Towards equitable partnerships between small scale producers and the wood products industry

As greater initiatives are being undertaken by the private sector to engage non-conventional stakeholders in the forest products industry, the necessity of enhanced skills in multi-stakeholder negotiation, leading towards informed dialogue between parties, increases. However, there has not been any systematic assessment nor guidelines and checklists produced to assist companies, farm foresters and other stakeholders (e.g. indigenous peoples organisations) when entering production forestry partnership negotiations. Many partnerships in the past have failed due to lack of transparency and accountability in the process of setting up an agreement, ineffective policy frameworks, poorly functioning markets, histories of conflict and weak institutional mechanisms within the company, community or government. The key to sustaining partnerships in the long term is by ensuring mutually beneficial partnerships for the parties involved. This requires an understanding of what contributes to a successful agreement, and what factors and externalities may constrain the realisation of sustainable partnerships.

The types of partnerships between small scale producers and the corporate and private industry are diverse and include: outgrower schemes; community intercropping between company trees; local agreements around timber and tourism concessions; joint ventures with community organisations; plantation protection services, and access and compensation agreements. Partnerships, that evolve from a mutual negotiation process and are managed according to sound financial and economic principles, can provide many rewards to all stakeholders involved including:

  • Clear economic benefits, giving better returns to capital, labour or land for both the community and the company;
  • enterprise diversification, by increasing access to raw material supply for private sector companies, and enabling diversification of cash cropping to include pulp, poles and timber for rural households;
  • new skills development, better job opportunities and infrastructure development for communities;
  • achievement of corporate goals, including profitability, market standing, staff development and corporate social responsibility;
  • contribution to security of land rights for communities or individuals; and
  • positive environmental effects including promotion of sustainable multipurpose forest management; watershed protection; soil and water management; and possible climate change mitigation.

Trends in plantation area, and forests designated for conservation 1990 ¿ 2005:
(source: FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2005)

"Forests where conservation was designated as the primary function - has increased by an estimated 96 million has since 1990 ¿ and now accounts for 11% of total forest area. Conservation of biological diversity was reported as one of the management objectives for more than 25% of the total forest area.

More than half of all forests are used for production of wood and non-wood forest products, in combination with other functions such as soil and water protection, biodiversity conservation and recreation.

Forests and trees a rebeing planted for many purposes and at increasing rates. The area of plantation forest ahs increased by about 2.8 million ha per year during 2000-2005, 87 percent of which are reproductive plantations. Deforestation, mainly conversion of forests to agricultural land, contuse at an alarmingly high rate ¿ about 13 million hectares per year. At the same time, forest planting, landscape restoration and natural expansion of forests have significantly reduced the net loss of forest area.

An ever-increasing human population is driving the demand for wood products. Declining global forest cover combined with the increased allocation of forest areas to protect biodiversity and indigenous rights also diminishes the resource base available to the wood products industry. In the future, the key questions will not be whether there will be enough supply of wood products, but rather where the supply is likely to come from, who will produce it and how it will be produced. In the planted forests sector, indicative trends have indicated a transition from large-scale state industrial plantations toward smaller scale private sector and smallholder plantations. Partnerships between the forest products industry, producers (including smallholders), transporters and various direct and indirect actors along the wood production and processing chain are increasingly common. Due to economic drivers such as the cost of land and labour, partnerships, have become an alternative mode of operation in the planted forest sector and forest product industry at global level.

last updated:  Thursday, January 12, 2006