Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Executive summary

This initiative comes at a time when harvesting operations of natural forests are increasingly proscribed owing to conservation and environmental concerns and the greater recognition of the need to protect biodiversity and indigenous rights. Planted forests, either in blocks or as trees on farms will increasingly be the future production foci of commercial forest products. With the increase in population and the multiple demands for land, the forest industry is required to become more able to address the social, economic and environmental concerns of the communities adjacent to block plantations, and the contractors, forest industry workers and smallholders with whom they interface. This document goes some way in addressing this concern. While recognizing that the principal objective of any private sector investment is financial, the principles set forward in this document suggest a way forwards that facilitates:

This document contains the background materials, research papers and country papers from Indonesia and South Africa presented at a workshop jointly hosted by CIFOR and FAO in Bogor, Indonesia in May 2002. The workshop drew together participants from the private sector (corporates), NGOs, research and government representatives. Part I of the document provides the background to the meeting, the conceptual framework of joint learning that underpins the development of equitable partnerships, and the synthesis of the experiences of workshop participants, papers and workshop deliberations. The synthesis is summarized in a framework entitled: Principles on mutually beneficial partnerships between corporate and smallholder partners - relating partnerships to social, economic and environmental indicators.

These principles are linked to the criteria and indicators of planted forest management and, in particular, demonstrate the essential link between social, economic and environmental indicators and sustainable partnerships.

Summary of guidelines for mutually beneficial partnerships


Coherent intersectoral policies include support to planted forest development, land and crop tenure, management and market rights and the existence of environmental and social and cultural covenants to ensure positive contributions to landscape restoration. For companies and smallholders to use the policies and implement regulations these need to be simple, achievable, minimize bureaucracy, provide facilitating and enabling governance (all levels) and provide incentives if necessary.


Financial viability is usually a prerequisite or driving force for sustainable partnerships; however, the need to forecast economic risk needs to be assessed. Partners maintain an equitable account of inputs and risks as the basis for setting up a benefit-sharing agreement. Market intelligence information, particularly regarding wood buying from smallholder tree growers and cost-efficiency management of small-scale operations, should be made available to the commercial partners to enhance transparency and accountability.


Meeting and recognizing essential social objectives in the agreement, securing the diverse nature of local livelihoods of tree growers and their partners, ensuring that equity is achieved and establishing strong institutional frameworks. Address different sociocultural characteristics in the formulation of partnership agreements and arrangements, using the comparative advantages of each partner.


Address the maintenance of ecological integrity, mainly to ensure the sustainability of essential environmental services. Partners jointly comply and commit to implementation of environmental covenants within management plans, joint identification of ecological parameters before project initiation, and meet the balance of social and ecological integrity to ensure that ecological risks are minimized.


Social learning approaches including negotiations in defining the agreement and management plan, mechanisms to enhance transparency and accountability, definition of services and service providers, compliance with codes of practice and the development of management guidelines in appropriately applicable and effective forms.

The Assessment Guidelines can be applied in the planning, implementation and monitoring phases of partnerships.


The move to partnership schemes for industrial wood supply is now well established and growing rapidly in many parts of the world. While some of the privately owned plantation programmes are large, and borrow from the methods of agriculture monocultures, others are smaller, less intensive and more concerned about meeting multiple objectives.

Equitable partnerships with corporates function on the basis of empowering smallholders or communities in negotiation and management processes and provide economic returns based on the invested equity. The smallholders and corporates are business partners, and receive due returns to invest in either community or individual projects or activities as they decide. Partnerships are based on sound financial and business principles, but with the indicators of equitable social and environmental management criteria to provide a framework for returns to partners on a basis that is empowering and sustainable.

The assessment guidelines described in this document will enable and support planted forest schemes. The guidelines will enable stakeholders to address, in a substantive and transparent manner, negotiations towards economic, financial, social and environmental sustainability. The guidelines provide a framework for a process of joint action learning between smaller landowners, companies, research and extension agencies, NGOs and other development actors that lead us towards greater equity in negotiations and, as a consequence, greater opportunities for social and ecological sustainability.

Future activities and objectives

The revised set of principles presented as a synthesis of the workshop is to be viewed as one contribution in the process towards a framework for equitable partnerships between corporate and smallholders in the forest sector. These principles, criteria and indicators require to be further tested and documented in real situations between corporate and smallholder partners. Other stakeholders such as third parties (NGOs), research and government agencies also have critical roles to play. Qualitative and measurable means of verification of the various indicators require to be jointly developed and tested by stakeholders. Further research on the financial returns to smallholders and economic and social benefits in the landscape are also envisioned.

Corporate partners have expressed their interest that, after further field testing, this framework could become an internationally recognized accreditation scheme for ascertaining the social equity and ecological sustainability of corporate smallholder partnerships and related social investment programmes.

Corporates, NGOs and smallholder partners are encouraged to try out these guidelines in their negotiations, management and monitoring processes. We would very much appreciate hearing of any such experiences in this regard.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page