forest management, as developed by the German forester Carlowitz: recent evidence points to family, community and indigenous forestry as the most effective strategy for long term forest conservation.
“More than 30% of the forests in developing countries are owned, controlled or managed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities of family farmers, and a large proportion of the 1 billion people who are dependent on forests and trees on farms are also family farmers, pastoralists or fishers. ” says Jeffrey Campbell, Manager of the FFF. “We are here today to support producer organizations of both men and women to strengthen the voice of family farmers in policy and improve their access to services and markets to increase their income and improve their livelihoods.”
Throughout the world, it is often difficult for individual smallholders to realize the benefits from the management of forest resources on their own because they cannot achieve economies of scale.
Membership in a well functioning producer organization can give them better access to markets, a stronger bargaining position, links to extension services or other support platforms and a voice in policy development.
“As a group, smallholders and community and Indigenous Peoples forest producers play a major role in global trade, and yet are often overlooked when we talk about the role of the private sector in forest landscape management and restoration.” says Chris Buss, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Forest and Climate Change Programme. “It is crucial therefore to ensure forest producer organizations are strengthened and empowered if we are to scale up efforts in order to achieve goals such as Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020, which will in turn contribute to delivery on international climate, biodiversity and development targets.”
The conference will cover issues raised in a recent publication by Agricord, FAO, and FFF: Strength in numbers: Effective forest producer organizations. The document will also be officially launched at the conference.
“In Strength in Numbers we present a set of current examples of forest producer organizations,aiming to raise awareness and provoke discussion among service providers and policy makers for setting frameworks in which producer organizations can flourish.” Says Duncan Macqueen, Principal Researcher in IIED’s Forest Team. We’re hoping that the discussions this week will build on that, with participants agreeing on a set of concrete policy recommendations for strengthening forest producer groups to empower their role in enhancing the environmental, social and economic sustainability of forest management by smallholders.
Security of tenure and resource-rights, favourable economic conditions, incentive programs, access to finance, clarity of policies related to the trade and transport of forest products, an enabling legal framework and longterm support from government and other partners lie beyond the ability of producer groups themselves to change
The conference comes just after last week’s launch of the International Year of Family Farming launching at the UN in New York, on 22 November.