Family Forestry is Family Farming

Recognizing the vital role of family forestry in celebration of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming

The aim of the side event 'Family Forestry is Family Farming', held on 26 June in FAO headquarters during the Committee on Forestry (COFO 22), was to highlight the relevance of family forestry in the context of the IYFF. Family forests and forest families are key actors in sustainable forest management and national rural economies. In the first session, the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) and the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA) brought the voices of Family Foresters to COFO to celebrate the IYFF.

The side event was opened by Ms Eva Muller, Director of FAO's Forestry Department, Mr Francesco Pierri, the IYFF Coordinator and Mr Peter deMarsh, International Family Forestry Alliance Chair (IFFA).


In his opening remarks, Mr deMarsh, underlined the four key enabling conditions necessary for family foresters to reach their full potential. He told the audience that when farmers are approached and encouraged to plant trees, they will ask four questions:

1. Will I own the trees at the time of harvest?
2. Will I be able to sell my forest products?
3. Will I have access to information on how to grow and maintain the trees?
4. Will I have a good association to represent me? And make sure points one to three are in place and will stay in place in the future?

As Mr deMarsh explained, these questions reflect the key enabling conditions:  secure tenure; fair market access; government support services, education and extension; and effective forest producer organizations.


During the first session, speakers from smallholder, community and indigenous producer organizations representing family foresters from Liberia, Nepal, The Gambia, Guatemala and Mexico outlined the successes and challenges facing forest communities in their respective countries.

Rev. Robert Saa Molly Bimba, National Coordinator of the Farmers Union Network (FUN) in Liberia said,  "farm and forestry linkages must be promoted and supported, particularly in the context of the IYFF, because forests and families boost economies, promote social cohesion and enable rural development". "Smallholders are the key and hold the answers to these issues; land, forests and food are all linked and interdependent and should not be considered separately, " he added.  Rev. Bimba also said that farmers should be included in the design of specific programmes and in the subsequent implementation of these programmes, " if farmers are involved in the process of conception, this enables them to take ownership."

Ms Ethel Wion, representing women in FUN highlighted women's dual role in the production of food and upkeep of their families.  She also stressed the importance of forests for food, shelter, recreation activities and energy.

Ms Apsara Chapagain, Chairperson of the central Federation of Community Forestry Users (FECOSUN) in Nepal spoke about community forests and their importance in Nepal. FECOSUN's mission is to promote and protect the rights of community forest users through capacity strengthening, economic empowerment, sustainable resource management, technical support, advocacy and lobbying, policy development, and national and international networking and to uphold the values of inclusive democracy, gender balance, and social justice.

Mr Alagie Basse Mboge, President of the National Farmers' Platform of the Gambia (NFPG) underlined the relevance of farmers' associations where farmers can take the leading role.  In The Gambia, these associations allow farmers to join forces enabling them to bargain better prices, share costs of transport to the cities to sell their produce and exchange experiences. Mr Mboge stressed the importance of educating farmers on the basics, he pointed out that many farmers in The Gambia cannot even measure or weigh their produce.

Mr Manuel Garcia, President of the 'Consejo Directivo de la Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones de Silvicultores' (CONOSIL) built on this by explaining the work of CONOSIL, " our aim is to bring about concrete developments for families with the goal of raising the quality of life of our members and their families, " he said.   He explained that CONOSIL takes a three-pronged approach by focusing on research, policies and the organization of farmers.

Ms Grecia Magdalena López Paralta, representing the women Ramón producer group from the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP) shared her experience and information on the Ramón nut, an organic product that has a very low impact on the tropical rainforests where it grows. Her producer group aims to promote a gender-orientated approach, increase market access and productivity, promote consumption of the nut and ultimately improve the living conditions of farmers.  The main challenge these communities face is lack of machinery in order to process the product and market it successfully.

In conclusion, it is clear that tailor-made solutions are required in diverse contexts and regions throughout the world. However, it is also evident that farmers around the globe face similar challenges of secure tenure, access to markets, access information and need for representation and organization through associations.


As Rev. Bimba concluded, "farmers need to be empowered through these organizations, they need to do their own work and make their own income." Ultimately, the dignity of farming work must be respected and valued.